After graduating with a BBA from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Daniel Parris had a choice faced by many business school students: Immediately begin an MBA, or get a few years’ work experience under his belt. He chose the latter.
In June 2012, Parris went to work as a distribution planner for Linde North America, a manufacturer and supplier of industrial and medical gases and related equipment. He began his career in New Jersey, but “after two and a half years and a winter that saw a hurricane and over 100 inches of snow, I jumped at a promotion opportunity that moved me to one our field sites in Louisiana,” he tells Poets&Quants. It was there that Parris learned of the Flores MBA program at the Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge Ourso School of Business.
“My boss in Louisiana was in LSU’s Professional MBA program,” Parris recalls. “He spoke highly of the program and often relayed some of the material he was learning to help further my development as a supervisor. This is what sparked my initial interest in the program, and after doing some research I decided that it seemed like a good fit, and I applied.
“I didn’t know anyone in Louisiana at the time, so the opportunity to meet new people while continuing my education in a highly regarded program was too much to pass up. Another perk that LSU offers students with work experience is the opportunity to apply for a GMAT waiver, which I was grateful to receive.”
FEARS PUT AT EASE
Parris began the full-time Ourso MBA program in 2015. A little over a year into the 22-month program, however, he was promoted to a position based in Nashville, Tennessee. At first, he says, he was worried about how the move would impact his MBA candidacy.
“But the advisers put my fears at ease when they explained how I could be transferred into the online program relatively seamlessly,” he says. “The online track allows students to work remotely from anywhere in the world.
After a two-month hiatus following his move, Parris picked up right where he left off and is currently one class and a study-abroad to South Africa away from graduating in May 2018.
A STUDY-ABROAD TO ASIA, OR SOUTH AMERICA, OR AFRICA
Daniel Parris is one of 150 students in the Ourso online MBA, though the number fluctuates frequently with graduations and the introduction of new students at six intake intervals per year. It’s a new program, having launched in 2013 — so the first grads took home their MBAs in 2015, the same year Parris started his. “Year-round, we have people coming and going,” says Leah Whitmire, associate director of enrollment & academic services.
The 100% asynchronous program offers identical classes and services as the program in Baton Rouge, Whitmire says. Communication is done by email and telephone, she says, and “if we have any students that are local they are welcome to come in.” The program, at a cost of about $45,000, can be completed in 18 months, but the typical completion time is 27 months, she adds.
Core courses are statistics, cost accounting, financial accounting, economics, finance, information systems, organizational behavior, business law, as well as an experiential capstone course. Electives include negotiation, supply chain management, project management, human resource management, leadership essentials, and international trips that online students may attend that count as elective credits. “We usually go to Asia once a year,” Whitmire says, “and we also go to South America pretty frequently. In December we’re going South Africa. It changes year to year.”
YOUNG BUT GROWING PROGRAM
There are no concentrations in the Ourso online MBA program, though the school does offer an analytics certificate program online that students can pursue and count toward their elective requirements for the MBA. “A lot of our students do that,” Whitmire says.
The young but growing online program did experiment with specializations, she says, but they were dropped for lack of student interest. “The content has been same, faculty hasn’t really changed — it’s the same as the faculty who teach on-campus. No major changes,” Whitmire tells Poets&Quants. “We’re fairly new. When we first started out we tried to offer areas of specialization through the online program, but it just didn’t work, as the program was growing we just didn’t have enough interest in these areas so we didn’t have the ability to continue offering areas of specialization. That may be something that we bring back as our program grows.
“What makes our online program special is, it’s exactly the same degree that our on-campus students get — it’s the same core curriculum, same electives, same faculty that teach on-campus, so it’s no different from what our on-campus students are getting. We really try to make the experience the same as if they were one of our students here on campus.”
‘TIRELESS’ FACULTY CREATES ‘BEST POSSIBLE ENVIRONMENT’ FOR SUCCESS
Daniel Parris, currently an area supervisor for the Linde Groupa, credits the Ourso online MBA with preparing him for the many changing roles he’s had with the company over the last six years. “Through their broad and well-balanced coursework, LSU has helped prepare me for so many changes,” he says. “The professors do a great job at encouraging students to think outside the box, while at the same time emphasizing the importance of occasionally pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to gain a better understanding of areas that may not be your strong suit.
“One of the biggest differences for me when comparing my thought process as an undergraduate to graduate student, lies in the motivation and willingness to learn new things. Like many students, my mentality during undergrad was geared more toward doing just enough to get through classes rather than focusing on learning material, and more broadly, how this material could benefit me in my career. When it comes to my MBA courses, I strive to learn and actively focus on applying this knowledge in everyday life. I relate it a lot to going to the gym; it is what you make of it. You can go just so you can tell people that you went, or you can work through the pain and be progressive about trying to better yourself. Getting your MBA is no different.
“In today’s business environment, the importance of having an MBA cannot be overstated. It not only opens the door to many career advancement opportunities, but more importantly allows you to gain a better understanding of business as a whole. I would highly recommend LSU’s Flores MBA program. The faculty works tirelessly to create the best possible environment for students to achieve success and with four different tracks (full-time, professional, executive, and online), they have options available for every type of learner.”