The Keller Graduate School of Management is governed by one prevailing premise, according to Gary Stark, center dean for the Scottsdale Airpark-based campus: the school exists for and because of students.
It is not just a platitude, Stark insists, but a practical philosophy passed down to him by his predecessor, and it’s at work in everything Keller does.
“I have and maintain an open-door policy that, I don’t care if I am in a meeting with my president or our group vice president, if a student walks up to the door, they are the first priority,” Stark says. “Everything stops, the student comes first. That’s what we really live by here. We need to make sure we are doing the right things by our students.”
That’s what happened when recent Keller MBA graduate Ricardo Parra, insurance center manager of The Arizona Group, a division of Arizona Federal Credit Union, was considering where to go next in his career.
“Before returning to school, I had recently lost my business and was going through a divorce. I was ready to give up on school,” Parra says. “Staff, including the dean, Gary Stark, at the Scottsdale campus, contacted me directly and helped me regain confidence and motivation to return and finish my MBA…I can’t imagine any other school going above and beyond like Keller did.”
Most Popular Programs
It’s a philosophy that has served the school well. Keller does not release figures about specific campuses, but Keller Graduate School of Management’s national enrollment is 23,802, up 7.7 percent compared to the same time period in 2010. Keller opened its first North Scottsdale campus in 1999, and then moved into the Airpark in April 2007.
Keller offers onsite and online master’s degree programs, as well as graduate certification programs, and an MBA program with 16 different emphases. Concentration areas include information systems, accounting, health systems, human resources, network systems and project management.
“Accounting and project management seem to be two of the most popular choices as of late,” Stark says.
Instructor, Brenda Forde, a former American Express vice president who now teaches Keller accounting classes, concurs.
“Even with recession, you need good project management, you need good accounting,” Forde notes. “Students are gearing themselves toward both degrees.”
Whatever the pursuit, students enrolling in Keller can create a degree program with a mix of online and onsite classes, whether they are working professionals or retooling for a new career.
Keller uses a blended instruction model, so some classes are offered online and others onsite.
Campus & Classroom Vibe
Despite the variety of schedules, Keller offers a modern campus vibe and camaraderie among students and instructors, many of whom are working professionals in the fields they teach, Stark notes. Instructors also strive to bring up-to-the-minute business dilemmas into the learning environment.
“We have a very open, very debate-oriented classroom,” Forde says. “We always have assignments that deal with current events that are happening in the field. We want to make it real, and we want to bring current information in the classroom.”
Students are serious and focused, according to Parra.
“I was impressed by the high level of focus, maturity, and competitiveness from other students. The majority of students were well prepared and motivated throughout the program,” Parra says. “Everyone at Keller is there to learn.”
Class sizes are small, typically maxing out at 15. Keller doesn’t do huge lecture halls.
“I think in the classroom we have a lot of good one-on-one time. I can really help the students through the material, especially if it is new to them,” Forde says. “I’ve got a real responsibility to deliver each and every time I step into the classroom. I don’t leave questions lingering out there.
Keller also offers a gamut of support and career counseling services. Students have access to curriculum guiding and coaching, resume writing, networking help and one-on-one counseling. Keller families can take advantage of the Aspire Program, a free call-in resource that can provide referrals to child care, senior care, housing and other support needs. A partnership with CareerBuilder.com provides Keller students with access to a 90-day Personal Career Training Program.
“We don’t do job placements, but we do everything up and to that point,” Stark says.
For his part, Stark is committed to not just Keller’s students, but also to the greater community. An Air Force veteran, he’s active in the North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Desert Foothills Community Association and the Phoenix Philanthropists board. Stark makes it his business to network with Scottsdale’s major employers, and prides himself on serving as a resource for them when they’re looking to hire.
To read the full article written by Emily Soccorsy and featured in the September 2011 issue of the Scottsdale Airpark News, please click here and proceed to page 24.