Simmons College Closing Nation’s Only All-Women’s Campus MBA Program

The Main College Building on Simmons campus. (Hadley Green for WBUR).
The Main College Building on Simmons campus. (Hadley Green for WBUR).

Simmons College in Boston is closing its campus MBA program, the nation’s only graduate management school solely for women.

School Dean Cathy Minehan told students and graduates at a campus meeting Tuesday that other MBA programs are aggressively recruiting women, and that Simmons is not big enough to compete in Boston as a brick-and-mortar business school. Instead, Simmons will offer an online MBA, for women and men, through an outside company, 2U.

Since 1975, Simmons’ School of Management has been giving women business skills, but also an understanding of how gender dynamics shape their opportunities.

College President Helen Drinan attended the Tuesday meeting and says while the incoming undergraduate class is the largest in the school’s history, admissions to the graduate business school have been falling.

One recent alumna at the meeting, Erin McElrath, called it “contentious and emotional” as dozens of graduates and some current students expressed shock at the move.

Some of them say that, considering the dearth of women on corporate boards and in technology companies, shuttering a women-only business school on the ground in the U.S.’ second-largest tech sector is a mistake.

C.A. Webb, a 2006 Simmons MBA and outgoing head of the New England Venture Capital Association, wrote in an email to Simmons administrators: “You’ll ignore the school’s founding mission and the fact that women are still woefully underrepresented in MBA programs and you’ll join the pack offering an online MBA, but with no strong differentiated brand to stand on. Good luck!”

But Dean Minehan, the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, says transitioning to online by next year will help the management school bring its unique education around the country.

And Simmons Provost Katie Conboy said this week in an online message to alumnae: “An ongoing challenge for businesswomen is their very busy schedules, which require balancing many demands and can complicate their ability to travel to a campus to complete their degree. Many men face these challenges as well. In the national context, there are thousands of people who simply have no accessible campus-based options for an MBA. Our new online MBA programs will address this challenge directly.”

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