March 6, 2012 in City

EWU to offer Harvard MBA class

Course aims to help spur economic development
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Eastern Washington University will offer a Harvard-developed MBA class this spring that’s being taught at just six other institutions nationwide.

The course, developed by the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, explores what it takes to successfully develop a community’s economy from the bottom up.

The class will be offered to Eastern business students as well as members of the business community. It’s designed to “help the communities where it is being taught” with economic development, said EWU spokesman Dave Meany.

Being accepted to offer the class “positions Eastern to be at the forefront of important economic development efforts in the region and state for years to come,” said Robert Brooke, director of Eastern’s MBA program.

So far, the course has only been taught at universities in bigger cities, such as the University of South Carolina in Columbia and the University of Washington in Seattle, where economic development resources, such as patents, are easily accessible.

EWU professor Harm-Jan Steenhuis, who will teach the course, said the argument he used when applying to Harvard was that “most areas are not like that, and economic development is needed everywhere.”

Apparently, Harvard agreed.

“The course itself provides us with information of what grows an economy,” Steenhuis said.

Students then focus on the “three building blocks needed: endowments – like oil or hydropower; macroeconomics – infrastructure, political institutions or available capital; and microeconomics – the kinds of companies that already exist.”

Once everyone has a common understanding of what exists, he said, “we can start working on how we get to a better place.”

Steenhuis received training to teach the course according to Harvard’s guidelines. He also will receive support from the Ivy League school. Students and local leaders who take the course will have access to all of Harvard’s materials and research.

“If you look at Harvard, they travel to countries, talk to governments and do analysis,” Steenhuis said. “We have all the access to that information, and I think it would be cost prohibitive for us to have it otherwise.”

He said those materials could give EWU business students “a leg up when entering the workforce.”

He added, “One of the key ideas is not just jobs. It’s about high-wage jobs. We are after a better prosperity for our citizens.”


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