Alumna Lucy Barnes-Moten shares how she fostered a sense of community with instructors and students while completing the Online MBA Program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Lucy Barnes-Moten readied her application for the Online MBA program at the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business, there were a lot of emotions running through her. Not only did she have the same fear and anxiety that many students have when applying to graduate programs, but she was also coming back to school after several years in the workforce. Though the ground may have been moving beneath her feet, she looked for familiar markers to create a sense of community and help stabilize her footing.
"Coming in, every professor I had did a good job of making us feel like one community," said Barnes-Moten.
She credits the ability of faculty to understand students' perspectives and their open and transparent communication, especially with the more challenging courses.
"In those situations, faculty acknowledging that and going, 'Hey. We know that this is probably one of the more challenging courses.' And that's without you having to say anything as a student."
For Barnes-Moten, that type of communication helped set realistic expectations within courses and created a feeling of support.
She often found faculty being more accessible in those challenging courses, furthering that sense of community. Faculty regularly encouraged Barnes-Moten and the other Online MBA students to reach out beyond the assigned office hours with questions or concerns.
"To have that accessibility to the faculty? I did not expect that," said Barnes-Moten.
The most memorable instance of faculty accessibility came when Barnes-Moten sent a late-night email to Mayukh Dass, associate dean of graduate programs and research and J.B. Hoskins professor of marketing, to discuss some topics on an upcoming assignment. Dass's office hours were scheduled to be held two days from when Barnes-Moten sent her email. Rather than just wait, Dass suggested they find a time to meet the very next day.
"The faculty care about whether you're getting [the material] or understanding it," said Barnes-Moten. "It's not just about the letter grade, but what they can do to help you succeed."
With her connections to the faculty established, she looked for ways to do the same with her fellow students.
A number of Barnes-Moten's Online MBA courses had team projects, requiring students to collaborate with one another. Though every student had different physical locations, they found ways to utilize social media and technology to hold less formal communications.
"We're all at a different capacity," she said. "I'm at a different stage of life than most of them who are just starting out, but we had times where we were using MeetMe and different apps like that. Then, a joke gets cracked and all the laughing emojis come out, so there's a lot of opportunity to build some of that comradery that you frequently miss in online situations."
Barnes-Moten found that the sense of community between students and faculty within the Rawls College online MBA program truly shined during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the spring of 2020.
"I would say Tech was more ready for [the pandemic] than some corporate entities that I've watched through this. It was different, but I was never like 'Oh my gosh, this is getting worse every day.'"
To Barnes-Moten, the faculty at Rawls College really made an effort to understand the unusual situation everyone was going through.
"[The faculty] would say 'There's a lot going on. We've all been Corona-ed, but we have something due tonight. Don't forget.' They didn't have to do that. That's when you want your students to succeed and care what happens to them."
Since graduating from the Online MBA program at Rawls College in the summer of 2020, Barnes-Moten has been in Houston working at NASA as a Human Resources Business Partner, while also running her own principal consulting group. She's seen how the graduate degree has impacted the way people view her as a professional.
"Having the Texas Tech MBA just lent all kinds of credibility."
As she looks back at her time in the Online MBA program, there are two aspects of her experience that Barnes-Moten appreciates the most: the life-long connections and her personal pride as a Red Raider.
"Texas Tech gets in your bones and soul, and it stays with you...The pride of being a Texas Tech graduate – I just don't have words for that, and I always have words."