Mason-Army Partnership Trains Officers to Think Like Business People

Posted: March 23, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

You might think of it as bringing the Patriots to the Pentagon. A partnership between George Mason and the U.S. Army is training officers to think like business people.

The School of Management is training the U.S. Army’s future managers and leaders in a new version of the MBA program. Through an Army career field called Functional Area 50, or FA50, business-minded Army majors are coming to George Mason to earn their MBAs and bring organizational change to their branch of the military. FA50s, who work mostly in the Pentagon, hope to transform the Army and push for more connectedness between the services.

The first group of six students graduated last December, and a new batch of five is currently working its way through the courses. Army officials visited several universities in the area before choosing George Mason as best fitting their needs.

“All the officers go through our standard MBA program. In addition, they choose elective courses that are most appropriate for their jobs at the Pentagon,” says Phillip Buchanan, director of the MBA program at Mason.

Courses in systems thinking, supply chain management, systems analysis, and project management help shape the Army MBA program. Students take 16 months to complete the degree.

Maj. Richard Lawson, a staff synchronization officer for the Army and recent graduate of the program, says he participated in the program because he wanted to learn how to manage change in a large organization. “I make sure when the Army buys a new type of equipment that it’s really what the Army needs and that we’ve budgeted enough money for testing, training, buying spare parts, building new facilities, and all of the little things that are sometimes overlooked and end up causing big problems. The MBA helped me deal more effectively with those aspects of the job.”

Lawson continues, “The Army trains people very extensively on how to function in the Army but very little on how to change it. Like any other organization, it has to continually change to keep pace with the times.”

To be accepted into the MBA program, officers must have a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.5 GPA, a score of 500 or higher on the Graduate Management Admission Test, a commander’s letter of recommendation, and an Army selection panel’s approval.

The School of Management frequently works with local businesses and organizations to tailor continuing education needs for employees. Distance learning courses through the ClassroomPlus technology are used for a version of the MBA program delivered for Northrop Grumman employees. Another partnership with Lockheed Martin offers its employees an MBA program based at the Prince William Campus.

“We are continuously talking with other major companies to see if we can meet the needs for their continuing education,” says Buchanan. “These kinds of partnerships strengthen the School of Management’s long-term outreach strategies.”

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