Category Archives: Elaine

Closing…but not done yet

It is difficult to wrap my head around the fact that in just two weeks, my latest adventure will come to a close. I will walk in an Elon graduation ceremony as an MBA recipient.

My life has changed significantly since I started in the winter of 2009. Back then I was working for a global pharmaceutical company; today I am exploring the options for my next career and am excited by the possibilities. In 2009 my family and I lived in Mebane. Today we live very close to downtown Burlington. Back then it was just my husband, myself and our two dogs. These days we chase around a very happy and active two-year-old. In the spring of 2009, I sat in a room for a weekend, learning about my classmates. In two weeks, we will sit at our graduation dinner among colleagues and friends.

Somewhere on my iPhone is a short but growing list of things I plan to do, try or complete once this journey is over. I had added ‘travel’ to it some time ago, but the program is helping me to do that before it all comes to an end.

Elon University encourages its students to participate in study abroad programs and experiences. And it doesn’t just focus on the undergraduates! As many of the blog readers have seen, the Winter International Business course for the MBA program was a joint trip to China. This summer, a smaller class will be traveling to Prague and Milan.

This is one of many unique aspects of the Elon MBA. Even though I already took the International Business class and will have graduated in May, I have the opportunity to travel and be a part of the course this summer. (While I will be attending the company visits, I’m not responsible for the assignments.) The class includes two or so company visits per day, along with cultural events, group dinners and sightseeing excursions. Between the pilsner factory visit in Prague and the day trip to Lake Cuomo in Italy, I’m sure we will learn a lot and have a wonderful experience.

So which am I looking forward to more, the fact that I’m graduating or the course and travel that come after? To tell you the truth, I don’t even know. I’ll let you know from somewhere in Prague in June.

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The Value of the Classroom

The fall semester was as to be expected, busy. Managerial accounting built on a solid foundation of what I had started in my undergraduate accounting class. The lectures were interactive and geared toward adult-learners. The class format was typical for most MBA programs with one midterm, one final and a small percentage of the final grade reserved for homework completion.

In returning to school 10 year after earning my undergraduate degree, I was forced to adjust to new tools like Blackboard and Moodle. These online tools allow the faculty and staff to post the syllabus, any class announcements, assignments and more onto a site accessible to any student via the web. They also allow for interactivity between students through discussion boards, digital dropboxes, chat features and more. While this initially took some getting used to, when it was paired with online book components, these online tools were a valuable part of my learning experience through the last several years. I could practice what I’d learned in the lectures and my professor could see where either my classmates or I were having issues.

I had the chance to get the extreme version of this while taking an online-only class this fall to complete an undergraduate statistics requirement, the final prerequisite for me to complete the MBA program. Luckily Elon allows us to take the classes concurrently with our graduate coursework and makes course transfers simple. I took the course through this ‘major online university’ simply because a community college or Elon course did not fit into my schedule, and due to the fact that I had to take it prior to starting my winter semester class.

Five week of statistics can only be compared to drinking through a fire hose.

The short time period was not the only thing that made me long to be in an Elon classroom again. The learning was 100 percent self-directed, with the only opportunity for professorial interaction via an online discussion board. There were no lectures or helpful videos as you might see offered on iTunes or YouTube. The class consisted of reading, doing the online homework, posting in a discussion board with substantive posts, working in teams on group projects and taking the tests online.

The class was a success for me as I learned what I feel was a good start in statistics that reinforced and supplemented what I know from years in medical sales, working with and presenting scientific data. I also earned a very positive score that made me proud of my work.

But in the end, the class made me grateful for the classroom interaction at Elon. While there is value in an online component to class, I am extremely glad to be in a true classroom once to twice a week. It is impossible to learn from the experiences of your colleagues if you never see them face-to-face. The networking opportunities of small group projects and social interactions is irreplaceable. I’ve heard a rumor that Elon will soon offer all of the prerequisites for their MBA students, in the same way that the Finance Foundation course is now presented. In terms of my learning style and what I get out of the MBA program, I can only see that as a positive step for future cohorts. An MBA program is not just about what you learn. It’s about the experience of the classroom, the interaction with your professor, area business leaders and your peers. And as of yet, I don’t think you can get that all out of an online program.

And here we go again…Fall 2011

It’s the start of another year in the MBA program; I am pleased to say that there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. My first semester was in the spring of 2009. A job change, a move and the birth of my first child have taken place since that date several years ago. At the beginning of this semester, Judy Duhlberg and I discussed the plan for my remaining classes and came to the happy realization that I could indeed graduate in May.

One of the best things about the Elon MBA is the flexibility. Some members of my cohort finished the program in just under two years while a few others won’t finish until after I am through with my coursework. My time was delayed somewhat by my undergraduate coursework and the fact that I needed to take all of my pre-requisites. I will be finishing my last class in statistics at another institution while taking managerial accounting this fall.

Three weeks into class and I’m already wishing that I had taken accounting earlier in the program. It would have made a few other classes that much easier. That just demonstrates the positive nature, and potential downside, to a flexible program.

At Elon, you can take most classes in the order that works for you, with the exception of those requiring pre-requisites. A work colleague of mine has a very specific order to the classes at his Executive MBA program, which means he’ll be in the program for a far longer period of time.

Almost every class I have taken at Elon has been applicable to either my former or current role. More important to me is the fact that I’m learning so much from both my professors and my colleagues, while still maintaining some semblance of balance in my life. I have a family. I work. I study. I run. I ride. I sleep. Not necessarily in that order. And at the end of 2012, I can say that I am a graduate of the Elon MBA program.