Over the past three years, the West Virginia University College of Business & Economics (B&E) has done well to bolster what it offers in its online executive MBA program, earning an accolade from U.S. News and World Report as the #29 Best Online Graduate Program in the nation. Pair that with enhanced recruiting efforts, and you have a recipe for sweet success, both for the program and its graduates.
B&E’s online EMBA program is designed for working professionals to continue their education without requiring a leave of absence from work or being confined to classroom commitments. Accredited by AACSB, the two-year program offers instruction from faculty with practical business experience and doctorates from leading business schools. It also includes experiential learning opportunities through four weekend residencies.
The fruits of Graduate Programs' labor are beginning to pay off in a big way. The largest ever online EMBA cohort, 61 students strong, recently gathered in Morgantown for a three-day orientation to kick off the program. The new students spent time at the WVU Mountainlair and the Erickson Alumni Center, as well as a day at the WVU Challenge Course.
“We had a huge application year,” said Carrie Wood, Associate Director of Executive MBA Programs, who is responsible for leading student recruitment initiatives. She has played an active role in bringing new students from various states into the program. A post-acceptance student survey showed that 82% of incoming EMBA students felt that interaction with a Graduate Programs recruiter was one of the most valuable resources in their selection process.
Wood explained that this new cohort represents a significant increase from past cohort sizes of 30-35 students. Because of this expansion, the cohort was segmented into two: the Blue Class and the Gold Class.
“We broke the students into two classes of about 30 each to maintain their high level educational experience,” Wood said. “We also put new measures in place to help facilitate connectivity to, faculty and fellow classmates despite being a larger group of students.”
But Wood said that the recent rankings were also a major contributor to the increase in enrollment.
“In this cohort, we have 17 states represented. Were it not for the rankings, some out of state students may not have considered WVU (as an option for graduate school.) The rankings got us into the discussion,” she said.
Take for instance new student Tim Mason: “The ranking and recognition really had an impact on why I chose the WVU EMBA program,” he said.
Classmate Joseph Spadafore agreed. “It means we have a good program to get into and one that I can put on my resume and be proud of,” he said.
While the rankings grab their attention, the quality and features of the program are what encourages many students to commit. Wood explained that without the opportunity to have a discussion with a prospective student, they may miss important features about the program, such as its in-state tuition rate to all students regardless of residency.
“Once students learn that, it doesn’t make sense to go anywhere else,” Wood said.
The Fall Online ’13 cohort has a diverse background and a wide variety of work experiences in fields like technology, medicine, financial services, engineering and non-profits. Some students are taking advantage of B&E’s dual degree programs such as the JD/EMBA program or the PhamD/EMBA program.
Although the hard work of B&E’s Graduate Programs office is paying off, for the newly enrolled EMBA students, it’s just beginning. But they’re looking forward to the challenge.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while to broaden my horizons,” Spadafore said. “I’m excited to just get started and to get into the groove of being a student again.”
Classmate Vince Rodrigez from Miami, Fla., agreed.
“I’m excited to meet new people and take this next step,” he said. “Honestly, (based on) the feedback I’ve gotten from everyone here and others that have been in the program before, I’m really looking forward to it.”