William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business received a $10 million gift to create a new Center for Online Learning meant to grow its portfolio of long-distance business degree programs. The gift, from Virginia Beach-based philanthropist Jane P. Batten HON ’17, is one of the largest gifts ever given to a business school in support of online learning.
While the business school’s first foray into the online world began with its MBA program more than four years ago, Mason added a new online master of science business analytics program this summer. Both programs are now housed in the new Center for Online Learning. The school said it expects to see a four-fold increase in its online portfolio in coming years.
Mason’s online MBA, which failed to gain a ranking in Poets&Quants‘ inaugural assessment of the best online MBAs or in U.S. News‘ more extensive ranking of online MBAs his year, costs $60,525 and can be completed in as little as 24 months. The program features on-campus Friday-Sunday residencies held twice a year. The school maintains that the student retention rate for the online MBA program cohorts is in the mid-80’s to high 90’s— well above the national average and why 96% of students would recommend the program to a colleague or friend.
BATTEN AND HER LATE HUSBAND HAVE BEEN LONG-TIME SUPPORTERS OF THE UNIVERSITY
An honorary alumna, Batten and her late husband, Frank Batten, have been longtime friends of the university and have given generously to many areas, including scholarships, the Fund for William & Mary and the Mason School’s residential MBA program. Batten is an ardent supporter of education — including increasing access to education — and the environment, helping to advance the causes of many Virginia organizations and foundations.
The school said that Batten’s enthusiasm for President Katherine A. Rowe was the impetus for making the gift. “Katherine Rowe’s mantra is innovation and mission-driven transformation, so I thought what better way to show my support for the university’s new president than to invest in an innovative endeavor at the business school,” said Batten in a statement. “Through the new Center for Online Learning, we are ensuring that a William & Mary business degree is within reach of so many more professionals, no matter where they live or work in the world. This is very important to me and my gift reflects that.”
The gift, which provides capital to get the center up and running and to develop a robust infrastructure in support of additional business degree programs, is having an immediate impact according to Mason Business School Dean Larry Pulley. By increasing its online presence, the Mason School is better positioned to offer professionals greater access to a high-caliber business education that prepares them to lead lives of principled achievement. While the number of programs grows, the school said there will also be an increase in the number of faculty and staff dedicated to the mission of the new center.
MORE THAN A DOZEN FACULTY DESIGNED THE ONLINE MBA FIVE YEARS AGO
“In my short time here, I have been impressed with how the business school continually evolves and expands into the online learning space and has done so while still keeping true to its core mission,” added Rowe. “This gift represents a significant step forward for the Mason School and William & Mary as a whole and I am very thankful to Jane for her vision in bringing this center to life.”
Five years ago, the development of the online MBA program was designed from soup to nuts by more than a dozen faculty members. The Center for Online Learning, too, will be built by a team of faculty and staff at the business school. They are responsible for bringing to life Batten’s vision for the Mason School’s new online venture and are heavily invested in ensuring its success.
“There has been an incredible amount of time and effort on the part of our faculty and staff to develop and deliver high-quality and high-touch online programs. I am eager and thrilled to see this venture move forward,” said Pulley. “It is a very exciting time to be at the business school thanks to Jane’s vision and support!”
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