Online MBA students build connections through immersive D.C. experience
The outstanding instruction Virginia Tech MBA students receive may be enhanced by an in-person experience that delivers unique opportunities for networking and engagement with classmates and industry leaders.
Virginia Tech’s Online MBA cohort recently participated in three days of immersive programming in Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital provided a dynamic backdrop for Online MBA students to network with fellow students and faculty members, engage with Virginia Tech MBA alumni as well as government and nonprofit administrators, and participate in dialogue and reflection throughout the experience.
The Online MBA in D.C. event lineup featured an MBA alumni panel, cultural experiences, and visits to the Government Accountability Office, the National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners, and the nonprofit So Others Might Eat.
“Virginia Tech MBA students receive top-notch instruction and engage in ongoing collaboration with peers and faculty through the cohort model. Immersive in-person experiences like Online MBA in D.C. help deepen connections among students, faculty, alumni, and industry,” said Parviz Ghandforoush, associate dean for graduate programs.
“Virginia Tech’s graduate programs are situated in the heart of the greater Washington, D.C., region at the intersection of government, nonprofits, and private industry. The in-person D.C. experience was designed to enable students to contextualize their own MBA and professional experiences within this dynamic ecosystem and explore new applications for their degree,” said Dana Hansson, director of MBA programs and course leader.
When the Online MBA program launched in 2021, the program curriculum included an optional 10-day trip that would give the cohort the opportunity to study abroad. However, the summer 2022 trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made to offer students the opportunity to visit the D.C. area and participate in the immersive programming in January as an alternative to traveling overseas for the study abroad opportunity.
To kick off their experience, students gained insights into how higher education interfaces with all levels of government during a discussion with Christopher Yianilos, vice president for government and community relations at Virginia Tech. Students learned how relationship building and communication are critical tools in advancing higher education priorities such as access, affordability, and research through government relations efforts.
In a panel discussion, Virginia Tech alumni in the D.C. area shared how the skills gleaned in the MBA program translate across a wide range of professional environments, including Capitol Hill, the federal government, the nonprofit arena, and startups. The panelists shared how their MBAs continue to equip them with the confidence to foster buy-in from a diverse set of stakeholders in order to drive innovation.
“The alumni panel discussion gave me a unique understanding into the impact Virginia Tech MBA graduates are making in the D.C. area and beyond. Each speaker brought specialized insights from their organizations that strengthened the discussion. They also highlighted the many diverse career pathways that align closely with an MBA degree,” said Lt. James Whittlesey, navigation instructor and company advisor at Virginia Tech Naval ROTC.
A trip to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) offered further opportunities for career exploration. The visit showcased applications for how the analytical foundations gained through coursework and soft skills developed through collaborative projects can be transferred to federal government roles.
“I really enjoyed learning about all the areas in which GAO engages. The speakers demonstrated how GAO values excellence and integrity in all of its work in providing Congress and the American people with accurate, reliable, and impartial information to make informed decisions. There are many intersections with Virginia Tech’s motto of Ut Prosim — That I may Serve — in GAO’s mission that I found very interesting,” said Dana Cadena, principal solutions engineer at Salesforce.
Conversations with leaders from So Others Might Eat (SOME), a D.C. area community organization that provides a host of social services to individuals facing poverty and homelessness, illuminated the need for mission-driven leaders with well-rounded business acumen and a penchant for collaboration in the nonprofit sector. While participating in a service activity at the nonprofit, students got to know each other more and hear about the social causes close to each of them.
“Fueled with relevant skills and a problem-solving mindset, MBA students can make a positive impact in so many ways. During my time in D.C. I gained an appreciation for how our learned skills can pay off in our careers and in our communities. Our experience at SOME and over our three-day trip drove this home for me,” said Erich Ehinger, a software company senior customer success manager.
Perhaps most importantly, intermingled throughout their travels, students had the opportunity to bond as a cohort, a principal component of the D.C. trip.
“Meeting our cohort in-person allowed us to really cement our bond. Over the past year and a half, we have worked in an online format. It was incredible to transcend those virtual boundaries and connect in-person. Throughout the D.C. experience, our relationships deepened. I expect them to grow and develop over the long-term,” said Serafin Arce, financial analyst at Congressional FCU.
The relationships forged among the students were strengthened through opportunities for dialogue and reflection throughout the trip. In particular, a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture prompted meaningful discussion.
Additional activities like a morning at National Geographic Society, a nighttime monument tour, and shared meals also provided the setting for organic interactions among the students.
Learn more about Virginia Tech MBA programs
Virginia Tech’s Online MBA is a fully virtual program designed for working professionals who want to advance their career while balancing their work and personal life. The part-time schedule allows full-time working professionals to earn an MBA in approximately 22 months while bringing new knowledge and skills to the workplace.
Students who wish to pursue their MBA in person are encouraged to explore Virginia Tech’s Evening MBA. This is a part-time MBA program in the greater Washington, D.C, metro area that provides maximum flexibility for working professionals who value an in-person learning experience. The Evening MBA program has been ranked the No. 1 part-time MBA program in Virginia by U.S. News & World Report.
To learn more about Virginia Tech's MBA options, please register for an information session.