In 1978, Cliff Ensley ’69, ’70, G’71 had an idea to start his own business and just $2,500 to do it. He was used to taking on challenges—there was no stopping him. Growing up, he struggled with a learning disability—at…
Amy McHale’s Investment Portfolio: Whitman Graduate Student Success
Amy McHale, assistant dean for master’s programs at the Whitman School of Management, calls herself a jack of all trades. Since 2008 she has held roles focused on the student experience and preparing graduates to enter the workforce with a well-rounded set of advanced professional skills.
Her 26-year career at Eastman Kodak included hands-on experiences in roles ranging from quality engineer (she earned her bachelor of science in chemistry at St. Lawrence University) to market research, branding and strategic marketing and product launches. With an MBA in operations management from the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business, she saw joining the Whitman School as director of experiential learning as a way to put her corporate skills to work sourcing hands-on projects that support academic growth and professional development for Syracuse University students.
Her student-centered approach was evident from the start. “I would get to know the students and try to match their skills and aspirations with a series of projects or internships that build on each other to create a well-rounded set of professional skills,” she says. By working closely with career services, she helped position students to demonstrate hard and soft skills to potential employers.
Her focus on students carried into Whitman’s relaunch of online graduate programs, where she put her research and operations management experience to work with the online MBA. Six months later, she helped launch the master’s of accounting, then a year later the master’s program in business analytics. She says each experience helped her learn how to improve the program launches, with entrepreneurship and supply chain management as the most recent programs added to the Whitman portfolio. She says her background in new product launches at Kodak gave her the incentive to really understand the needs of students considering each program and the best way to meet them.
McHale describes herself as someone who really wants to understand how programs work. “I taught strategic management online during three different terms. I am hiring people to be section leads and instructional leads for our programs and I wanted to understand firsthand what it really takes to be successful in these roles.” Teaching also helped her see the students in a different setting, outside of in-person residencies required by the program. McHale has also been instrumental in launching short courses, teaching Women in Business Leadership. All of these roles are important, she says, giving her time with students to get feedback about the Whitman School’s masters programs and—true to her quality engineering background—continuously improve the student experience and outcomes.
McHale says focusing on the student experience has other benefits. “Syracuse University has a program where you can earn a second master’s degree with 80 percent of the combined credits applying to both degrees, meaning students can add a second degree in business analytics or supply chain or another discipline in addition to the MBA. It’s a really good option for people who want to continue their development, particularly with the flexibility of online courses for working professionals.”
Her favorite part of her current role? “Seeing the students be successful. When I see them at residencies or at graduation or online, they’ll relate what they learned and how it helped them develop and grow. It feels really good when they come to campus for graduation—and at least half of our distance students do—and I get to see them while they are here. A lot of them keep in touch and ask how they can help as alumni ambassadors.”
She’s most proud of the work that she and her team do to forge connections with and between students in the online master’s programs. “I’m continually surprised how students develop just as strong bonds with each other in online programs as those of us who earned our degrees on campus. They’re in small class settings and see the same people very week. They get to know someone by working on a project together and then decide to take their quarter’s classes together. The residencies are an incredible opportunity to expand their network. Even in the virtual residencies this past year we have tried to create as many opportunities as possible for students to meet each other through small breakouts. There are groups of students who form really strong bonds and get together—such as coming to Syracuse to see a game in non-pandemic times—and keeping in close touch.”
“When I did my MBA, I was working in the same city, so I went to class at night and went home. I didn’t have this experience and I really enjoy seeing the friendships and connections that our students create,” she adds.