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Approach helps set MBA program apart
Team MBA students Jeremy Holt, left, and Great Moore collaborate on an assignment during a finance class at Cumming City Hall. The NGCSU program will move into a new satellite campus this fall off Pilgrim Mill Road. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Kelli Crickey is ready to help grow a local MBA program.

The business veteran was recently named director of the North Georgia College & State University’s Mike Cottrell School of Business, which offers a master’s of business administration degree.

The program, called Team MBA, is currently housed on the top floor of Cumming City Hall. This fall, it will move into a new satellite campus being built off Pilgrim Mill Road near Ga. 400.

Crickey said she and other North Georgia staffers are excited about the new facility, which will also house a range of full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate programs.

“We’re very grateful for our relationship with the city of Cumming,” Crickey said. “It’s been really nice to occupy the fourth floor [of City Hall], but now it’s time for us to be in an educational facility because we are a school.”

An official groundbreaking ceremony for the new campus, which has been dubbed University Center GA 400, was held in January.

The $7 million, 38,000-square-foot campus is scheduled to open sometime in August.

The two-year, part-time MBA program began in 2008, with its first group of students graduating in 2010.

Crickey, who came to North Georgia four years ago after spending 14 years with Nordson Corporation, said one of her primary goals in the new role will be attract more students to the program. 

Each graduating class has the capacity for 25 students, but the two current classes each have about 14.

“We need to get back up to that 25 number,” Crickey said. “That’s really the ideal number.”

As a result, she said, one goal is to “beef up recruiting” and marketing of the program.

“We have an amazing school and the MBA program is very strong,” she said. “It’s not enough for people to know we’re here. They need to know how strong the program is and what sets us apart.”

Crickey said she and Mark Jordan, the academic adviser of the program, have been working to place more of an emphasis on its “three pillars,” or guiding principles, of leadership, teamwork and global perspective.

She said they’ve worked to enhance a one-and-a-half day “MBA boot camp” experience called Team Advance.

They also want to add more hands-on, practical learning experiences, such as events called Executive Dinner and Dialogue.

Crickey explained these gatherings allow students to have informal dinners with business experts, rather than having them come in and give traditional classroom lectures.

One of the program’s professors, T.J. Gabriel, who teaches operations management, said those out-of-the-classroom experiences are part of what makes Team MBA special.

He said all graduates of the program must complete a “cap stone” activity where, working in teams of four to five students, they go out into the business field for a real-life experience.

For instance, he said, one of his favorites has been helping students work with Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, a children’s museum in Gainesville.

“[The MBA students] worked with them as business mentors,” he said. “They helped them put a business plan together to get better organized.”

Gabriel also is looking forward to a two-week excursion to China this May.

“That’s one way we’re working to give students more of the international prospective,” he said.

Students in the class of 2013, who were in class Monday night, seemed happy with the program.

Tyler Frank of Gainesville said he needed more business education for his job in logistics.

“My [bachelor’s] degree in biology didn’t really apply to the trucking business,” he said.

He said he chose the Team MBA program for a number of reasons, but has been most impressed with the bonds he’s formed with professors.

“It’s much more personal. You’re not just a number here,” he said. “You can call the professors at any time if you have any questions, so that’s really nice.”

Brittany Spaeth of Cumming is the lone woman in the class, but that doesn’t bother her.

“I’ve always been really confident and outgoing, so I wasn’t uncomfortable with it,” she said. “But it was a little weird at first.”

Like Frank, Spaeth, who works in accounting, said she also “loves the professors.”

The program was also convenient for her.

“On class nights I still get home by 9:30 or 10, so it’s good for working,” she said.

Blake Williams gets home a little later since he has to drive back to Sandy Springs.

“There were a lot of other programs that would have been closer to where I live,” said the financial planner. “But I liked the small atmosphere of this program … some others might be more convenient, but there might also be a $25,000 to $30,000 difference in the price too.”

Crickey’s looking forward to meeting more Team MBA students in the coming months.

She held an information session Monday night and another is planned for March 5.

As someone’s who has been in the potential students’ shoes — she has two bachelor’s degrees, an MBA, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. — Crickey said she understands how important finding the right MBA program can be.

“I love what I do,” she said. “I get to talk to all these people and help them with a major life decision.

“I know what a life-changer [getting an MBA] is, and I can appreciate the process involved in making that decision … We have a great program and it’s nice to talk to people and help them decide if it’s the right one for them.”