MBA@Rice, our online MBA program, is celebrating five years since welcoming its first students. From the time it launched in July 2018, it has become the fastest growing program at Rice Business.
In July, Rice Business will welcome its first cohort of students to the newly launched Hybrid MBA program. Dean Peter Rodriguez discusses the decision to build the program — and why the market was ripe for it at Rice.
The Rice Business Hybrid MBA, the first of its kind at the university and in the state of Texas, is a 22-month, 54-credit program that begins with a weeklong in-person immersion. After that, classes meet once per month on campus, and in the weeks between, they meet online. Tuition includes residence at a hotel close to campus to help foster connections with peers and faculty while students work and study in McNair Hall.
Rodriguez recently spoke with us about the Hybrid MBA program, how it will expand our impact both nationally and regionally, and the value of networking across professions and MBA programs.
It’s the right time because people have adapted to the great work-from-home experiment, which coincided with the great online education experiment during the Covid-19 pandemic. What we learned is how many students would benefit from and enjoy a hybrid program. We also knew we could deliver it very well and thought it would help us adapt to the market. People have much more flexibility in being able to work wherever they want. One hypothesis is that they would be even more interested in a face-to-face traditional education, but the truth is they want a little bit of flexibility everywhere, and that includes their education. What we learned from Covid and from extensive market research is that a once-per-month program — with online delivery in the weeks between — would be a great combination to add to our portfolio of programs and help us reach more students outside of the Houston region.
One of the things we learned — and it’s not just from that experiment, but also from our fully online program that launched in 2018 — is that people highly value face-to-face, in-person meetings. But it’s difficult for a lot of our target population to be present in those meetings. Our new program has all the online components, which can be live or asynchronous, on Thursday evenings. It’s outside of working hours, and it’s only one evening, so people can pace their week and set aside time. One of the questions we had was, “who’s going to be most attracted to this program?” and our early hypothesis was that it would be students who live far away from the Rice campus. But we also found that work schedules are a challenge, even for people who live within a few miles of campus, so the idea was appealing to local students as well.
One of the things that makes you more visible in the national landscape is having student populations from lots of different geographies and many industries. Being able to reach more students who are part of the expansion of high-tech and software-related jobs in Austin, or part of the diverse manufacturing and service economy in Dallas, will help us. We’ve also had students from Mexico and from across the U.S. inquire. In the MBA@Rice program, we have students from Boston, Los Angeles, New York and other cities in the U.S. That has added to the quality of discussions we have and to the geographic expansion of the Rice Business network. I think that will help us to serve existing students in our other programs because there will be alumni and other students that they can connect with in these vibrant commercial centers, and not just in Houston. Working professionals bring contemporary problem sets from the organizations they work in, and we’ll be able to bring in students with those experiences from great organizations around the country and the big metro areas of Texas.
To read the interview in its entirety, click here.
Larry Clow is a writer and editor based in the Midwest. He tweets at @larryclow.