Commencement 2014: Grad student finds URI’s Blue MBA program the perfect entrée to marine technology industry

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Ocean science, business degrees give advantage to Maine native

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 15, 2014 – Matt Gusto worked on a lobster boat, as a government fisheries observer, and at his father’s health care information technology company before realizing that he needed more than an undergraduate degree in physics to advance his career. With a captain’s license already in his pocket, the Bath, Maine, native sought a graduate education program to combine his interests in fisheries and business, which he found in the University of Rhode Island’s Blue MBA program.

As Gusto nears graduation in May, he says the graduate program that merges ocean science and business has given him a competitive advantage in seeking jobs in the growing marine technology field. The program combines coursework in the URI Graduate School of Oceanography and its College of Business Administration, and graduates leave the program with both MBA and Master of Oceanography degrees.

“There are so many industries that need people with both a technical and business background, and there aren’t a lot of graduate programs that offer that combination,” said Gusto. “With the Blue MBA, I could work for just about any company with a maritime technology focus, where you need an understanding of ocean processes, or for any company that needs to adapt to climate change.”

The two-year Blue MBA program includes a summer-long internship. Gusto found out as soon as he began applying for internships how rare his background was. At Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio, the largest nonprofit research firm in the world, they needed an intern with oceanography experience who could also write business models for their maritime systems division. Gusto received the internship and continued his working relationship with Battelle while he finished the final year of his studies.

“There were no other MBA interns at Battelle at the time because you have to be able to understand the technical side of things before you can even get a foot in the door,” he said.

Gusto is so pleased with the doors that have opened for him as a result of his URI education that he has become the unofficial spokesman for the Blue MBA program and developed a marketing plan to inform prospective students and employers of its value. He met with retired Navy Rear Admiral Richard West, an advisor to the dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography, and numerous marine industry representatives to showcase how graduates of the Blue MBA program can benefit their organizations.

“It’s creating a new type of employee with a different skill set that meets the needs we’re going to encounter in the future,” Gusto said. “Measurement of oceanographic parameters is so important to the oil and gas industry, marine tech, the Navy and Coast Guard. A lot of inshore survey companies are popping up, and the autonomous underwater vehicle industry is seeing significant growth. The degree has implications for almost every marine-oriented industry.”

By graduation time, Gusto expects to have several job options from which to choose, with the aim of quickly moving up the managerial ladder.

“It may be an ambitious goal for the next five or ten years, but I want to become involved with a company’s operational management, investment planning, and surveying the landscape for new opportunities,” he said.

“A lot of things are going to be happening in the maritime world, especially with the Arctic opening up, so there will be plenty of opportunities coming our way. Oceanography is going to be increasingly important in the coming years. Companies are going to need to know what to expect, how to protect themselves, and how to protect the environment. And with my Blue MBA training, I can help with all aspects.”

Marketing & Communications photo by Michael Salerno Photography.