Geospatial MBA: a win-win for business schools and geography

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February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm  •  Posted in Business, Education, Geography by  •  7 Comments

I recently posed the following question to a group of geography academic types on LinkedIn:

Why don’t more Geography departments team up with Business Schools to offer joint MBA-MA degrees (or undergraduate double majors)?

It seems to me that this combination would be valuable to many businesses and would serve to promote the discipline of geography while pumping new life into once glorious but now in a bit of a decline MBA programs.  For example, business schools would benefit tremendously from geographical analysis methods. There are real estate and finance faculty who have discovered the benefits of geography/GIS and are using it regularly (Susan Wachter at UPenn/Wharton comes to mind) but this seems to be despite the discipline of geography rather than due to encouragement from within.

As a geography person I’m clearly biased but I don’t see why geography shouldn’t be an integral part of a good business education and a focus option for students interested in various sectors such as retail, real estate, natural resources, logistics, etc. I think students would jump at the chance to make their geography degrees more marketable and I can assure you that geographers with better business skills would find more opportunity in the workplace. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my own career is hiring employees with strong spatial skills AND the ability to operate effectively in a business setting.

Here’s my proposal. AAG helps start a National Center for Business Geographics (or something like that). This would be similar to the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) in Santa Barbara, Buffalo and Orono but leading efforts to connect geography to business and geography departments to business schools. The center would be run by someone who can connect research in geography with business applications and ideally the personnel would be a combination of academics and business consultant types. Funding could come from companies interested in paying for applied research projects – land management, retail location decisions, logistics modeling, hazards mitigation, etc. This would be a perfect minor league system for ESRI and others so maybe squeeze them for a few bucks as well. Student interns would study a combination of geography and business, perhaps leading to an MA/MBA degree. I think U. Redlands tried this and perhaps Salisbury and others are as well but the initiative would fare better at a major research university with a deeper bench of geography and business talent. For example, maybe Arizona State U? Their relatively new School of Geographical Sciences has loads of applicable expertise and ASU has a good b-school. Ohio State would be another great place for this type of venture (too bad Dr. Duane Marble isn’t still there to champion such an initiative). Probably many other universities could fit the bill as well.  Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, UCSB, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Iowa, Penn State, Florida, UCLA and USC all come to mind; and, the list goes on.

I know – pie in the sky. And loads of resistance from geo-academics who turn up their nose at business schools and business people. But, I think it would be great for geography and great for participating business schools.

I’ll be glad to provide internship opportunities for students of the first program at TerraSeer.  :)

7 Comments

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  4. Rich Quodomine / May 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm / Reply

    This is an outstanding idea whose time has come. While some Geography departments do establish regional type business ventures (Buffalo has a Canada-US Trade Center, of which I’m an affiliate), it is time to offer Business Geography as a network of aligned institutions who seek to provide synergy between the necessary theory and the practice. Well put!

    • Justin / May 7, 2014 at 12:02 pm / Reply

      Thanks Rich!

  5. John / July 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm / Reply

    Justin,

    This is a great piece. I’m currently a GIS Analyst/Programmer at a renewable energy firm in Kansas City and I’ve been contemplating pursuing an advanced degree (with a preference toward business i.e. an MBA). It has come to my attention that geographic thought within businesses, in my experience, has largely been silo-ed into it’s own department. The GIS department where I am currently serves as a data repository for those who do the “real business” to call upon. I find myself wishing that I had more influence on the decisions that are made within the business. After all, estimating the return on a project by discounting future cash flows isn’t rocket science.

    Also, I’ve subscribed to your RSS. You have some great insights into how to leverage spatial/business thought as well as the technological components of an idea into a concise message. I’ll definitely be keen to see future posts.

    Best,
    John K

    • Justin / July 23, 2014 at 11:21 am / Reply

      Hi John, thanks for the comment and thanks for subscribing to the RSS feed. The silo status of GIS is true for many organizations. Same with IT in general. KU and K-State both have outstanding geography programs so maybe an MBA with some electives via geography could be the ticket for you? Best wishes, Justin

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