WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- William & Mary has long been recognized as a school of academic excellence. Now, with the launch of the College's first online degree program – a Masters of Business Administration offered through the Raymond A. Mason school of Business – that excellence extends far beyond the traditional classroom. The university recently announced that their initial goals for enrollment were doubled after opening the program to students.
Todd Mooradian, Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs, said the enrollment numbers do not surprise him.
"Our Online MBA meets the needs of these exceedingly ambitious students who are seeking work-life balance but also want the prestige and cutting-edge curriculum of a nationally ranked university like William & Mary," Mooradian said.
The two-year, AACSB-accredited, all-digital program with a required residency on the campus in Williamsburg, Virginia boasts the same nationally recognized faculty and rigorous academics that William & Mary is known for, but with a new, innovative digital platform that opens the program to even more high achieving students.
James Olver, Associate Professor of Business Administration, led the program design team. His goal was to produce graduates who would be "go-to problem solvers," able to add value to their organizations that goes beyond the ordinary.
"Good problem solving in complex environments requires collaboration," he said. "It requires divergent thinking, and that only comes from being able to interact outside of your comfort zone with people, ideas and disciplines that aren't yours."
Olver designed the first course, Renaissance Manager, with those key concepts in mind. Students bring their own unique and complex business problems based on their real-world experiences and work together to find creative solutions.
"It's a new level of interaction," Clinical Professor Graham Henshaw who is co-teaching the first course said. "The nature of the all-digital platform encourages real-time and robust collaboration. It allows for frequent interaction and feedback that invites deeper critical thinking."
The rapid feedback cycle is a benefit that resonates strongly with today's busy students like Harris Ligon who is enrolled in Mason's Online MBA course. He is juggling a career and the demands of family life since becoming a new dad.
"My role is truly 24/7; whether it is attending to diapers or the supply chain needs of customers any time day or night," Ligon said. "As a result, a traditional brick-and-mortar environment wasn't an ideal fit. With Mason's online program, I'm able to learn and execute in real-time."
The Online MBA program is already having a positive impact on Harris Ligon's career.
"I've actually adjusted tasks and implemented new approaches to problem solving as a result of the techniques we're studying," he said. "We're learning not only how to create structure within unstructured challenges, we're seeking out the best opportunities for the most impactful solution."
While a handful of other schools are beginning to offer online MBA programs, Carrie Harris, another William & Mary student, felt it was Mason's collaborative approach, along with the emphasis on "big ideas" that made W&M's program a standout.
"The professors are incredibly responsive and interactive. There is a notable emphasis on shaping the student into a leader and teaching how to think differently," she said.
Harris, a busy mom of three, works as a CFO for a non-profit healthcare organization. She believes William & Mary was the best choice for her virtual education because of its reputation and history of success.
"Today's business environment is significantly different from what it was 20 years ago. It makes sense the classes that prepare you for that environment should also be significantly different," she said. "William & Mary recognizes that and has shaped the program in response."
Harris Ligon agrees.
"I selected William & Mary because they are known for providing rigorous academic experiences and producing graduates who impact the world around them," he said. "I've been fortunate to come in contact with many W&M alumni and have routinely been impressed with their perspective as well as their ability to deliver."