When Hope Williams decided last year to get her MBA while furthering her career, she found that St. Cloud State, her dad’s alma mater, had the accredited business school and 100 percent online program she wanted with an accelerated pace and specialized courses that prepared her for every aspect of her career.
“I always knew I wanted to get my MBA, and I had looked at a few different options before deciding on the Herberger Business School,” said Williams, who had earned her undergraduate degree in finance at the University of Minnesota just a year before starting at SCSU.
“I got my bachelor’s during the COVID pandemic, and most everything was online,” Williams said. “Taking courses at my own pace came easily to me, so I knew going to school and working full time was an ideal situation for pursuing my MBA. The program was a great fit for me personally.”
“Now I am 23 years old, with an MBA, and am an executive director of a great organization,” said Williams, who heads the Economic Alliance economic development organization that serves all of Minnesota’s Wadena County. “Almost everything I do on a daily basis was part of the MBA program at St. Cloud State. I focus daily on economic concerns and helping businesses succeed, whether that be writing a business plan, finding funding options or discussing the steps to a start-up.”
The Herberger Business School has been offering MBA programs that fit the changing needs of graduate students for several years at locations in St. Cloud and at the University’s Plymouth campus. Students tended to have full-time jobs and often families and other responsibilities that would make it difficult for them to enter a traditional MBA program.
“More people can access this program in which their learning takes place alongside their work life. We meet them where they are.” — Matt Trombley, MBA Interim director
The online MBA program evolved to help greater numbers of students figure out their own capabilities and access the education that will allow them to reach their career potential.
“It’s becoming less common for people to have the means and lifestyle to step out of the workforce and take two years out of their life to earn an MBA with in-person classes on a campus,” said Matt Trombley, interim director of the 100 percent online program that students can finish in as few as 10 months. “More people can access this program in which their learning takes place alongside their work life. We meet them where they are.”
Trombley also pointed out that because the online program reaches more potential students, it is accommodating more women and more people of color, making the program more diverse.
Adrina Johnson, who lives in Sandstone, was drawn to the program based on the length of the semesters.
“I loved getting to go at my own pace and not having to rush or drag through each course,” she said. “I was a little nervous about returning to school being a mom of two and working full time, but I had the best support from my family and was awarded a scholarship from my current employer to pay for one whole semester.”
Johnson’s area of focus was on management and leadership. “I want to progress quickly in my career and someday have my own business,” she said. “I have been able to apply many of the skills and tools I learned in many of the management courses. I work in human resources and tiptoe a little into the IT world, and taking the MBA classes has allowed a new light to shine on what is happening in front of me.
“I want to go much further with my degrees, but my MBA has already helped me grow so much as an employee that I hope to return to SCSU to piggyback off my current degrees and continue growing my education.”
A big part of St. Cloud State’s It’s Time strategic framework is offering individualized options and programs to help all students succeed. The evolving, changing educational landscape demands that institutions do just that, and the fact that SCSU’s programs, including the online MBA program, are attracting greater numbers indicates that the strategic planning is working. “Fundamentally we think through what we need to do every step of the way,” said Katherina Pattit, dean of the Herberger Business School. “Professors are challenged to be very mindful of the student’s experience and how to get them to arrive at the place they need to be. We know that some students do better online, just as some still need at least some in-person classes.”
Students select an MBA concentration, tapping into the expertise of SCSU’s faculty. They can concentrate on these specialties to get the specific skills they need to attain their personal goals.
“We are definitely giving students what they need … these students benefiting from the online program wouldn’t otherwise be able to complete a graduate degree.” — Professor Rajesh Gulati
Faculty have modified courses, refining, updating and polishing them to help students meet their specific needs. “The faculty have done a great, great job,” Pattit said. “Some have optional or Q & A sessions, or offer bonus material. They present the material in a way that works, building an individualized program that fits how they interact with students. Quality matters, and professors and students always will be interacting.”
“The asynchronous format ensures the learning process is available to students anywhere, anytime so they may fit it into their busy schedules,” said Dr. Julie Weber-Kramer, an instructor in SCSU’s Department of Management and Entrepreneurship. “It requires discipline and commitment to complete the program successfully. But the payoffs in professional development, networking opportunities, career advancement and other benefits are valuable.”
“The workload is demanding, and students are expected to put in about 18 hours a week reading and doing case analysis,” added Professor Rajesh Gulati, who is chair of the Department of Marketing in the Herberger Business School and has been teaching MBA courses for more than a decade. “That is a heavy load. They have to be devoted.”
“We are offering seven-week sessions with intensive course work,” he added. “With accelerated classes, we’re seeing full classes.”
Overall, SCSU has seen an 11.6 percent increase in the number of graduate students, including MBA students, for fall semester 2023. The MBA program has experienced dramatic growth over the past year, with 350 percent growth since May of 2022, currently enrolling over 340 students.
“We are definitely giving students what they need,” Gulati said. “We are attracting people in an area around St. Cloud maybe 150 miles. These students benefiting from the online program wouldn’t otherwise be able to complete a graduate degree.”
ONLINE MBA FITS REAL-LIFE SCENARIOS
Dr. Julie Weber-Kramer illustrated how the accelerated online MBA program is allowing many students to earn their degree while also maintaining their careers and needed income, participating in activities with family and friends and even enjoying a favorite hobby. Here are anecdotes about some of her students she has taught in eight sections of courses:
A vice president who travels frequently for his job and is a husband and father of a toddler excelled with rigorous planning. He would often study on the road, at night or on the weekends while his child was resting. His professors were responsive to his questions during these non-typical “business hours” to ensure that he stayed on track. He often applied what he was learning in his work with the executive team he was part of. He and his family were even able to enjoy their treasured “Minnesota cabin time” while he was in the program.
An elder care administrator who was newly promoted into this role from a nursing leadership position pursued the program in order to develop her business knowledge to complement her clinical expertise. Both are critical to the success of an administrator. She was able to apply what she learned in real time, benefitting her, the organization and its employees and residents.
A recent college graduate, working full time but with limited work experience, took advantage of his class and group discussions to learn about various industries and professions and various methods of conducting business. He sought out practical advice from his peers and found it accelerated his learning curve at work.
St. Cloud State University’s Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) is offering lifelong learning in a non-traditional way.
PACE allows individuals or teams within organizations to gain certificates, digital badges or customized training to move them forward in their career. Different than enrolling within a college, PACE allows an accelerated path to success.
PACE offers courses for all members of the community, and it works with businesses to design customized programs for specific needs of their associates.
MORE ACCELERATED ONLINE PROGRAMS
While SCSU offers six different concentrations of online accelerated MBA programs, that isn’t the only degree you can get on an accelerated timeline.
The Master of Science in Educational Administration and Leadership is also offered, which is part of SCSU’s College of Education and Learning Design.
The flexibility of the online program fits with a busy lifestyle, and course content is designed with the experiences and views of today’s educators in mind. This degree enables educators to become a dynamic leader of a school or school district.