Executive Master of Organization Development

Using curriculum to help community

By Amy West

The Executive Master of Organization Development (EMOD) program at BGSU is among the top programs in the country. Since the inaugural class graduation in 1976, College of Business faculty members have spent nearly four decades cultivating and perfecting a curriculum designed to help individuals effectively lead and manage organization development and change efforts.

A unique component of the program is the semester-long client project, which is part of the capstone Mastering Change course. Through an annual RFP (Request for Proposal) process, the program seeks field experience projects typically from the nonprofit or public sector. These projects support the community and augment the client’s often limited resources by providing specialized expertise that might otherwise be unavailable.

Students break into teams and work on defining the scope of the project; gathering and analyzing data through interviews, surveys, archival records and benchmarking; proposing preliminary hypotheses; feeding diagnoses back to the client and making final recommendations for the client to move forward.  In keeping with the art and science of organization development, all these decision points are determined through collaboration and on-going dialogue with the client.

Throughout the past eight years, classes have worked with organizations throughout the region including an area school district, a Christian community-based organization, a mental health agency, a humane society and several other non-profit organizations.

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EMOD students have assisted these organizations with organizational diagnosis, organizational climate and culture scans, mission/vision development, board development and governance, organization design and structure, succession planning, workflow/job redesign, succession planning, community engagement, leadership development, strategic planning, integration of policies and procedures and educational and training strategies.

“This course is the final leg in the students’ 18-month educational journey. The benefits are twofold. Our students apply their skills and knowledge through this real world experience and help local organizations that positively impact our community,” said Dr. Deborah O'Neil, director of the Master of Organization Development Program.

This past summer, the students worked with The Andersons retail division.

Bob Swanson, one of the students who will graduate Aug. 8, used a medical analogy to explain the capstone project. You meet with the client and listen to their symptoms, you make a diagnosis based on their symptoms, you pull data to support the diagnosis and then determine the best treatment plan.

Throughout the course, the students have numerous virtual and in-person team and client meetings. The project spans six to eight weeks requiring students to identify, manage and complete multiple high-level tasks during a very compressed time period.

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During the project, Swanson said the cohort members talked to leadership, looked at extensive data, interviewed personnel and gathered subjective data.  During the initial meeting with cohort members, company leaders typically begin with their opinion of the problems facing the company.

He said the students have an advantage in providing an objective view and being able to talk to employees and others affiliated with the companies to gather candid data. Recommendations might address communication issues within the company, structural problems, logistics issues and delegation issues. Sometimes their findings corroborate leaderships’ assumptions and sometimes their findings are a surprise.

“It has been wonderful experiencing different perspectives from my cohort members because they represent different age groups, professions, companies and backgrounds,” Swanson stated.

Today's dynamic global economy requires extensive management knowledge and skills that are focused on systematically designing and transforming organizations into world-class competitors. BGSU has responded directly to that challenge by providing a graduate-level organization development program that develops leaders and change agents for the private, public and non-profit sectors.