Q & A with MBA Program Director Jodi Detjen
Wondering if a Suffolk MBA Online degree is right for you? MBA Program Director Jodi Detjen answers frequently asked questions in this blog.
Professor Detjen is co-founder of Orange Grove Consulting, an innovative training and leadership development consultancy focused on helping women and organizations eliminate outdated “rules” that stifle creativity and innovation. She brings years of expertise in the business world into the Suffolk MBA Online program.
What is unique about the Suffolk University MBA Online program?
We don’t look at our online program as a separate program but as a different modality of the MBA program. The curriculum and professors are the same. We strive to take this whole experiential approach online by bringing live client problems into the classroom.
Our students “play” with those problems and figure them out. It’s messy - by design - and that’s how you learn. This happens in all the non-functional core courses. You will walk out of the program having worked with six or seven different clients on real-world problems. In the Business Immersive course, you’ll be working with international clients.
These are problems clients are having today - not problems from some dated case studies - but today. And you are going to help solve them.
How long has Suffolk’s MBA Online program been in existence?
We were the first in New England to establish a fully online MBA program in 1999. We are pretty good at this. We know what works in terms of learning. Research shows a well-designed online program is as good or better than the classroom experience because it gives you flexibility as a student. We’ve had to tell our on-campus students who’ve transitioned to online due to COVID not to worry. We have decades of experience teaching the MBA online.
Can you tell us about the importance and relevance of earning an MBA online through a Boston-based, accredited business school?
An accreditation means that a university has gone through a series of very robust assessments where we have been evaluated on the quality of what we deliver, who is teaching our courses and student outcomes. Suffolk has AACSB accreditation which is one of the most stringent, and we’ve had it for decades. The accreditation signals the quality of our program.
Boston is an incredibly interesting hub with a variety of highly significant industries in today’s economies: healthcare, biotech, technology and finance.
You are going to learn MBA business principles using these industries as examples. You will be embedded in this Boston ecosystem, and it’s an illustration of what’s going on globally.
How does the Suffolk MBA Online program differ from other MBA programs offering traditional textbook learning on campus?
When you think about a traditional textbook course, you get the textbook, memorize everything you need to memorize in the textbook and regurgitate it back into a test and when the class is over, you forget about it. In our program, we’ve actually designed it so that core capabilities are pulled together across the curriculum.
You will learn how to present and get a client to take action. As you are learning the content and analyzing the client challenge, you build these components into your presentation. It’s fast and furious but very collaborative. You collaborate with your professors. You collaborate with your peers. You collaborate with the client. You look at things from a multitude of perspectives. At the end of the course, you take all of these components and persuasively present your recommendations to the client.
We’ve worked with very experienced instructional designers. Even the lectures are interactive. You’re not just listening. You’re clicking on different things and asking questions. You’re taking the content and digesting it.
One of the key things that learning research suggests microlearning is one of the best ways people digest information. We’ve designed this online program so that there are more microlearning moments. Things are “chunked” so that you really learn and retain that knowledge.
Can you discuss the flexibility of the online MBA program at Suffolk?
One of the things that I love about teaching online and learning online myself is that there's so much flexibility in it. You figure out when it makes sense for you to study. You determine when best to meet with classmates across the semester so you can plan accordingly. I am currently doing some graduate work myself and I’ve dedicated my Saturdays and Sundays to that work. Some people choose to work every day. You decide what works best for you.
Also, life has a way of showing up. So you can take a semester off if you need to. Our courses run seven weeks long. It’s really flexible. You’re not cohorted. You don’t have to walk in step with everybody else. You have flexibility in how you want to complete it. For instance, some students take their summers off. The key is that it’s up to you how you want to do it; and we can help you figure it out.
How long does it take to get a Suffolk Online MBA?
On average, it takes 2.5 years. It depends on whether or not students have taken some business courses in their undergraduate degree. You do not have to do it in that short amount of time. It’s completely up to you.
Can you describe some of the coursework?
One of the options we have right now is to take one of our global travel seminars. There is also an opportunity for you to take a comparable class where we travel to a location like California or Germany or Brazil. You do some preparatory work online and then you meet at the location. I had an online student join me in Singapore and it was an incredible time to meet this online student as well as a whole mix of on-campus, part-time, and full-time MBA students. We had an immersion experience every day with a client where students completed a case challenge for them. For example, we went to UPS. They have an extensive Asian network where they discussed their operational focus of efficiency. The student challenge was how to incorporate more workforce diversity into their operational processes.
We went to a factory in Indonesia and we looked at ways of keeping their factory employees motivated at all different levels. The students were working on these live challenges right there on the ground. This is one of the classes that I teach.
What do you like best about the MBA Online program?
For me, personally, what I love about our Suffolk approach is this experiential learning. What this means is that you get to think about the idea, practice with the idea, play with it and consult on the idea so that it’s not abstract. You are going to be working on teams and team skills so that you learn how to manage people and projects experientially, with expert guidance.
How does the background and experience of the professors aid them in instructing their cohorts?
All of our professors have a lot of experience professionally and academically and they bring that into the classroom. One of our professors has been doing extensive studying of the start up space in Israel. He brings all of those learnings into the classroom. You’re learning about the start-up cluster of Israeli technology, which is taking the world by storm. He talks about the whys and hows, and his teaching is grounded in actual research.
For myself, I’ve been doing consulting work my whole career. The process that we came up with in order to manage your client project is based on best practices that I’ve used in my own career. We’re integrating theory, research and external expertise.
So many students tell us that they’ve gone back to work and they’ve been able to use these concepts in a very concrete way because they learned it in our classrooms.
We also have webinars every four to six weeks and with the advent of COVID, there are a variety of online events that are bringing the community into the classroom. You just have to sign up and attend. I highly encourage our students to check out the events and join them. You can participate regardless of where you live.
Are there different areas of focus within the MBA Online program?
What we’ve learned over the years working with MBA students is that they come from all different areas and industries so what we’ve done is to set up concentrations for them to do a deeper dive.
We have concentrations in:
Business Intelligence and
Health Sector Management
This really enables you to take three courses that go deeper. Each concentration is led by and designed by experts in that field, so you’re going to walk out of there with a much more in-depth skillset and the ability to articulate problems in a nuanced way specific to that particular industry.
What skills are honed or developed with a Suffolk MBA Online degree?
At Suffolk, we’ve done research on what skills companies want their employees to have. One of the skills is the ability to work with a diverse group of people. We have one of the most diverse MBA programs in the country. We have 52% women in our program. We have ethnic, gender, functional, industry and global diversity.
The second skill we saw in our research is this ability to prioritize and manage time effectively. Clearly with an online MBA you have to learn to do that. You have classes, work and family as well. You have to decide: What is the most important thing? What is the best use of my time today?
The third area is business transformation. All you have to do is reflect on the last six months of our world to understand how business has changed. The intense global changes are putting enormous pressure on businesses. Change management is a skill just like everything else, and you’re going to learn that skill.
The fourth skill is to be able to build, sustain and expand your social network. We help you network within the classrooms. You’ll be leveraging connections to really build your network. We have 10,000 alumni in the Suffolk MBA. That’s a lot of people to network with. Being conscious that networking is a skill and a strategic activity helps you move beyond a checklist mentality into a proactive approach that enables you to connect and grow.
The fifth skill is the ability to solve live, messy, real, complex problems. We’ve designed our entire MBA program around this. You’re going to be solving companies’ real problems in all of their nuances and greyness.
Relatedly, the sixth skill is dealing with ambiguity. The experience with COVID is something that shows how some people struggled and some adapted quickly. This is another reason why we teach experientially: you learn how to do it and you'll be more capable of doing it.
What kind of support is available to students who are enrolled in the Suffolk Online MBA program?
There are a ton of resources for Suffolk students. Our job is to provide you with opportunities - your job is to take advantage of them. You can join a myriad of clubs and associations. We have graduate student services with easy access to forms, procedures, processes, and we have online skills development with LinkedIn Learning.
For course help, CLAS provides tutoring which can help you with your accounting, finance, MBA courses and marketing classes. We have all the career development resources you’ll need, with great opportunities for getting resume help, having a successful interview, and more. We offer Handshake, a powerful career management platform that connects you with career advisors for one-on-one guidance and employers for internships and job opportunities.
How does a Suffolk MBA Online degree position graduates for higher paying and better roles in business?
I’ve done some research on what transitions people from a middle manager to a senior leader. There are five levers. The first is the shift in perspective of yourself. With this MBA, you realize what you’re capable of. You give a presentation and the client takes your recommendation. You lead your team. You join an association and take charge. You take a risk and speak up in class. Your ability and belief in who you are and what you’re capable of really rises.
Can you give an example of how self-confidence can propel an MBA student forward?
One of our MBA students worked on a product offering project. The product didn’t make a lot of money. The client was going to get rid of it, but this student realized that it was extraordinarily beneficial to the customers. She pitched the opportunity to make the product service offering to the senior leaders.
She went out and conducted research, got perspectives and completely redesigned it. It increased profitability and it increased brand awareness. She leveraged everything she learned in her MBA and completely redesigned the product. They saw her in a completely different light. They saw her as a leader. That shift is really your ability to impact an organization. As you step out of your comfort zone, that’s what an MBA can do for you.
What other ways can the MBA Online degree help?
It can give you the ability to see other perspectives. You’re not just seeing it from the client’s view, who gives you the challenge. There’s the perspective of the sales team, the customers, and other stakeholders. There are many ways of looking at things!
It gives you the opportunity to delegate and prioritize your work. One of the biggest problems for a senior leader is thinking that you can do everything, but if you’re going to rise to that level, you have to let go and let others manage things. That’s a skill and you’re going to learn that in the MBA program.
One final note, is that we encourage our students to really take a look at their peers and build their network. As they move up in their own organizational hierarchy, their network moves up with them. If there is someone who has really rocked a project in class, their peers are going to remember them. They may remember Tulsi or James and think, “I might want to hire that person.”
So ultimately, the way the MBA Online degree program will benefit you is that it’s going to help you master business skills, build a network, and increase your leverage to live a better, more holistic career and life.