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MBA Students Get Ready for Future Power Lunches

Master's degree candidate Emily Gander arrived on the University of Iowa campus eager to delve into hard-hitting classes on corporate structure and strategies for wooing venture capitalists.

What she learned Thursday was the proper way to eat a dinner salad, butter a roll, twirl linguine, and spoon French onion soup without dribbling broth down the front of her sweater.

"I certainly had no idea you weren't supposed to stab the lettuce in your salad," said Gander, a first-year student in the master's of business administration program at Iowa's highly rated Tippie School of Management.

The four-course etiquette luncheon, which capped orientation week, is an attempt by school administrators to cover every detail in grooming the next generation of corporate executives and entrepreneurs.

While grades and impressive resumes are essential to landing a plum job, little things like firm handshakes and good table manners could make or break a deal, students were told.

"It's an aspect of your career that you don't really think about," said Gander, who also got tips on proper business attire, eye contact, and the art of making small talk.

This year, the college accepted 62 students into its fulltime MBA program, with more than half the class coming from overseas.

Over the next 21 months, students will immerse themselves in the basic fundamentals of business theory, developing leadership skills and refining their knowledge in specific areas with hands-on learning and consulting opportunities.

But the school's mission is much broader, said Colleen Downie, assistant dean. Candidates also must demonstrate a strong work ethic, a clear vision for themselves and their real-world goals.

The curriculum emphasizes a team approach to solving problems and the small class size fosters strong bonds between faculty, advisers and students, she said.

"Our mission is really focused on changing people's lives both personally and professionally," Downie said. "Our small class size really helps us accomplish that."

The approach is apparently paying off.

This week, Forbes magazine ranked Tippie No. 12 among the nation's MBA programs--up from 26th in 2003--and third among public universities, citing its small class sizes and value.

The magazine's survey found that alumni who graduated in 2000 had an average salary of $93,000 in their fifth year after graduation, up from $33,000 before earning their MBAs.

Earlier during orientation week, the class was taken to Camp Wakonda, a Boy Scout camp near Central City, where they spent Tuesday night playing board games, roasting marshmallows and sleeping in bunk beds.

On Wednesday, they ran a ropes course--climbing nets and crossing an aerial rope bridge--aimed at building trust, confidence and teamwork.

"At first glance, I wouldn't have thought that something like a ropes course was all that applicable to things like product development," said Leighton Smith, 24, of Holstein. "But it turned out great for team building, opening minds and setting the tone for what we're getting into."

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