A strategic priority of the College is to “Grow the Tree.” Therefore, strategic outcomes will focus on expanding programs, increasing enrollments and resources, and improving undergraduate retention rates.
One way the College can increase enrollment is by broadening the type of students it serves. For example, adult professional and graduate programs offer unique opportunities for the College to build on existing academic strengths. In addition, alternative credential programs such as certificates and badges can provide non-traditional students with up-skilling and re-skilling options.
In 2008, the College launched its first graduate program, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in insurance. The College introduced two additional MBA concentrations in 2020, enterprise risk management and a general concentration. More MBA concentrations will evolve naturally from solid undergraduate programs in high-demand career fields, with students taking 21 credits of core MBA courses and 12 credits from a specialized concentration.
“The MBA student traditionally is in a program for career development instead of being in a graduate program just for the learning. MBA students are either looking to enhance their career opportunities or because a company wants to enhance the skills of its employees,” said Michael Oyster ’77, chair of the Business Department and associate professor of business administration. “An MBA gives professionals the platform to move into the management or administrative side of a career field. Regardless of the profession, business management, financial analysis and economics are all needed when moving into a management or administrative role.”
Barbara Diou-Roig, DBA, director of the MBA program and assistant professor of business, added, “A graduate student who’s a working professional has a different perspective than traditional undergraduate students. They are at a point where they are becoming experts in a specific area, which they will take forward to their employer.”
Ben Rathbun, MBA, CPCU, CAWC, president of Rathbun Insurance and The University of Olivet MBA graduate, wanted to plan for the long-term success of his third-generation family agency. “I was looking for a program that would develop me into a stronger leader that had a focus on managing an insurance organization. As a small business owner and busy insurance professional, I find myself in the weeds often. So, I find it critically important to take a step back and be intentional about leading and setting the direction for my organization. Having my MBA has given me the skills to successfully navigate all of the challenges that go along with building and maintaining a motivated team.”
The next step for the College is to launch an MBA in accounting. “To sit for the CPA exam, 150 credits hours are required, 30 more credit hours than a traditional bachelor’s degree. We currently offer a five-year CPA track in our undergraduate accounting major. So, we asked ourselves, why not have those additional CPA credits be at the graduate level? This will fit nicely into our growing undergraduate accounting program for students interested in obtaining their CPA,” said Oyster.
“As we consider new programs, we monitor what current students, graduates and employers are looking for. What skills do employees need? What are employers looking for? We’re continuously reviewing, updating and modifying the skills that we convey in our classes. We make sure when students graduate, they’ll have those skills that will help them stand out for a promotion or new job,” added Thomas Humphreys, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, CIC, director of the insurance and risk management program and assistant professor of insurance and risk management.
Keeping a pulse on what individuals and employers are looking for and building on the strength of leading academic programs will also enable the College to expand into certificate or alternative credential programs.
Certificate programs generally enhance an individual’s knowledge and abilities in a specific topic, area or skill. Benefits of a certificate program include refreshing or updating expertise or skills in a current career or developing knowledge, skills or abilities for career advancement or to prepare for a new career.
“Consumer interest in alternate credential programs is on the rise, with a steeply accelerated pace since the start of the pandemic,” said Maria G. Davis, Ph.D., provost. “An August 2020 Strada Center survey reported that 25% of Americans who were planning to enroll in an education program were interested in enrolling in a non-degree credential, with an additional 37% interested in skills training.”
A certificate in insurance and risk management will be the first offered by the College, tentatively planned to launch in the spring of 2022. Other areas under consideration include diversity and inclusion, successful aging, coaching and various business-related skills.
“You’ve got a lot of industries where employees need some individualized, specialized training,” said Oyster. “For example, there are many insurance companies that hire people right out of high school or college graduates who have no specialized insurance training. Certificates can lay on top of the training or schooling the employee has already received.
“In addition, for students who don’t have an undergraduate degree, certificates can serve as a marketing tool to get them started at The University of Olivet with four college-level courses. They’ll receive a certificate and be that much closer to earning an undergraduate degree.”
Whether an adult professional or MBA student, flexibility and personalized attention are essential for success. All agree that as programs develop and expand, the College must take career goals and time and delivery of course material into consideration. In addition, faculty must retain the The University of Olivet relationship-based approach even when teaching online if the College is to grow its programs and enrollment.
“Vision for a Prosperous Future is well thought-out and articulated. The strategic plan hits on all of the points that our institution needs to focus on to grow,” said Humphreys. “Are the strategic outcomes aggressive? Absolutely. Given the landscape in education right now, it needs to be aggressive for us to get to where we need to be.”
This feature was included in the winter 2022 issue of Shipherd’s Record and The President’s Annual Report, The University of Olivet’s alumni magazine. This special issue introduces the College’s new strategic plan, “The University of Olivet 2030: Vision for a Prosperous Future.” Sections also include updates from the Offices of Advancement and Alumni Engagement, Comet Sports, a 2021 Year in Review, Financials, Class Notes, Feature Stories, a Homecoming Recap and much more. View the full magazine here.