Optimism runs high as the PMBA program completes its first semester at the Rockwall and Highland Lakes branch campuses.
The Fall 2020 semester marked the first time the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business offered its Professional MBA (PMBA) program at two Texas Tech University branch campuses: Rockwall, near Dallas-Fort Worth; and Highland Lakes, located in Marble Falls near Austin. For its first semester, 20 students enrolled at the Rockwall campus while 8 students enrolled at the Highland Lakes campus.
Students enrolled in the PMBA program at Rockwall or Highland Lakes can earn a general MBA or work towards a concentration in big data strategy.
"We looked at the markets and the presence of technology-heavy companies," said Mayukh Dass, associate dean of graduate programs and research and James L. Johnson chair in business administration. "These new locations are definitely complementing what we have in Lubbock. We tried to offer concentrations that are more important in those areas."
Caitlin O'Hanlon, a student enrolled at the Highland Lakes campus, selected the Rawls College PMBA program because of the big data strategy concentration. She recently started working in the accounting department for A Cloud Guru, a tech start-up company based in Austin.
"The concentration on big data was super exciting for me," said O'Hanlon. "Next semester I think I'm taking a course on artificial intelligence in business. Being in the start-up world, that will be amazing to see."
For other students like William Vise, enrolling in the PMBA program at the Rockwall campus made sense because of the campus's close proximity to his home. Vise works in aviation for Lockheed Martin near the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
"TTU has made an opportunity for people within the DFW area to get a PMBA without having to drive to Lubbock once a month," said Vise. "Driving would have been cumbersome and didn't fit into my schedule. Now that [Rockwall] has opened up, this is great! I actually looked into the PMBA program a year ago, but the driving was too much."
The PMBA program features a hybrid structure with a mix of in-person and online work. With the PMBA program at the Lubbock campus, students drive or fly into Lubbock once a month during the semester. However, it's the faculty that do all of the traveling with the Rockwall and Highland Lakes offerings.
"Our success has started with our faculty's willingness to go and travel, "said Dass. "Without the faculty's support, these offerings wouldn't be possible. Our top faculty are willing to travel to these locations."
It was interacting with the Rawls College faculty that really stood out to both O'Hanlon and Vise.
"The professors really seemed like they want us to succeed, and I really felt and enjoyed that," said O'Hanlon. "You can tell they're passionate for what they do. They ask the right kind of questions to get us engaged, and they give feedback on all of the projects assigned to us."
"You can tell when an instructor is enthusiastic about a topic, and I really liked that," said Vise.
Along with enthusiasm of the course material, instructors were also cognizant of the scheduling demands that come with working professionals.
"[The students] are working professionals and have full time jobs that are very demanding," said Feruzan Irani Williams, associate professor of practice in management who taught at the Rockwall campus. "I created a lot of flexibility in the schedule. We still had deadlines, but there was more flexibility."
As with all aspects of life during the Coronavirus pandemic, being flexible was crucial for all involved with the PMBA program at the Rockwall and Highland Lakes campuses.
"Execution has been tough," said Dass, "but you can always overcome any kind of challenge if it's planned properly. We have been fortunate with our staff members and the support we've received from each of the campuses."
In particular, Dass credits Jessica Carrillo, director of professional programs; Anna Delano, director of recruitment and admissions; Celia Merrill, director at Highland Lakes; and Jameshia Granberry, director at Rockwall, for helping the PMBA program offerings run smoothly this semester.
"Without all of their support, none of this would have been possible, especially in this time of COVID."
Looking forward to next semester and beyond, there's a lot of excitement about the PMBA program at Highland Lakes and Rockwall.
"I think this is a great opportunity for us," said Irani Williams. "Given that our program doesn't require constant meetings, I think the market penetration there should be really good."
Dass echoed Irani Williams's optimism.
"I think these programs will grow because we're bringing something unique to each of these locations: West Texas hospitality with the convenience of having the program close to their home."
Recruitment for Fall 2021 is currently ongoing, and the program is looking to add 20-25 students at the Rockwall campus and 10-15 students at the Highland Lakes campus. Individuals who are interested in learning more about the offerings at the Rockwall or Highland Lakes campuses can visit the PMBA website.