It’s never easy to earn a master’s degree in business administration.
Nor should it be.
Like any academic degree — particularly on the graduate level — it demands time, attention, work, thought, energy, and care. It’s a serious credential and has to be earned seriously.
But there are some hurdles that prospective students often confront that are not relevant to an MBA, and it can be good for both students and institutions to find ways to circumvent them.
That’s what the new MBA program at Long Island University’s Hudson Institute, created by Michael Stone of Teaneck, is doing.
Although it’s a program aimed at students who already have jobs or other obligations — in other words, at students who are not free during the day but instead have to take classes at night or on the weekends — the LIU program is unusual in that in its original plan — to which it aims to revert once the pandemic is over — its weekend day will be Sunday, not Saturday. That means that observant Jewish students do not have to confront the dilemma of having the impossible — going to class on Shabbat — as a prerequisite for earning their degrees. It also means that other students — Seventh Day Adventists prominent among them — also are freed from that vise.
The program does not hold classes on Jewish holidays; it also works with Muslim students to accommodate their observance of Ramadan, with the understanding that eating only at night, and sharing many of those meals in ways that cannot be rushed, can affect the student’s ability to meet deadlines.
The program grew out of Mr. Stone’s own experiences as a modern Orthodox MBA student, he said. “I grew up on the Lower East Side,” he explained. “I went to RJJ” — that’s the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, long ago decamped to Staten Island — “and then to the City College of New York. I was taking day courses at City, and I would always have to run from college back to yeshiva to sit in on lectures there.” (The mesivta program fed his need for Talmud study. This was also during the Vietnam draft; his status as a rabbinical student kept him safe from it.)
“That had a big impact on me,” Mr. Stone said. “When you’re not going to a faith-based university, you have much more to manage. It’s like throwing balls in the air and juggling them.” (To be clear, faith-based universities are private. Paying the tuition would have been another ball plummeting down on him.)
“I went to business school because initially I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “I thought that the liberal arts courses that I took as an undergraduate were challenging. They make you think. Looking back, I am a big proponent of liberal arts courses. You have to defend your positions all the time, and you have to learn to argue. In business, the answer is either right or wrong. Your theory either works or it doesn’t. Your decision will get a profitable result or it won’t.
“In liberal arts courses, the thought and the arguments are more important. So when I graduated from college, I had knowledge, but I didn’t have a skill set, and I wanted the skill set. So I wanted to go to business school.”
He worked for a few years — a prerequisite for business school — and then, on partial scholarship, he earned his MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the country’s most prestigious MBA-granters.
He loved it.
“If you didn’t have that business skill set, you have to come up about a month early before the first year,” he said. “You were put into a boot camp.”
One of the things he learned in boot camp was the computer language Fortran; “you had to program and it went on computer cards,” he said, using terms no doubt incomprehensible to today’s MBA students.
More long-lastingly, “We had to work as a team. The whole point was to get us to work together. By the time we did that, we got to know each other and we learned so much from each other.”
That’s one of the concepts Mr. Stone is carrying over into the Hudson Institute program.
After he graduated from Wharton, Mr. Stone went into business. He worked at Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, then moved to Texas and started an investment bank called the Wharton Income Group in Dallas. His first wife, Gaye, died; eventually he remarried, to Esther, but she did not want to leave her own children to move to Texas. So he went back up north, to Brooklyn, and became part of the management team in what he calls a “high-tech company” named Homeland Security.
Mr. Stone also has been attracted to education for years, he said, so he devoted some of his time there as well. He chaired the finance department at NYU’s School of Professional Studies and also taught at Brooklyn College, a short walk from home.
But things always change.
“I have a daughter in Teaneck, and my wife thought that we should move there,” he said. So they did, about three years ago. Their daughter’s “just a block away from us.” They joined Congregation Rinat Israel, and have begun to set down roots in northern New Jersey.
Part of that change, for Mr. Stone, was teaching locally. He began to teach at the yeshiva seminary program at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck. “What I saw after my first couple of classes is that some of these young men could not write well,” he said.
That knowledge — and he’s not saying that no yeshiva graduates can write well, just that a significant number of them cannot — as well as the memory of the value of working in a cohort, has gone into the foundation of the new Hudson Institute program.
The Hudson Institute is based in Westchester County; its dean and associate dean “also realized that there is an underserved community in Rockland County.”
So the new program began to take shape; it’s been formed to some extent by the pandemic, but that shape will remain even once it’s over.
It’s a two-year syllabus, and there are no electives. The first year provides technical background, Mr. Stone said, and the second year focuses more “on the human element, and how to work as a team.” Most of it is asynchronous — that is, it’s lectures stream online — but once a month, on a Sunday, the students are required to be there at the same time. Once the pandemic ends, they will be there in person; for now, it’ll be on Zoom.
“What we are trying to do is give students the financial, technical, and communications skills they need in today’s marketplace,” Mr. Stone said.
Students won’t be asked to write a conventional thesis, but instead what he calls “a capstone.” It’s a “25-page paper on a topic that we agree on by the end of the first year.
“I know that a lot of these students may not know exactly what they want to do. By giving them the technical courses in the first year, and asking for the capstone topic by the end of that year, I am forcing them to tell me where they want to go.”
That will be to the students’ benefit, he added. “When they are interviewing for a job, I want them to be able to have a document that they spent time on and can bring to that meeting. I want them to be able to say, ‘Here is the project I did.’
“I don’t want them walking out of this program without having something they truly can be proud of,” Mr. Stone said.
The Hudson Institute’s first cohort is set to begin in January. To learn more, email Mr. Stone at or call him at (914) 831-2711.