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Students praise Gore school's intimacy, flexibility, practicality

Published March 6, 2010 3:55 pm

Education » Graduate programs targets students still in the work force.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jesse Crowne is about as nontraditional in his approach to getting master's degrees as a student can be at Westminster College.

He works full time at a pharmacy, is married and expecting a child in August, and he is plugging away at two advanced degrees, Master in Business Administration and Public Health.

When he's working, he is director of compounding at University Pharmacy in Salt Lake City -- a trade he learned as a 14-year-old while going to school in Vermont.

"It was the best thing I ever did," said Crowne, now 30. "That pharmacist kept me in school."

He likes compounding -- the mixing of drugs, solutions and ointments to fit a patient's distinctive needs -- because it is a tradition that keeps the field of pharmacy connected to the patient, beyond the mere act of counting out pills and putting them in the bottle.

As for Westminster, he said flexibility in scheduling classes is what attracted him to the private Salt Lake City college. Graduate classes are typically conducted in the evenings and on Saturdays.

That, plus "the biggest thing for me is the smaller class sizes." He earned two traditional undergraduate degrees at the University of Utah, in biology and economics, and "I had these huge classes; I didn't feel connected."

"Here, the lectures become more of a discussion. I am a much better student now in this environment than I was at the U."

Crowne's goal is to become a hospital administrator, and he hopes to land an internship at either Intermountain Healthcare or Mountain Star, operator of St. Mark's Hospital.

"I want to see how a hospital operates as a whole -- personnel, inventory management, those kinds of issues," he said.

But first things first. This spring, he goes to Brazil with a group of classmates. The overseas trip, which introduces students to the reality that American business is part of a global marketplace, is a requirement for Westminster's MBA students. The cost is included in their two-year, $47,000 tuition bill.

Even how that bill is paid is flexible, said Crowne.

"I decided a long time ago that I wasn't going into debt to go to school," he said. "They created a monthly payment program for me per semester. It is a large amount of money, that's why I have to work constantly, but the education is definitely worth it."

Although graduate programs at Westminster's Gore School of Business are targeted toward students still in the work force, the school takes a traditional approach to its undergraduate business students.

"Our undergraduate approach is more theoretical," said Dean John Groesbeck.

That is the experience of Stefan Van Duyvendijk, an accounting major from Boise. But he said he looks beyond the theory and the numbers that dominate his chosen field and searches for a deeper meaning.

"I have a passion for it," said the 22-year-old senior. "I want to capitalize on that."

His focus, at least for his foreseeable future, is auditing, "the gauntlet" for accounting.

"Auditing allows you to see the entire culture of a company, and from there, you can decide what you want to pursue," said Van Duyvendijk. "A lot of people see it as boring, but if you get into the nitty gritty, you can see the art in it."

Van Duyvendijk particularly likes the detective aspect. "Fraud accounting is certainly one area to go into."

He thinks one of Westminster's strengths is it requires all students, whether business or art majors, to take ethics classes. "We grow up with a feeling for right and wrong, but we don't know how to put it into words."

As an offshoot, Van Duyvendijk has been a member of the college's Ethics Bowl team. In regional and national competition students square off against another college team before a panel of judges to discuss the appropriate way to approach an ethics issue.

"You have to be very clear in your discussions," he said. "Unlike debate competition, where you overwhelm your opponent with a lot of facts, you don't want anyone to miss the points you are making, and you argue the ethical side, not both sides as debaters do."

His team for the 2008-09 school year placed second in regional competition and 10th nationally. He's not on this year's team, which has placed first in the region. Nationals will be staged later this spring.

But he thinks business ethics is only part of what's vital in Westminster's approach.

He likes the practical applications where teams of undergraduates tear into business problems presented by organizations throughout the Salt Lake Valley. The goal is to study the industry, examine key issues and come up with recommendations for resolving them.

"We learn from them about [their businesses], and they learn from us," Van Duyvendijk said. "A lot of group projects [in other settings] are not real. This is real."

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