Two Views: The Online & On-Campus Perspectives of Miami Herbert Business School Alumni

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When people lack confidence, they just sit back and let everyone else have the discussion. Now I’m not only not afraid to have the discussion—I’m ready to lead it.
Jenifer DiLapi, Alumna of the University of Miami Herbert Business School

To MBA or not to MBA, that is no longer the question. Graduates of MBA programs earn a significant boost to their salaries, even in a financial recession. The growing maturity and flexibility of online MBA programs, however, has effectively doubled the options for those seeking out the degree’s benefits: in some cases, a university’s online and on-campus options are both highly ranked. The main MBA question today is whether to go on-campus or online.

Consider the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School. For opening new career opportunities, The Economist ranks it in the 99th percentile. For 2020, its online MBA was ranked in the top 35 by US News and World Report, and its on-campus MBA was ranked in the top 50 by Financial Times. Whether delivered on-campus, online, or in a hybrid format, the Miami Herbert MBA offers a sound return on investment in every sense of the term.

The online versus on-campus decision is a personal one, grounded in the needs, abilities, and preferences of each individual applicant. Which option is right for you? Read on to get two alumni perspectives of the Miami Herbert MBA: one that went for the traditional path, and one who went the online route.

The On-Campus View: Jack Shelgren III

Jack Shelgren

Jack Shelgren III chose to get his MBA straight out of undergrad. That made him something of a rarity in his incoming class at the University of Miami (“The U”) Patti and Allan Herbert Business School, where he was one of only three candidates who had recently graduated. He wasn’t without work experience, though, having worked throughout college, starting two businesses and working part-time at a startup. It wasn’t until he got a job in commercial real estate in Miami that he found a real career direction, and the next step: an on-campus MBA at Miami Herbert.

“I recognized that the kind of position I wanted within commercial real estate required more finance rigor than I had, so I considered options to fill the gap,” Shelgren says. “An old friend suggested I check out the U, so I did. I fell in love with the campus and did research on the program, ultimately deciding it was the best for me in terms of attaining financial rigor as well as relationships through the robust alumni network.”

Living and working in Miami, Shelgren wanted to study in Miami, too. And he knew that while a resume with a Miami Herbet MBA would be a strong resume, handing it to someone he knew—or someone who someone in his network knew—would be even stronger. Therefore, the best way to progress his career was to repeatedly show up, in-person, and branch out.

“The MBA is not solely an academic pursuit,” Shelgren says. “In fact, I’d argue it’s equally a social pursuit. The people I met at the university, by physically being there, made all the difference for me. The world is naturally more social than it is analytical. Therefore, the acquired skills greatly help, but the acquired relationships are what make or break the experience.”

Shelgren dug into the on-campus life, which he found to be open and inviting, with the school having set up numerous events to promote socialization. It didn’t take long for him to start giving back. During his time at Miami Herbert, Shelgren served as editor-in-chief of the Herbert Real Estate Newsletter, which focused on current trends in South Florida’s real estate market (and the broader real estate industry) and highlighted achievements of Real Estate Advisory Board members and alumni. He was also elected President of the Graduate Business Student Association (GBSA), where he acted as intermediary between students and faculty and assisted in improving the overall student experience.

“There was a sense of community from the get-go,” Shelgren says. “The students came from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities, so I learned quite a bit from them. The professors are some of the most intelligent people I’ve met, and they are very approachable and work well with the students. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, but we definitely had beers with one or two of our professors, and this is reflective of the close relationship we had with them.”

Today, Shelgren is the leasing manager at COFE Properties, a privately-held real estate development and investment firm, where he works with the firm’s asset managers to oversee leasing operations. It’s a job he credits to the Miami Herbert MBA.

“The MBA program has given me friends, skills, and experiences that I greatly cherish,” Shelgren says. “In addition, the alumni network is world-class, which has manifested in a job for me. The Miami Herbert Business School has a phenomenal culture and the program is headed in a positive direction with a lot of momentum and good people behind it.”

The Online View: Jenifer DiLapi

Jenifer DiLapi

Jenifer DiLapi had been working in finance for five years when she decided to pursue her MBA. As a financial analyst looking to be promoted within her company, she began to notice that everyone in the senior offices had either an MBA or a CPA. And while she didn’t necessarily want to stay in the field of finance forever, she still wasn’t certain what field to move into over the long haul.

“I knew if I wanted to move up the corporate ladder, regardless of the field, an MBA was something that would help propel me forward, and hopefully help me understand along the way what I might be interested in doing long term,” DiLapi says.

DiLapi was employed full-time when she applied to the Miami Herbert Business School. That meant she still had to manage the hectic pace of finance, with its month-end closing procedures, reporting requirements, and general day-to-day pressures. Since her employer was covering a portion of her tuition, work needed to remain a top priority, and an online MBA made the most sense.

“Doing an online MBA allowed me the flexibility I needed to maintain my work schedule while still having a social life, something I never thought would be possible,” DiLapi says.

The online option meant that DiLapi was free to make her own schedule. But what surprised her was the accessibility of the professors within the online program: she found that she had more access than she did in her on-campus undergraduate program. Instead of needing to wait for office hours, she had direct lines of communication to all her professors.

“I remember the first time I emailed a professor to ask a question,” DiLapi says. “I sent my email and logged off for the night, not expecting a response. Within a few minutes, I not only had a response but an invite to call them or text with questions to make it easier. To me this was absolutely shocking, but it really made all the difference.”

That sense of access and connection extended to her classmates, thanks to the university’s cohort style. Moving through the program with more or less the same group of students, DiLapi was able to get to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses over time, just as they learned hers. They formed a bond, both personal and professional, and benefited from each other’s varied perspectives.

“For the most part, I was looking at my assignments through a corporate lens, so it was really refreshing to have some incredible veterans on my team that had entirely different perspectives,” DiLapi says. “This wholeheartedly added to the level of what I actually learned in the program. It’s not just about the coursework, but about shifting the lens through which you see things to uncover opportunities.”

Online MBA students at the University of Miami can choose their own level of involvement. DiLapi chose to enroll in a residency program, where she took an in-person class for a week instead of a virtual one, and she credits it both for fostering relationships with her cohort and for building a greater connection to the university. It didn’t interfere with her full-time job, either: throughout her time in the MBA program, DiLapi received two promotions, and also made a career pivot into marketing and talent acquisition.

“One thing the MBA program has given me overall is confidence,” DiLapi says. “Now when I’m at work, I feel confident to speak up in meetings even when I’m the low person on the totem pole in the room because I understand strategy better than I did before. One thing you learn quickly in an MBA program is that every perspective matters, and that it’s okay to raise the question or to ask why. When people lack confidence, they just sit back and let everyone else have the discussion. Now I’m not only not afraid to have the discussion—I’m ready to lead it.”

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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