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Jones School of Business to launch hybrid MBA program

Kelton Keck / Thresher

By Spring Chenjp     1/24/23 10:35pm

Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business will welcome its first cohort of students in the new hybrid Master of Business Administration program, the first one in Texas, this summer. 

Students in the program will spend one weekend a month on campus alongside taking online classes one evening a week. The program will also feature three in-person immersion weeks, culminating with the Global Field Experience where students undergo experiential learning at organizations across the world.

The Jones School online MBA was recently ranked 12th in the nation by the 2023 edition of the U.S News & World Report, eight places higher than last year’s ranking of 20th.

Haiyang Li, a professor of strategic management and innovation at the business school, said the program is designed primarily for working professionals. 

“Professionals would like to pursue graduate programs and MBAs but also want to have flexibility,” Li said. “That’s the major driving factor for us.”

According to Peter Rodriguez, dean of the business school, the majority of the learning will take place in-person.

“A way to think about it is most of our programs are 100% face-to-face.” Rodriguez said. “The online program is 90 percent online, 10 percent face-to-face, and [the hybrid program] will be 30 percent online, 70 percent face-to-face.”

Alice Wen, a second-year MBA student at the business School, said in-person interaction was a key reason she chose the full-time program.

“Everyone is from a very diverse background and culture,” Wen said. “I think that inspires some new thoughts and perspectives that might be useful for my future, no matter [my] personal or professional life.”

Rodriguez said he believes the program will attract students beyond the Houston area. 

“We really expect this to appeal most to working professionals outside of Houston,” Rodriguez said. “So I know we’ll get some [students] in Houston, but compared to the other programs, we expect to get more [students from] Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.”

According to Rodriguez, the new hybrid program comes alongside planned expansions to the business school.

“We’re planning a building expansion, and we’re hoping to [...] get that going some time in the next year or so.” Rodriguez said. “We hope to get that approved by the Board [of Trustees] some time soon, and if that’s the case, it’ll help us in all the [business school’s] programs.”

Rodriguez said the business school is seeking to expand its faculty.

“We want to preserve the faculty ratio that we have of students to faculty or, more precisely, credit hours to faculty, especially tenure-track faculty.” Rodriguez said. “So we’ve had a plan that we’re still delivering on to add faculty into all the subject areas we offer.”

As the hybrid program is still in its infancy, Rodriguez said the business school will monitor how it impacts interest in existing programs.

“There’s a likelihood that students that have been contemplating one of our existing programs now want to come to this one instead.” Rodriguez said. “We’re not exactly sure how that will play out, but [...] we think that that’s going to be informative.”

According to Barbara Ostdiek, senior associate dean of degree programs, course delivery methods may change after the first cohort of students.

“Many of [the faculty] have designed courses for our online MBA, MBA@Rice. They’ve learned a lot about [...] delivery between asynchronous and live session.” Ostdiek said. “So the faculty are excited to think about using all of these modalities: in-person, asynchronous, live session. There’s some really exciting opportunities where three components mixed together, there’s a lot we can do. We’ll learn what works best there.”

Additionally, Ostdiek said the Jones School is looking to gauge reactions to the residential portion of the program, which requires residency at a hotel close to campus.

“On those once-a-month [weekends] on campus, it is a residential program so built into tuition are the hotel [fees].” Ostdiek said. “We felt like this was an important decision [...] with the fewer trips on campus and fewer trips in person as a cohort. So that’s something we’re going to learn from local people who can go home, how they’re going to feel about the residential component.”

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