In a year defined by the Covid-19 pandemic, Isenberg has moved the needle on innovation, strengthening career and professional development services, program flexibility, analytics curriculum, and improved virtual interactivity for graduate students.
Many of these innovations were spurred by Isenberg’s response to the pandemic and by feedback from students and alumni, says Traci Hess, associate dean of graduate programs (pictured right).
“We were eager to offer new and innovative services, especially in the career and professional development space,” says Hess. “The Covid-19 pandemic actually facilitated this—as we went virtual with courses and classes, we were able to rethink how we offer those services to our students.”
PROGRAM-WIDE ACCESS TO CAREER SERVICES
According to Hess, an important starting point was thinking about how to deliver great online career support and services across all Isenberg graduate programs: “Our office had been offering a career platform for On-Campus MBA students which let us serve up a variety of resources, including resume and interview guides and recordings of workshops and alumni panels, and also allowed us to post job opportunities."
The platform got rave reviews from the On-Campus MBA students so, in September 2020, the Graduate Programs Office expanded this career platform to make it available to students in the Online MBA, MS in Business Analytics, MS in Accounting, and M.Fin. in Alternative Investments programs. At the same time, the new Office of Career Success, under the leadership of Assistant Dean Holly Lawrence, launched three virtual career and professional development workshops for Online MBA students and various virtual career bootcamps and workshops for students in the specialized master’s programs, Hess says.
“About 85 percent of our Online MBA students are advancing within their current careers, and the other 15 percent are contemplating switching their careers,” she says. “So, the Office of Career Success planned and ran workshops—on resume building, developing your LinkedIn profile, and business and professional writing—with these needs in mind.”
Based on positive feedback from students, these workshops and bootcamps will be continued and expanded in 2021-22.
“The career preparation needs of our students vary by program, and we’re committed to serving their needs with the breadth of expertise available through Isenberg,” Hess says. “The new Office of Career Success and our increased use of virtual offerings enabled us to provide more career support and services than ever before during the pandemic.”
THE PATH TO AN ONLINE MBA IN TWO YEARS
The Isenberg Online MBA program is known for its flexibility, says Hess. “We support our students by helping them develop personal programs to advance through the MBA at their own pace.” What the Graduate Programs Office has heard from some students and alumni, Hess says, is that they would like to move through the Online MBA program more quickly. As a result, it has launched several initiatives to help students finish in as few as two years:
Developed a sample two-year completion plan, based on input from advisors, current students, and alumni of the program.
Began offering new one-credit electives each semester to help students build up credits more quickly. These 1-credit electives can be completed in conjunction with a 3-credit core class (as a 4-credit load), or taken individually during the winter session.
A longer winter session was offered in 2021 and will be offered again in 2022. Beginning in 2022, both short and longer summer sessions will be offered to work around students’ vacation schedules.
“While we now offer more opportunities for students to move through the program more quickly, we continue to provide flexibility to students whose busy schedules require a slower pace,” Hess explains.
IMPROVING INTERACTIVITY AND ENGAGEMENT IN A VIRTUAL WORLD
As the realities of the pandemic became clearer, faculty and staff began exploring ways to stay more closely connected with students. Faculty began offering students optional online synchronous meetings, in a bid to help students feel more connected with each other and the professors. These were so successful that starting this fall, faculty teaching online courses will be offering these virtual office hours and gatherings, and/or optional virtual class sessions.
Advisors also adapted their approaches to communicating with students, says Hess. She shares the example of Priscilla Mahar, advisor for students in the MS in Accounting programs: “Priscilla gave her students the option to book meetings with her via phone or Zoom. At least half chose Zoom, and we will continue to give students these choices moving forward.”
NEW ANALYTICS OFFERINGS
As employers continue to seek advanced analytics skills in their employees and new hires, Isenberg’s specialized master’s programs have added new analytics courses, says Hess. Two new courses will be added to the MS in Business Analytics (MSBA) program this year. In Mobile App Strategy and Development, students will design and develop a market-ready mobile app. In Data Science for Business, students will use Python, a coding language used for extracting information from business data, and cutting-edge data science techniques to foster data-driven decision-making and drive business insight and innovation. A new Python course and a Data Science for Finance course have been added to the M.Fin. in Alternative Investments to boost students’ knowledge of data analytics and visualization.
“Our analytics offerings are more accessible as we don’t require our students to have existing technical skills,” says Hess. “You don’t need an analytics background walking in, but we’ll make sure you have top-notch skills and knowledge walking out.”
CAREER SWITCHERS FLOCK TO NEW MS IN ACCOUNTING TRANSITIONS TRACK
Last year, the MS in Accounting, one of Isenberg’s specialized master’s programs, established a new track to support people interested in switching to a career in accounting. The MSA Transitions Track is designed specifically for students with non-accounting backgrounds. This curriculum begins with foundational courses that prepare students for the advanced accounting concepts introduced later in the program. “It’s remarkable that the Accounting Department and the Graduate Programs Office were able to launch the MS in Accounting Transitions Track in a pandemic year,” says Hess. “It’s a great example of taking people who are interested, giving them the foundational knowledge to get their MS in Accounting, and positioning them for a lucrative change in career.” “None of our specialized master’s programs have rigid pre-requisites that shut out prospective students,” she adds. “We do ensure that students have a career coach, interaction with knowledgeable faculty, and support from an advisor throughout their student career.
“We’re with you through your graduate degree journey. You’ll leave with a strong foundation in business, specialized knowledge in your chosen degree, and confidence in your abilities, ready to succeed in whatever comes next.”