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University’s online M.B.A. program wins kudos from U.S. News & World Report
University’s online M.B.A. program wins kudos from U.S. News & World ReportNovember 08, 2001Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
Dan Marticello is a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Pleshette Johnson is a business and performance analyst at ExxonMobil in Virginia. But they are also classmates, along with a man from Moscow, a woman from the Middle East, several people from Japan and about 150 others from across the United States and 10 other countries. They are all earning degrees through the University’s Independent Study M.B.A. program, informally known as iMBA.
Johnson cites SU’s international reputation and the real-world experience of its professors as a factor in her decision to enroll in the iMBA program. “This clearly sets me ahead of my peers,” she says.
Marticello says the School of Management’s accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) was a big reason he enrolled in iMBA. “That indicated to me that the program was comparable to full-time degree programs in its requirements and quality of instruction,” he says.
U.S. News & World Report agrees with Marticello’s and Johnson’s assessments of the iMBA program, citing it among the top 25 regionally and professionally accredited online business programs in the country in a recent issue.
“I think we have a powerful mix of quality and flexibility,” says Paula O’Callaghan, director of mid-career and executive education programs for the School of Management. She points out that of the programs cited by U.S. News, SU’s is both the largest, with 158 students, and the oldest, having begun in the late 1970s. All of the other programs cited were begun in 1997 or later.
Students in the iMBA program pay the same tuition as main campus graduate students, but they don’t have to pay the other fees that come along with being a main-campus student. Most students’ employers pay at least part of the tuition.
The average iMBA student has 10 years of work experience and is in his or her early 30s, says O’Callaghan, though they range from mid-20s to mid-50s. Most of the iMBA students are looking to move up in the companies they already work for, rather than move on to another company. “This program especially appeals to people who, in an economic downturn, don’t want to quit their job to go back to school full time,” O’Callaghan says.
The iMBA program is structured so students can complete it in three years while working full time, though they can take as long as seven years if they want. Students are required to come to campus three times a year for one-week intensive residencies. All other work is done independently, at the student’s own pace.
“I do quite a bit of business travel, and this program allows me to keep up with the program without having to worry about being in a classroom the same day every week,” Marticello says. “The residency periods are scheduled well in advance, which allows me to plan my calendar to accommodate them.”
But while he lauds being able to pursue a degree without being tied to a classroom, Marticello also values the times when the iMBA students come together. “Each individual in the program comes from a different firm and career field and brings a different perspective,” he says. “The ability to interact with people who are out there still doing the work of their firms provides plenty of real-world examples for discussions.”
Johnson says she has been surprised by the bond that iMBA students forge during the residencies. “You meet and build relationships with people that will last a lifetime,” she says. “It’s wonderful because you are able to brainstorm on projects together for the class assignments, as well as on corporate projects for the organizations that you work for.”
O’Callaghan says that while she is proud of the iMBA program, she looks forward to improving it in the future. She would like to see the program grow significantly. She plans to incorporate more technology into the program, especially more interactivity. And she would also like to add more international residencies. Students spent a week in London in 1999 and 2000, which gave them the opportunity to learn about other cultures and economies.