Staying connected in a Hybrid MBA program
In January of 2018, I had a two and a half year old, a partner who worked graveyard, and a career in Advancement at the University of Washington that had the opportunity for growth. I had been at the university for over 5 years and realized I needed to do something to supplement my resume and skills to pivot into the private sector. I decided to pursue my MBA.
Taking all of that into account, I only considered work-compatible programs in Seattle area: Seattle U Evening MBA, UW Foster Evening MBA, UW Foster Hybrid MBA and Seattle Pacific University Evening MBA.
Choosing the best program
After attending an information session at Seattle U, I decided that their program was not a good fit for me. Their program was flexible and allowed students to start any quarter and students could vary the number of classes they took each quarter. So, although advertised as a 3-year evening program some students could take longer. I needed more structure.
Seattle Pacific University held info sessions at coffee shops across town once a week on a Wednesday between 1-2pm. I was looking for a work-compatible program, if going to an info session meant I was going to have to cut out of work… something about that logic didn’t add up.
At this point I was stuck between the Evening and Hybrid Programs at UW Foster School of Business. What I liked about the programs was that they offered the right amount of structure. They started in the Fall, in a cohort model and you are put on a team. I loved the accountability and support aspects of the programs, not to mention the faculty, and staff were amazing and so great to work with.
Deciding where to go
After applying, interviewing and gaining acceptance into both programs, I had a tough decision to make. I compared program length, format and committed class time required on campus and weighed them against what was best for my family.
I chose the Hybrid MBA Program, because I could be home to see my daughter before and after class. The first sign this program was perfect for me was the orientation schedule. I attended orientation from the lanai of our Airbnb in Maui, a trip we had booked prior to the schedule being posted. Since then we’ve gone on several trips while still in school.
In addition to being able to travel with my family, when I’m home and in class I can still see my family. Sometimes my daughter will come sit in my lap during class to see what’s going on. Other times, she into my office to “do homework” with me on the weekends. Sometimes during team meetings that run a little late, she will pop in for a hug and a kiss, before my husband tucks her in for bed. Being able to pursue an MBA and not missing the important moments has been incredibly rewarding and encouraging.
Staying connected in a Hybrid MBA program
As I am going into my 2nd year as a Hybrid MBA student, I can’t imagine going through a program that didn’t have a cohort and teams model. My cohort has been essential to my learning, development, and survival in this program.
How did we meet?
We met at orientation, of course. Our orientation was two 90-minute sessions online via Zoom. Video on was the key to success as we were able to put faces with names and did introductions. We also received a PDF with all of our classmates names, photos, companies, titles, and team assignments. We were required to meet with our teams online at least once before Immersion.
Our teams are assigned by the program staff based on a variety of different factors including work styles, GPA aspirations, fit, and personality. I am on Team Stealth. We are four men and two women. Four of us are in the Greater Seattle Area, one in Portland and one in San Diego. There’s a roughly 10-year span between the oldest and youngest member of my group. One of us was active duty in the US Military when the program started. Our industries, undergraduate majors, skill sets, and areas of expertise are all very different. Our first team meeting was a few days before Immersion. We met via Zoom for about an hour. We talked about deliverables for immersion and that was it. It was just a nice touch point but a little awkward, or maybe I’m just a little awkward.
Our team has set up a structure where we meet on Tuesdays after Foster Live (class). All of our team is on the West Coast so we don’t have time zone issues. During this meeting we do a check in, talk about weekly deliverables, go over who is in charge of which assignments, and schedule our follow up weekend meeting. Our modules end on Sunday at midnight, so meeting on Tuesday gives us a good idea of what needs to be done in the next few days and who will do it. We also schedule Saturday between 11am- 4pm depending on everyone’s schedule, this meeting varies based on each of our own family commitments. However, during our weekend meeting we go over all the assignments that are not done and triage to get assignments submitted.
In addition, our team has private Slack channels for our specific group set up so that we can ping each other throughout the week if we have questions.
What is Immersion?
Immersion is the core of this Hybrid MBA program. Immersion is what it sounds like, a mandatory fully-immersive experience. For 5 days in mid-September, all students come to the University of Washington Seattle campus for in person classes, professional development, team building, and networking. Most meals are provided. The days are jammed pack. I generally plan on having school activities from 8am – 8pm every day, except Sunday that’s a half day so out-of-towners can fly home.
Here’s a snapshot of our schedule:
|9:00am||Welcome & Intros|
|2:00pm||Class – Team Dynamics|
|9:00am||Class – Financial Acct|
|12:15pm||Lunch w/ Prof Dev Speaker|
|2:00pm||Class: Data Analysis|
|5:00pm||Team Happy Hour|
|9:00||Class- Leading Teams and Orgs|
|12:15pm||Lunch, Headshots, Class photos|
|2:00pm||Professional Development Seminar|
|9:00am||Class- Financial Accounting|
|1:15pm||Career Management Orientation|
|4:15pm||Tailgate for Husky Football Game|
|9:00am||Class – Leading Teams & Orgs|
|12:15pm||Lunch + Recap|
Taking advantage of in-person time
There are so many opportunities to meet and talk to different classmates. The professors and TAs come to the welcome dinners. Many of the teams scheduled dinner on the same night our team did a happy hour. In addition, many teams went to the Husky Football Game together after the tailgate. I would say after the first immersion I was able to talk to roughly 50 of the 63 students in my cohort at some point or another. Because Immersion is our only official program scheduled time to be in person as a class, we make the most of our time together.
How we stay connected
- Zoom: We use Zoom for our weekly classes and review sessions. The classes and reviews are meant to simulate the classroom environment, so we all try our best to have cameras on and stay engaged. There are a few exceptions for those who are traveling for work and hotel wifi is not great. We use the chat box to engage with each other.
- Slack: One of my amazing classmates set up a Slack Workspace for our entire cohort. We have specific channels for each of our classes, job postings, general comments, random, and meet-ups. This has enabled us to ask questions, get to know each other, and stay connected.
- Meet-ups: Our class has regular monthly happy hour that is student organized for the Seattle-based students. Portland-based students have also planned their own. Some of these events we invite program staff, and students from different years of the program.
Make the most of your investment
However, it really is up to each individual student to choose their engagement and connection to the class. You get what you put in and sometimes you get way more in return. When school is in session it is very rare that I go a day without interacting with one of my teammates, the same goes for those who are not on my team.
I’m really glad I made the decision to pursue my MBA through UW’s Hybrid MBA program because it fits into my schedule as I look to make the transition from the higher education space to the private sector. Also, the coursework I’m completing and relationships I’m building are giving me the education and network I need to make the jump.
Are you a current MBA candidate or applicant, or already an MBA grad? Come share your experiences with our community here on our website, or in an #MBAchicTakeover over on Instagram!
Images furnished by Emily Huynh