The Aerospace & Defense MBA (ADMBA) from the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business is celebrating its fifteenth birthday in 2018.  The one-of-a-kind program is also celebrating the success of an education experiment delivering transformational impacts all across aerospace and defense.
More than 350 leaders have completed the ADMBA from diverse roles all across the industry and all across the country – while continuing to work.  Alumni include a four-star general, three general managers and more than 20 vice presidents from Lockheed Martin, a senior Vice President at OneWeb, CEOs and presidents from small business suppliers, airline leaders, and nearly 200 civil service leaders from the defense acquisition community.  The program’s unique design not only attracts rising stars, it transforms their business knowledge, leadership skills and business results where they work.
Why not us?
Haslam College leaders began to focus on the unique business education and training needs of the industry in 2003, prompted by input from UT alums at top defense contractors.  “They told us the industry is good at advancing technologies but struggles to improve business processes and performance in a similar way.  We concluded education and training might be part of the solution,” said Dr. Alex Miller, who launched the ADMBA in 2003 and continues to serve as a core faculty member. 
“We looked at UT’s connections to the industry in our Tickle College of Engineering, the UT Space Institute and our partners at Oak Ridge National Lab and concluded, ‘Why not us?’  We set out to  make a difference and to build a broad, strategic partnership with a vital, blue chip industry,” explained Miller.  
Five Cs Make for A+ Program
The Aerospace and Defense MBA is the centerpiece of a broad portfolio of programs the college offers aerospace and defense professionals and supporting employers.  Distinctive in title, the program is also distinct in design, shaped by industry input and best practices in adult education.  “Five Cs” set the ADMBA apart from other quality options elsewhere.
  • Curriculum:  The program teaches material commonly found in a quality MBA – accounting, finance, economics, supply chain management and leadership.  In the ADMBA, faculty members use case studies and simulations from the aerospace and defense industry, visit A&D employers and hear from guest speakers from their own industry.  Teaching in a familiar context increases student enthusiasm and learning. 
  • Cohort:  The ADMBA attracts high-performing professionals from diverse roles in nearly every sector and functional role in the industry – from labs to sustainment and MRO work and everything in between.  Typical cohorts include students from engineering, finance, business development and program management.  The diverse mix of backgrounds and industry sectors fuels unrivalled student-to-student learning.
  • Calendar:  To draw students from diverse roles all across the country, UT delivers the program with a “life-friendly,” hybrid calendar.  Students come together for five, one-week residence periods spread out from January to December and keep learning on track with distance learning between the five “RPs.”  Four of the five RPs take place in Knoxville while student and faculty convene in an off-campus hub of A&D work for experiential, industry-immersed learning each June. 
  • Change:  Most assignments are job-based, requiring students to lead business process innovations for their own organization.  Additionally, each student works with their employer to identify a strategic business challenge and complete a year-long project with a faculty advisor that typically delivers a tangible business impact of more than a $1M.  Many of the projects achieve far bigger results.
  • Completion:  The fifth C is a great source of pride for the university.  Many MBAs serving working adults are delivered on weekends and evenings and often require years to complete.  Job and life changes can interrupt student progress and impede degree completion.  The ADMBA’s unique design has produced a student graduation rate of more than 95 percent over 15 years. 
A Vision Realized
Today, the college celebrates 15 years of transformational impact across the industry as staff work to recruit and admit applicants for the ADMBA Class of 2019.  “This program has been a giant success and our alums are making a tremendous difference all over the industry.  We measure our success through their achievements and the success of their programs and their organizations,” said Dr. Jim Wansley, ADMBA program director. 
“The ADMBA has helped us build a broad, strategic relationship with a vital, blue chip industry.  In the Haslam College, we’ve worked with top A&D organizations to develop non-degree courses to teach key business skills to professionals all over the industry.  We do that here in Knoxville and at employer sites all over the world.  We’re nurturing industry ties to our engineering college and expanding internship and hiring pipelines to help the industry meet its growing need for skilled young talent.  We’re doing what universities are supposed to do; we’re making a difference,” said Dr. Bruce Behn, associate dean for graduate and executive education.   
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