New MBA Focuses on Wine Business in Napa Valley

New MBA Focuses on Wine Business in Napa Valley
New MBA will focus on those who enjoy making money from viticulture.

For those of you who enjoy wine, including viticulture, may be interested in the new degree program coming to the Napa Valley. Sonoma State University's Master of Business Adminstration degree program is now targeting the wine industry executives, bringing them to the school in the spring under a partnership with a large local trade association. The Rohnert Park-based institution is accepting applications for wine executive MBA classes that are set to start April 12th to 14th of this year at St. Helena offices in Napa Valley Vintners. The application for the program needs to be in by February 29th.

The program will last for 17 months and will allow students to finish with an Executive Masters of Business Administration to earn an accredited degree geared towards wine. The program will allow people only with five years of experience to earn the degree. The format is tailored for executives with cohort-style-classes on alternating Fridays and Saturdays, from 8 AM to 5 PM. The program will run year-round, except for a brief period for harvest break, set for September 1st to November 8th.

Sonoma State's School of Business and Economics, which also administers the wine executive MBA program will be expanded to also help those who couldn't commute to the campus due to work and others reasons. The program director Rob Eyler, Ph.D. commented on how these effects would change the program.

"In the last cohort, which is the one going on now, a few dropped out at the last minute because it interfered with harvest," he said.

For a place to hold classes, the school talked to nearby Napa Valley Vintners. The program hasn't reached out to any other trade associations because the main campus is closer to their members, according to Dr. Eyler.

There are 23 people already in the executive MBA program. However, another 20 are set to graduate in May, which would make the total who have finished the 36-month-old program to 62. Program classes on the Rohnert Park start in October.

Eyler also said that the MBA programs are unique at Sonoma because they focus on the wine industry, and issues within that industry. The courses cover strategic brand management, global wine operations, social media as a strategic marketing tool in distribution, regulatory compliance and government relations, as well as financial-statement analysis and talent management. There will also be off-site activities to encourage students to learn even more about wine. The activities will include a San Diego sailing exercise as a metaphor for business operations and leadership as well as international travel and business experience associated with the global operations course.

Books, materials, travel and other needs are included in the $45,000 fee for the upcoming cohort of the program. Potential offsets for that cost are up to $21,000 a year with federal loans and some assistance from certain employers.