Largest Class of Abitus Students Visits Campus to Pick Up Degrees

Abitus students and Manning School faculty stand in front of the business school Image by Ed Brennen
Several of the Abitus graduates met with Manning School faculty and toured the Pulichino Tong Business Center before Commencement.

By Ed Brennen

After working for nearly a decade in Japan as a certified public accountant and senior manager at Big Four accounting firm Deloitte, Kazuto Endo decided it was time to get his master’s of business administration degree.

To his surprise, Endo discovered that he could get his MBA online from UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business through its partnership with Abitus, an executive education firm based in Tokyo.

“It’s very rare to get a degree from an American university, so I was very interested in the program,” says Endo, who spent 22 months completing the 42-credit degree while working full time.

Endo was among more than three dozen Abitus students who recently traveled nearly 7,000 miles from Japan to participate in the university’s Commencement exercises and the Manning School’s Hooding Ceremony. It was the largest cohort of Abitus students to make the trip in the program’s seven-year history, according to Asst. Dean Leticia Porter, who manages the Manning School graduate programs.

An Abitus grad helps her child step off the stage Image by Ed Brennen
An Abitus graduate helps her child off the stage during the MBA Hooding Ceremony at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center.

Since launching in 2012 with 30 students, the Abitus partnership has grown steadily, with nearly 150 students enrolling in 2018-19. Overall, more than 500 students, mostly midcareer managers and executives, have taken part in the program over the past seven years.

“The Abitus partnership continues to be extremely successful thanks to the flexibility of the courses and the outstanding reputation of the university’s online programs,” Porter says.

The Manning School MBA is ranked as one of the best online programs by U.S. News & World Report, and it was No. 29 in the nation this year according to Poet & Quants, a website devoted to the graduate business education market.

For the first six months of the program, students attend foundation classes at a campus in Tokyo on Saturdays with Japanese instructors who use UML’s curriculum. The remainder of the classes are conducted online by Manning School faculty.

Abitus grads pose for a group photo at the Hooding Ceremony Image by Ed Brennen
Abitus graduates pose for a group photo following the Hooding Ceremony.

Naoko Sasaki works as a senior consultant for Padeco, a Tokyo-based global development firm. While she had to endure a lot of late nights studying, she says it was worth it.

“I focus on project development in Africa and India, so I have a lot of business trips,” Sasaki says. “This was a good option for me since I didn’t need to stop my career.”

Unlike most graduates of the Abitus program whose first visit to Lowell is for Commencement, Sasaki had been to campus before. Last summer, she participated in the two-week Global Entrepreneurship Exchange program.

“I made a lot of good connections with classmates” through the Abitus program, says Sasaki, who has already been able to advance her career with her MBA. In July, she will join Johnson & Johnson in Japan as an investment manager.

During their visit to campus, several Abitus students toured the Pulichino Tong Business Center and met some of their professors face-to-face for the first time.

“It’s a beautiful campus – surprisingly brand new,” said Makiko Nagase, who was proudly wearing a blue UML hoodie that she’d just bought at the River Hawk Shop.

“The program was better than I expected,” Endo added as he said hello to Prof. Eunsang Yoon and Assoc. Teaching Prof. Ashwin Mehta. “The confidence that I have gained will help me go for a better career.”