St. Ambrose University on Wednesday celebrated the 35th anniversary of its H.L. McLaughlin Master of Business Administration program, through which thousands of people have received advanced business degrees.
When the program began in 1977, it had 39 students, said Teresa Hutchinson, the program director. During its existence, the program has had 3,667 students graduate and currently has 321 students enrolled and attending classes in seven different locations in Iowa.
Students take a variety of business-oriented classes. The training includes analyzing data, business theory and accounting, according to the St. Ambrose website.
The program can make a big difference in the lives of individuals and in the success of an organization, SAU president Sister Joan Lescinski said during Wednesday night's celebration.
"We're very proud of the program," she said.
Kristel Whitty-Ersan, a 1994 graduate of the program, spoke Wednesday night. She now is the director of marketing for Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream.
When she left high school, Ms. Whitty-Ersan studied theater and music, working in those fields for many years. But she also occasionally worked in the marketing department at Happy Joe's, the family business.
Ms. Whitty-Ersan said she found herself drawn in both directions and decided to further her education with a business degree. Sheen rolled in the St. Ambrose program and found it and her artistic background fused to help her into her career at Happy Joe's.
"I could never have gotten that without all of you and St. Ambrose," she said.
Jim Van Speybroeck, a retired SAU professor, said he became involved with the program in the 1980s. Graduates of the 20th Century version of the McLaughlin program had a good program, he said.
"The graduate of the 21st Century program is a graduate of a program that is second to none," he added.
The SAU website states McLaughlin students average 37 to 40 years old, and half are women. Almost all work while attending the program and have diverse educational backgrounds.Graduates go on to work at a wide range of companies, including local heavyweights such as Deere & Company, Alcoa and the Rock Island Arsenal.
Twenty of this year's students are from KJWW Engineering Consultants, according to Patrice Accola, of KJWW. The company has an arrangement with St. Ambrose that allows its engineering consultants to earn their MBA through the school.
The education KJWW's employees receive helps them understand clients' perspectives and needs, she said.