Getting an MBA-Like Edge

Greater Madison companies rarely have a better chance to invest in future business excellence than the MBA program at Edgewood College, and there is a golden opportunity for corporate sponsors to step up. That opportunity would be the Catholic liberal arts college's 4th annual MBA Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony, which raises money for its MBA student scholarships.

This year's program, set for October 28 in the Washburn Heritage Room at Edgewood's Monroe Street campus, features keynoter Londa Dewey, president of the QTI Group. Two distinguished awards will be bestowed on a couple of impressive alums: Lauri Binius Droster, senior vice president of RBC Wealth Management, will take home the MBA hardware, and Kim Schaefer, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts, will receive the version established for alums with regular degrees. (Editor's note: Kim was selected before becoming a television star, and I hope she's resisting the impulse to big-time the rest of us!)

It marks the first time Edgewood has honored undergrad alum, but the key point about Droster and Schaeffer is that they are locally grown executive talent — talent that hung around and made a contribution here, not that left and allowed the Bay Area enjoy the fruits of our investment. With any luck, Edgewood's 2,400 current graduate and undergrad students will have the opportunity to follow suit immediately after earning their degrees.

"It's nice that we have three women on the dais who have been so successful," added Kathryne Auerback, director of program development for Edgewood's School of Business, and an adjunct faculty member in the new Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program.

According to Auerback, women now make up about 47% of the enrollees in the Edgewood MBA program, so donors also are making an investment in a diverse executive mix, even if students might be more inclined to hang around campus until the jobs picture brightens. That puts the Edgewood MBA program well ahead of the national curve, where women account for 30% of MBA programs.

Beginning this fall, I think that percentage is likely to further increase, as the GMAT standardized test is no longer required for MBA applicants who have completed an undergraduate business degree with a grade point average of 3.0 or above from Edgewood College within the past five years.

Several corporate sponsors have stepped forward to invest in MBA student scholarships, including Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren law firm, the UW-Medical Foundation, RSM McGladrey, Wipfli LLP, Physicians Plus Health Insurance, and Smith & Gesteland. Tickets to the dinner ($25; $12.50 for students) also help support MBA scholarships, but corporate sponsors are the big cheese.

I had the honor of attending last year's Distinguished Alumni dinner, and I can attest to the quality of the schools best graduates: Pamela Bean (Class of 2000), executive director of research at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc; Beth Curley (1995), private banking manager in M&I Bank's wealth management division; and Mary Linton (2000), director of enterprise solutions for Promega Corp.

These are uncertain economic times, particularly for corporate giving, but I doubt you can find many better ways of giving back, or investing in the future of Madison's executive talent base.

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