The University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business: The Online & On-Campus Perspectives

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The University of Utah has given me great friends, peers, business contacts, education, ideas, goals, and the tools to succeed wherever I want to. Their character and heart radiate through all facets of the School of Business. They care for and work tirelessly for us online folks to feel included in the MBA family.
Cody Jackson, MD, Alumni of the David Eccles School of Business Online MBA

To MBA or not to MBA, that is the simplest of questions. An MBA graduate typically doubles their salary, even in a financial downturn. What isn’t so simple a question is where to get your MBA. And, with the evolution of online MBA programs, it’s not even just a question of where anymore, but how.

Things used to be simpler. A hierarchy existed wherein online MBA programs were considered diet MBAs—not quite the same as the real thing. Those days are gone. Advancements in tech, and the maturation of online programs in general, mean that it’s no longer a matter of hierarchy, but individual preference.

Consider the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business. Their online MBA program is ranked 17th by US News & World Report and 11th by Princeton Review. Meanwhile, the full-time on-campus program is rapidly climbing the ranks; last year, it jumped 20 spots in Bloomberg Businessweek, earning specific distinction in the areas of learning and entrepreneurship. And, finally, their part-time Professional MBA is ranked best in the state by US News & World Report. Whether it’s earned online or on-campus, part-time or full-time, an MBA from Eccles is an MBA from a top-ranked school. But which format is right for you?

The theme of MBA programs today is flexibility: flexible curriculums, flexible schedules, and flexible career paths. The decision between an online and on-campus program comes down to the nuances of your own personal context.

Read on to get two alumni perspectives of the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business: one from the on-campus program and one from the online program.

The On-Campus View of the David Eccles School of Business: Toma Fackrell

Toma Fackrell

Toma Fackrell got her undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business, and then started working at Zions Bank, where she’s currently a portfolio manager. When she decided to go back to Eccles after a few years to get her MBA, she didn’t let her full-time job dissuade her from the on-campus program.

“I chose an on-campus MBA over an online MBA because I strongly believe that a big part (if not the biggest part) of the program is meeting other students, professionals, and professors, and developing meaningful relationships with them,” Fackrell says. “And that is something that is much harder to do online.”

The professional MBA office at Eccles creates numerous opportunities for students to interact with each other, including dinners, baseball games, and aquarium visits, where students are also invited to bring their families. Positive social collisions occur within the classroom, as well: students split into initial smaller teams (usually of five), and then may get regrouped into random teams to increase exposure to different ideas and personalities.

“The interactions in class took various forms: current event discussions, case discussions, team assignments, and role play,” Fackrell says. “All of those interactions were done in a very respectful and psychologically-safe environment, where everyone could freely express their opinions and agree or disagree with others without feeling intimidated or judged.”

For Fackrell, these interactions, and the meaningful relationships that came from them, were some of the key takeaways from the on-campus MBA program. Further benefits included interactions with professors, who made themselves available to students and, on occasion, extended opportunities to participate in research. All combined, this gave Fackrell exposure to diverse ways of thinking about the same situation or topic, and various perspectives on solving the business questions associated with it.

“When making important decisions, there can be so many right answers and right ways of doing things, solving problems, and addressing different issues; it all just depends on how we look at things and think about things based on our experiences in life,” Fackrell says. “The quality of our decisions will depend on our ability to think critically from a leadership position while taking into consideration the big picture. And this is exactly what the professional MBA program teaches us how to do.”

Fackrell is a staunch proponent of on-campus programs, even for those with full-time jobs. Yes, it’s hard to go to school for four hours as soon as you finish work. Yes, you’ll sometimes miss classes when traveling on business. But you’ll also be able to apply what you learn back to your professional life, and vice-versa, getting the most out of your education, rather than focusing purely on theoryo. For Fackrell, there’s no substitute for the on-campus experience.

“You become what you surround yourself with,” Fackrell says. “Imagine being immersed for two whole years in an environment full of brilliant and talented professionals from different backgrounds and with various experiences. You will learn so much from that diverse group of people, as well as from your professors. And remember, the value you get out of the program will depend on what the effort you are willing to put in.”

The Online View of the David Eccles School of Business: Cody Jackson, MD

Cody Jackson

Cody Jackson is like several people smashed into one: Navy Veteran, medical doctor, business professional.

“I had already been involved with some real estate investing which sparked my interest in healthcare finance, so I thought an MBA would be appropriate,” Jackson says.

The limits of physical reality would seem to disallow the existence of someone like Jackson, but the online MBA program at Eccles has provided an exception.

“I did not have time to attend a four- to six-hour block of classes during the day or night,” said Jackson, who was completing his medical residency at the University of Utah at the same time that he began studying at Eccles. “The online MBA provided excellent flexibility for me to accomplish my goals.”

Time is always a concern for someone with Jackson’s ambition. And the online nature of the MBA program did make it difficult, on occasion, to coordinate schedules with classmates. But the added flexibility was paramount: he could travel while not missing a class, he could tune in to targeted webinars, he could select a wide range of electives, and he could study at the time that suited him best. Gaining flexibility didn’t mean sacrificing quality, either. Jackson credits the professors with being knowledgeable about both the tech and the material.

“Having a bit more experience than other classmates, the professors challenged me just as I challenged them,” Jackson says. “The professors were more than accepting of the discussion points and welcomed the discourse.”

Before applying to the program, Jackson was hesitant, and he admits to having believed some stereotypes about Utah. But what he found was an amazingly open community that accepted and celebrated people of every race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. And he saw the online MBA program at Eccles for what it is: one of the best in the world.

“The University of Utah has given me great friends, peers, business contacts, education, ideas, goals, and the tools to succeed wherever I want to,” Jackson says. “Their character and heart radiate through all facets of the School of Business. They care for and work tirelessly for us online folks to feel included in the MBA family.”

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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