Two Views, One Business School: ASU’s W.P. Carey MBA Programs

MBAs are like most other things in life: the value and ROI that is returned to you is directly proportional to the effort, passion, and commitment you put in.
Ryan Aldridge, W.P. Carey Business School MBA Graduate and Vice President of Business Development for Atlas Healthcare Partners

In principle, the decision to get an MBA is relatively easy: graduates earn, on average, double their previous salary within three years of completing their degree. Where to get that MBA, however, has been a topic of endless debate.

The staggering number of options have practically doubled since the introduction of the world’s first online MBA (which was either in 1987 at Aspen University, or in 1994 at Athabasca University, depending on your definitions). Young professionals now not only have to decide which MBA program to attend but also in which format: online or on-campus.

The conventional wisdom goes something like this: you go to a full-time on-campus program If you’re fresh out of undergrad, and you enroll in a part-time online program if you’re a working professional. The conventional wisdom, however, is woefully inadequate.

Online programs allow full-time students to access geographically distant programs that might be a better fit than something more proximal. On-campus programs offer part-time options that allow a student to maintain their work and family commitments. The choice of where and how to attend an MBA program isn’t conventionally binary, but contextual and nuanced.

Consider Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. ASU is the most innovative school in the nation, according to US News & World Report, and W.P. Carey’s online MBA is repeatedly placed in the top ten across a wide variety of publications. Their full-time and part-time on-campus MBA programs are ranked in the top 25.

All of ASU’s MBA options are affordable, competitive, forward-thinking, and flexible to a wide range of students. No matter which format one chooses—full-time or part-time, online or on-campus—graduates of W.P. Carey’s MBA program can enjoy a first-class education, wider employment opportunities, and a higher salary. But which route is right for you?

Read on to get the perspectives of W.P. Carey alumni from two points of view: on-campus and online.

The On-Campus View of ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business

Simone Helton

Simone Helton

Simone Helton got her on-campus MBA from W.P. Carey in 2018, with a focus in marketing and analytics.

“I wanted a career change,” she says, “so committing to the full-time on-campus MBA allowed me the time and resources to really dive deep into the subjects that interested me the most.”

Simone is currently working as the director of corporate initiatives for Offerpad, a platform for home sellers—a serious pivot from her previous role as a mobile deployment supervisor for Mesa Public Schools.

“My cohort [at W.P. Carey] comprised students from many different backgrounds with such diverse talents,” Helton says. “I was so impressed with my classmates and their achievements. Even post-MBA, the students and faculty I met are still a huge resource.”

The on-campus program gave her access to support groups, networking opportunities and personalized attention from school staff and faculty. The price, she says, was a lot of nights and weekends spent away from her family. But the value of the on-campus program was worth it, providing a sense of community.

“The biggest benefit to the on-campus experience is the relationships built with other students and staff/faculty,” Helton says. “On a professional level, I gained a much broader network, but I also built relationships that extend much deeper.”

Simone’s advice for MBA students is to get involved outside of the classroom. Especially at on-campus MBA programs, there are a plethora of ways to build connections and develop skills away from the desk.

“Two of my favorite experiences were the golf lessons hosted by the Women’s Leadership Association and the spring break ‘trek’ where we visited different companies in the Bay Area,” she says. “I don’t believe an online program can replicate that sense of community.”

Rod Mercado

Rod Mercado

Rod Mercado got his on-campus MBA in marketing and MS in information management from W.P. Carey in 2001.

“The immersion that an on-campus MBA provides was a great experience for me,” he says.

While it was early days for online programs in 2001, he was still aware of the option and took it into consideration, before ultimately deciding that an immersive, on-campus commitment was right for him.

“The pro of the on-campus MBA is that the degree becomes your job,” Rod says. “You are focused on it 100 percent and so are your classmates and teammates. You are able to collaborate with people that are just as invested as you are.”

The cons, he says, are the two years or so of lost work and wages, making the on-campus degree a big investment. But the return on that investment included lifelong friendships and relationships he formed with his classmates, relationships that go far beyond any single mixer or networking event. They’re relationships that he’s maintained even as he’s transitioned to Austin, working as a channel lead for Dell EMC.

“Take advantage of the full experience,” Rod says, when asked his advice for others considering an on-campus MBA. “Go to football games, volunteer with groups, spend time getting to know several types of business and learn from recruiting and informational events. The value of the on-campus option goes well beyond the classroom. Take advantage of it while you have the time.”

The Online View of ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business

Ryan Aldridge

Ryan Aldridge

Ryan Aldridge graduated from W.P. Carey’s online MBA program in 2017 with an emphasis in healthcare sector management, which helped him land a job as the vice president of business development for Atlas Healthcare Partners upon graduation.

“The online MBA was the most efficient from a convenience and time utilization standpoint,” Ryan says. “It was massively effective for advancing my career. It gave me a solid executive business understanding, the confidence to conquer challenging circumstances, and a lifelong network of ASU staff and student connections.”

When Ryan was applying to MBA programs, he was a full-time working professional and married to another full-time professional. They were parents of a one-year-old daughter with another child on the way. Furthermore, his job demanded that he travel frequently. Faced with either waiting several years to get an on-campus MBA or exploring an online option right away, the choice was simple.

“Time is money,” Ryan says. “The online program had maximum flexibility. It allowed me to complete my coursework from anywhere as long as I had Internet. My regular routine was to work from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM, come home, have dinner, and put the kids to bed. I would start my homework by 8:30 PM and be done by 11:00 PM on a nightly basis.”

While others might be intimidated by that schedule, Ryan feels it fostered some additional creativity. He had virtual teammates in Korea, California, Arizona, New York, and Georgia. This forced his team to get serious about their scheduling and delegation of duties, connecting via Skype across continents and time zones.

“I feel that this is a more realistic reflection of the virtual teams of today’s large distributed companies,” Ryan says.

Ryan considers the cons of the online program to be the limited exposure to guest lecturers and presenters in the classroom, in addition to fewer in-person networking opportunities. The latter of these two, however, was mitigated in Ryan’s experience by two factors: he was a local student, meaning he could visit the campus if he so wished, and he was confident in his career direction, and therefore had networking opportunities in communities outside of W.P. Carey.

In addition, all of W.P. Carey’s professors held virtual office hours, where students could log in and speak face-to-face with them (albeit through a screen), and Ryan regularly made use of this, working through the course material with them and developing relationships that stretched beyond the virtual classroom and into real life.

“Don’t worry about networking and in-person meetings,” Ryan says, when asked his advice to other online MBA students. “MBAs are like most other things in life: the value and ROI that is returned to you is directly proportional to the effort, passion, and commitment you put in.”

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