Virtual Classrooms, Real Successes

Marc Beal bet the house — literally — that the Hybrid Executive MBA degree from Saint Mary’s would pay off for him. He financed his classes with a home equity line of credit. It was a big risk for Beal, who was then 48 and the father of a new baby.

The innovative hybrid program is tailor-made for people like Beal, who traveled often to New York, Chicago and Boston as national sales manager for Biosearch Technologies. Students meet every other Saturday at Saint Mary’s and take the rest of their classes online, using techniques like live web conferencing and podcast lectures posted on iTunes.

“It was easy to dial in from whatever city I was in,” says Beal.

The combination of traditional learning and digital technology is the key to the program’s success, says professor Barry Eckhouse, who created the approach in 2004. “The digital world has become a major part of both higher education and business administration, so our Hybrid Program brings both areas together to provide the best possible online experience,” he says.” Eckhouse is a nationally recognized expert in online executive business education, and counsels major corporations and faculty and academic administration from colleges and universities across the United States.

Lisa Theunissen MBA ’08 tested the program’s flexibility when she accessed her classes during a trip to the Netherlands. Her 7 p.m. class translated to 4 a.m. in Europe.

“My family thought I was crazy,” she says. “It was extremely intense, but if you want something, you can find a way to make it work.” After she graduated, she was promoted to vice president for West Coast financial services of shopping center giant Regency Centers.

Catherine Li MBA ’08, vice president and technology manager for Wells Fargo’s wholesale banking division, admits she was “skeptical about how well the online teaching tools would work,” but she was soon won over. She was particularly impressed with the faculty. “They are world-class teachers,” she says. “They’re connected and in tune with the current business world.”

Last summer, Li was recognized as one of the “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business,” largely for her work as the co-founder of a Wells Fargo “virtual community” known as the Innovators Club.

And Marc Beal? Within three years of his graduation in 2007, he was promoted to director of corporate development. “My compensation tripled,” he says. And to top it off, his boss gave him a year-end bonus equal to the entire cost of his MBA degree.

Teresa Castle
Office of College Communications