OC School of Business brings values to business
After more than 50 years of serving students, the Oklahoma Christian School of Business continues to be a top program at the college, boasting hundreds of graduates every year. Jeff Simmons, professor and chair of the School of Business, shares the mission of the program and his plans to expand opportunities for its students.
When Simmons came to Oklahoma Christian (OC) in 2008, he knew it was for a reason. He and his wife met at OC, and he told himself if God ever gave them the opportunity to come back to OC, he would take it. As chair of the School of Business, he takes his role seriously to ensure the program always aligns with its values.
“There are really three core values that drive everything we do,” said Simmons. “We try to present a challenging contemporary curriculum in business that best prepares our students for the professional world, whether that be undergraduate or graduate students.”
Another core value is building a community amongst the students, including having faculty serve as mentors, not just lecturers or professors. The final core value is creating connections between the School of Business and the outside community.
“We try to do all of that on our enduring Christian values because we believe God creates a business for a certain purpose,” said Simmons. “We want to make sure our students understand what that means for them as they are professionals in the world, whether they be accountants, financiers, or marketers.”
The School of Business is one of the larger programs on OC’s campus, with both undergraduate and graduate areas of study. On average, the school sees around 300 undergraduate students and 150 to 180 graduate students a year.
“The school of business is not quite as old as the university itself, but we are over 50 years old,” said Simmons. “Our heritage has been as a very strong accounting program, and accounting is still kind of our flagship program for the School of Business.”
Undergraduate students can choose from eleven business majors, from accounting and finance to marketing and sports management. Ten graduate business and accounting specialties are offered, including an MBA or a master’s of accountancy program.
The Oklahoma Christian MBA program was established in 2000 and is currently the fourth largest MBA program in the state. Students can choose a general MBA or one of eight tracks emphasizing a specific area, including accounting, finance, marketing, and leadership and organizational development.
“Our most popular track is project management. It is a STEM-designated program, which is very important for international students,” Simmons said. “That means they get three years of occupational practical training, which allows them to stay in the United States to gain three years of experience as part of their curriculum.”
Simmons says the program attracts students from across the country and worldwide. In 2012, OC opened a satellite campus in Rwanda for graduate students, which offers four master’s tracks and six graduate certificates. Depending on the semester, the Rwanda campus sees between 50 and 60 students complete the MBA program.
“We don’t just set up a cohort of Rwandan students, but integrate them into all of our classes,” said Simmons. “It’s highly likely that a student from here in Edmond may have class and be in a working group with someone from maybe Washington state and someone from Kigali, Rwanda.”
One draw for out-of-state and international students is the flexibility of the School of Business programs. Individuals can choose their timeline and the format that fits their lifestyle best.
“I fully believe a more diverse classroom leads to a richer learning experience, so there’s a lot of flexibility in our program,” said Simmons. “You can complete an MBA within a year, 18 months, or two years. Our students can also choose to take their classes completely online, in-person, or do both, and for each class, they get to choose.”
Over the last 20 years, the OC School of Business has grown and expanded to fit the needs of its students. Even amid a global pandemic, classes continued, students graduated, and opportunities grew.
“So thankfully for the School of Business, especially our MBA program, COVID really had no effect on us because we’d been doing it online for a long time,” said Simmons. “We had the technology to do it and the experience to do it.”
Before the pandemic, the Benchmark Society was created in 2019 to further the mission of connecting OC attendees with the larger community. The collaborative forum was designed to connect the local business community to network with students by introducing new talent to Edmond companies and creating new opportunities for students.
“The Benchmark Society tries to bring in top-notch speakers so people can learn about different aspects of our society, but also really connect with other business people in our community and with OC’s future business professionals,” said Simmons.
The school has also started developing a new executive-style MBA for not just top managers but also middle managers.
“It’s going to be a highly experiential-based program. Instead of coming into the classroom, the students will be going out into the field, meeting with people, and learning in that way,” said Simmons. “It really plays into our mission of learning not only from well-credentialed academic professors but also those in the professional world that will enhance students’ learning.”
Simmons and his team are partnering with local leadership programs to create a curriculum and provide prior learning credit to students of the leadership groups. As with the other initiatives developed in recent years, the ultimate goal of the School of Business is to serve students and equip them for their future endeavors.
“When you go through an experience like that, you really connect as a community of students that you’ll take with you probably for the rest of your professional career,” said Simmons.
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About Phil Klutts
Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.
In addition to being the co-owner of Edmond Business, Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.