Life On The Brady Bunch Screen Of An Online MBA

The technology is incredible. It’s very interactive and personal – you can see everyone in the class.  The screen looks like the introduction to The Brady Bunch.  If you eat or drink something, everyone knows.  If you pause your camera, there’s a big X over your screen.  There’s no escape. With 15 people or fewer on the screen for 90 minutes, odds are you’re going to get called on.  One of things I’ll miss most is seeing all of these people online once or twice a week. Once we had a professor teaching a class from India. His phone cut off after 10 minutes and we kept the class going.  He came back online 20 minutes and seven slides later.  Everyone has a stake in the program, so people are really engaged.

The university has done a good job of integrating us into the alumni base.  We get invitations to events, and we’re treated just like the regular executive MBAs. I went to undergrad at Notre Dame, and MBA@UNC has replicated that family feeling – you don’t feel like a number. The program also has a lifelong learning policy – if new classes come up, we can enroll in them. They also have the same faculty so we didn’t lose anything there either. Whatever glitches we had along the way, the administration was incredibly responsive.  Technical things were typically fixed in a day – that doesn’t happen in real life.

Instead of bias towards online degrees, I’ve found that people are fascinated by the program and want to know more about it. I think Kenan-Flagler is the hook. One of my colleagues from work applied after we talked about it, and he starts in October.

The biggest thing I took away from the program was an understanding of the underlying fundamentals and mechanics behind companies and how they operate. My father was a bond trader for years on Wall Street, and I took a very different path. I’m not going to be CFO, but I’m comfortable enough with finance now that I can talk to people about it and understand company expenses.  A lot of tools I use on a daily basis I learned from the program. I was promoted into my current position in December, and the MBA absolutely positioned me for that opportunity.  That’s the great thing about this program. I didn’t have to quit a job I loved to get the degree. I could grow in my career while I was earning a living at the same time.

Mike Orazi, 28, Strategy Associate at Lockheed Martin  

I was very happy with my job at Lockheed Martin, but I still wanted to pursue an MBA. My current role requires me to know a little bit about a lot of different things. I knew I didn’t have the necessary knowledge of supply chains and finance, and an MBA could give me that.

Mike Orazi, left, visited Bali with classmates Carlo Pedrazzini and Kristen Fanarakis following a Singapore Immersion through UNC's online MBA program

Mike Orazi, left, visited Bali with classmates Carlo Pedrazzini and Kristen Fanarakis following a Singapore immersion through UNC’s online MBA program

My job involves a lot of travel and long hours so I needed a program that was flexible. I did some research and found the program at MBA@UNC, which would allow me to work and earn a business degree.

I didn’t apply to any other schools, but I was looking at the Duke program. For me, it was really a debate between going full-time or taking UNC’s alternative route. Part-time programs didn’t appeal to me because I didn’t think I would get exactly what I wanted out of them, especially with a move to Alabama on the horizon, where there aren’t many MBA options.

I spent roughly 20 hours per week on the program. About three hours of that was in-class time online with professors and classmates. The rest of the time is flexible. In some cases, I would be working 100 hours per week. I had to put in those three hours, but everything else I could take care of when I had time, which was extremely valuable. If I was working 15-hour days, seven days a week, I could finish my homework and catch-up on lectures between 10pm and 1am.

MBA@UNC has an amazingly interactive online platform. I was surprised to find that it can be better than a traditional classroom experience. You’re staring at all your classmates.  You’re in the first row of the class every day. You don’t think you’ll come away with close friends or see any of these people outside of the weekend immersions, but our graduating class is incredibly close. I think I got the same takeaways from the experience as a typical MBA student – that’s a group of friends who are going through the same thing that you are and who you can talk to and help out for the rest of your life.

We were the first class, so there are always a few kinks. The administration was committed to running the program the best way they knew how, but we had to work through some things with them.  I would say that it was an opportunity because we could help shape the future of the program.  For instance, they had to figure out the best way to give exams to keep everything fair. Eventually students would get on Adobe Connect, the program software, to take the exam together during multiple proctored time slots, and that seemed to work for everyone.

One thing I really valued about the program was that I could continue doing a job that I really liked without taking time off to attend a top program. I’ve recently been promoted and am moving to Washington, D.C., to join our corporate strategy group. I credit the UNC program for giving me the credentials that were required for that promotion.

I would tell people to go into the program with an open mind. I know there’s a certain perception of online programs, but I think you’ll find that the experience is superior to what you’d get at other places. I also think there’s a change occurring within the general population about online programs. If I had gone into an interview four or five years ago and said I had an online MBA, I would have received a very different reaction from the one that led to my current promotion.

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