Some changes are hard to swallow, like when a global pandemic and forced business closures upend the country’s economy and leave millions facing unemployment and other life-changing grief.

But some changes can be good.

The masters of business administration program at the University of Texas at El Paso is being tailored and streamlined to be more time and cost-effective for students, and officials say the new changes are to better reflect and serve the student population.

James Payne, dean of the UTEP College of Business Administration, said he’s spent the past 14 months on the job looking at ways to improve the MBA program, which has about 180 students enrolled.

“The first thing that struck me was the length of the program relative to other MBA programs out there,” Payne said. “That was kind of the initial thought – to look at the curriculum and maintain learning outcomes but to also think about how we can make it more accessible to working professionals. Many are balancing full-time jobs, family and life, and still want to pursue an education.”

The three MBA tracks – full-time, executive and accelerated – will be consolidated into professional and executive tracks, which will be hybrid models featuring online learning.

The professional track, or PMBA, will be for junior and mid-career working professionals, and the executive track, or EMBA, will be for those in more senior leadership positions, said Laura Uribarri, assistant dean of the College of Business Administration at UTEP.

“What we were finding, when we went back and looked at our full-time program, was that the vast majority of (students) also qualified for the accelerated track, because they had work experience,” Uribarri said. “It’s almost a non-issue; it’s a matter of offering the courseworks now in the evening instead of the day.”

She added that the most popular of the three previous programs had been the accelerated track, which is morphing into the professional track program.

“I think with any business, you have to really run something and see what’s working and what’s not, and if there are things that could be optimized,” Uribarri said. “The fact that we had Jim come on board, and that we had run our three formats for about 10 years, it was time to dig in and find out what changes we needed to make to curriculum and delivery.”

She said the full-time MBA program didn’t reflect the student population, and the restructuring was an opportunity to make sure the college was doing as much as possible to support working students.

“It allowed us to crystalize that our MBA program is first and foremost about serving working professionals of our region,” Uribarri said. “Most students in our region are working, period. So the full-time (program) wasn’t a good match for what our audience is.

“It gave us some opportunities to really define who we’re serving a little better and streamline that curriculum to make it more accessible from a time and cost perspective.”

The professional and executive MBA programs will also have reduced course hours, from 48 to 36. The hour reduction comes from consolidating a few course offerings, including financial accounting and managerial accounting, and turning others into electives.

Payne said he and UTEP looked at peer schools like NMSU and other colleges in the UT system to reformulate the MBA program. He said the department also looked at larger, aspirational schools, like UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh.

“Based on that we kind of tried to get a sense of what they were doing with the curriculum,” Payne said.

The changes will be implemented starting in the fall semester, and Uribarri said students still enrolled in the full-time MBA program will have the option of finishing out their degree plan.

And, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fall semester will start with online learning.

“Obviously this COVID experience has forced everything online,” Uribarri said. “I think there will be opportunities to offer more flexibility post-COVID.”

Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at or call (915) 534-4422.


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