Two Views: Online & On-Campus Perspectives of UMD's Robert H. Smith School of Business

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Aside from the career counseling and network support that comes with being an alumnus of a top-tier business school, the biggest thing that the Smith School gave me was the confidence to know that I would be able to transition from the military to a career in the business world seamlessly.
Rick Hoggard, Strategy and Consulting Senior Analyst at Accenture

The decision to get an MBA is mathematically easy: MBA graduates enjoy a significant boost to their salary, even in times of recession. What’s always been harder to decide is where to get one’s MBA. And, as online education gets not only better but wider spread, one now also has to decide how to get that MBA.

Consider the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Graduates of its MBA programs earn an average base salary of over $103,000 per year. The same expert faculty teaches the online courses as the on-campus courses. But which modality is best?

The online MBA program at Smith is ranked in the national top ten, according to US News & World Report (2020), and tied for fifth for its MBA in marketing. Six concentrations are available: accounting, finance, general management, management information systems, marketing, and supply chain management/logistics. Notably, the school scores particularly well in retaining faculty who are not only experts in their field, but highly capable of teaching in an online environment.

The on-campus MBA programs at Smith score highly, too, with its MBA in information systems ranking in the top ten nationally. As one of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland at College Park, on-campus MBA students are plugged into a confluence of business, government, nonprofit, and professional networks in and around the Washington DC area.

The conventional wisdom says that online MBAs are for older working professionals, and on-campus MBAs are for recent graduates of bachelor’s programs. The conventional wisdom is wrong. The decision between an online and on-campus MBA is an incredibly individual one, and it needs to account for the nuance of a student’s goals, context, and preferences.

To look back on that critical decision from the perspective of two Smith alumni—one who graduated from the on-campus program, and one who graduated from the online program—read on.

The On-Campus View: Stephanie Gomez

Stephanie Gomez

Stephanie Gomez is a commercial leadership associate at AstraZeneca. Coming to Maryland Smith with a bachelor’s degree in biology, she graduated from the on-campus MBA program in 2019.

“I knew that I would need an in-person experience where I could physically see and work with my cohort and professors daily in order to be successful,” Gomez says. “While new technologies have aimed to close the contact gap, the best fit for me, both professionally and personally, has always been through in-person interactions.”

For Gomez, the downside of a full-time on-campus program is the financial hit of having to leave the workforce for two years. But she knew that going in. She viewed the cost as an investment in herself, and used the time on campus to focus fully on her MBA and her personal growth.

“That investment has already been returned to me professionally, given the outstanding career trajectory post-Smith MBA,” Gomez says.

The upside of the on-campus option was the ability to immerse herself in all the opportunities present in the wider community—and Gomez wasted no time getting involved: she was the first year MVP of her class. During her time in the program, she served as the executive vice president of the MBA Association, as fellow and ambassador of the Forte Foundation, and as a board member of both the Latin MBA Student Association and the Healthcare Business Association.

“Within the program, I formed lifelong friendships with both the students and professors,” Gomez says. “I can confidently say that within those two years, both parties understood my goals, aspirations, and my authentic self. This holistic comprehension paved the way to receive invaluable guidance from both my peers and mentors.”

The on-campus MBA program at Smith gave Gomez confidence in her skillset, and the opportunities to succeed in applying it. The training, networking, and experiences at Smith helped her transition from her unique biology background into her current role as a commercial leadership associate at AstraZeneca.

“As a prospective student, make sure to carefully consider the tradeoffs of each, and, most importantly, which is best for you,” Gomez says, in her advice to those choosing between an online and on-campus MBA. “If you do decide to go on-campus, the Smith program will provide you an outstanding education and lifelong memories that you will cherish always.”

The Online View: Rick Hoggard

Rick Hoggard

After 18 years of military service, Rick Hoggard used his Maryland Smith MBA to become a strategy and consulting senior analyst at Accenture in New York City. He graduated in 2018.

“When I decided to pursue an MBA, I was an active duty soldier in the Army and I had a 18 month-old daughter at home,” Hoggard says. “A full-time on-campus program wasn’t an option for me if I wanted to finish before the end of my military career.”

The online format gave Hoggard the flexibility to attend classes at night after his kids were in bed (his second child was born about six months before graduation). Having already earned his undergraduate degree in management and marketing online, he was confident that he could handle the online modality for his MBA.

“The best thing about the Smith School program is that it is just as rigorous as a traditional program, and is taught by the same faculty as the traditional program,” Hoggard says. “Some of the other schools I researched that offered online MBAs seemed to treat it as an afterthought, but I never got that feeling from the Smith School.”

Hoggard highlights the opening and closing on-campus residencies as particularly important components of his MBA experience. They made him feel like a true member of the school community, and opened up access to all the valuable networking opportunities that any good MBA program is known for. That sense of community carried over into the suite of services available to Hoggard as an online student.

“I loved the fact that online MBAs had access to all the same student support that traditional MBAs could access, especially career counseling,“ Hoggard says. “As a person that spent 18 years in the Army, transitioning to the civilian job market was a daunting task, but the career counselors were very helpful and active in finding ways to help me. Without their help, I have no doubt that my job search would have been much more difficult.”

Hoggard chose to specialize his MBA in information systems and business analytics, and even though it was delivered online, the program was heavily focused on working in teams. Virtual collaboration was a key skill, as it is for many business professionals today. Hoggard got to learn high-level concepts in a very 21st-century way, and he credits both the professors and the technology infrastructure of the Smith MBA with his success in the program.

“Aside from the career counseling and network support that comes with being an alumnus of a top-tier business school, the biggest thing that the Smith School gave me was the confidence to know that I would be able to transition from the military to a career in the business world seamlessly,” Hoggard says. “In my current career as a management consultant, I use the knowledge I gained from the Smith School every day. In interactions with my co-workers, I never feel like I’m out of my league, and I attribute that confidence in my abilities directly to the Smith School.”

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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