As a Manager of Liaison Engineering for Boeing, Gunnar Bergeson is responsible for maintaining the airworthiness of all products that are developed in Boeing’s Mesa, Arizona location. Together, he and his team of 30 engineers oversee products across all Boeing programs; everything from AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to little bird Army aircraft such as F-15 Eagles and F-18 Super Hornets.
GROWING A CAREER AND A FAMILY BUSINESS
With this level of responsibility, flexibility was a big factor when he decided the time had come to pursue an MBA degree and take his career to the next level.
“I chose to do an MBA online for convenience and for timing,” Bergeson, who has 13 total years of experience in his field, tells Poets & Quants. “I knew it would give me a lot more flexibility to be able to work crises and long hours at Boeing if needed.”
Besides wanting to see his career get to new heights, Bergeson sought new skills from the MBA degree to help him with his involvement in a family business. Rock Solid Concrete is a ready-mix concrete business that was established about 25 years ago and employs around 200 people in the Phoenix area. Serving the board as Vice Chair, Bergeson plays an active role in making long-term business decisions and in investing the capital that’s available. To this end, he felt getting an MBA was crucial to understanding and knowing the right questions to ask from a small business perspective.
AN ONLINE MBA PROGRAM WITH RAVE REVIEWS
As he set out to find the program that was right for him, he learned that there were several in his corporation who had taken up the online MBA at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business. According to Bergeson, each person he spoke to had given the program rave reviews. What’s more, they each confirmed that their decision to pursue the W.P. Carey Online MBA was the right call for them and their careers.
The program was launched in 2001 and is dubbed as being focused, but flexible. There are two intake periods — January and August — and it kicks off with a mandatory three-day orientation that can be fulfilled on campus or online. The curriculum consists of 17 classes (49 credits) divided into five weeks per class. So, in a given academic semester, ASU online MBA students will undertake three different courses — 100% online.
Students complete the 11-course core curriculum, one class at a time, in a lock-step, cohort format with fellow classmates. The other six courses are electives of their choosing so they can tailor the experience to meet their specific career goals.
THE ABILITY TO CUSTOMIZE
In Bergeson’s case, customizing the experience means becoming more knowledgeable in finance as well as some marketing concepts. “I’ve been leaning forward into my weaknesses; classes I wouldn’t get as much exposure to outside of the MBA program. Finance was the most foreign to me and the subject I felt would be most useful so that I could get a strong finance and accounting understanding and be able to think in these ways.”
For students who may have an interest in something other than finance, they can choose from electives in areas such as business analytics, entrepreneurship, and supply chain management. Electives are offered throughout the entire academic year and are taken on a non-cohort basis, so students can add them to their course load when they see fit.
In total, the $60,000 program takes 21 months to complete. Courses are a combination of synchronous and asynchronous delivery and material, Pam Delaney, Director of Graduate Recruitment and Admissions at W. P. Carey School of Business tells Poets & Quants. Meaning, students do some things in tandem and other things on their own time. “There’s a lot of individual work blended with both types of formats. There’s also a lot of team projects using collaboration tools,” Delaney says.
“The majority of classes have some group element. Not all, but most do,” Bergeson says. “Most professors try to break it up where it’s two-thirds independent work and one-third group work.”
GETTING ADMITTED AND DOING WELL: HERE’S WHAT IT TAKES
Acceptance into the W. P. Carey Online MBA program primarily hinges on years of work experience — something that is important, ASU says, so students can adequately contribute to the unique environment of a program that’s delivered 100% online. While there are no minimums required by the program to secure a seat, the school says it generally looks for experience in the five to year range. Delaney also says the program is fairly competitive. In the most recent incoming class, the average student is 32 years old with close to seven years of work experience. GMAT exams are required— though waived in some instances — and currently the program hovers near a 591 average. No interview is required, however, a resume, essay, and letters of recommendation are needed.
On average, the time commitment that students can expect to experience is approximately 16 hours a week according to Bergeson. “Some weeks it’s 12. Some weeks it’s 20. But it’s a time commitment and it will stretch you,” he says. “If people aren’t aware and think it’ll be a side thing where they can say, ‘I’ll get to it when I get to it,’ then they will struggle. With online programs, you can focus as little or as much as you want because it’s convenient. But that can be a blessing or a curse.”
As far as outcomes go, Delaney says the school isn’t tracking job placements for its online program because so many of the students are already employed. “But we do see increases in earning potential, career advancement within their current organization, and growth of their professional networks. We tend to trend along with the other GMAC indicators where about 82% of our students receive increased earning potential.”
Bergeson, who is one year into his online MBA experience at ASU, says that so far he’s gotten everything that he set out to obtain from the program. “My main reason wasn’t to get a specific promotion. It wasn’t to get the piece of paper to get the credentials. I was lacking knowledge in certain skills that I’d need if I planned to get a promotion or help run the family business and not screw it up. I know engineering. I know how to think it. I didn’t understand the financials and the marketing as well. The ASU online MBA programming has been fulfilling those needs.”