Campus & Community

Internet Meets Interpersonal

The Stevens Online MBA Program creates connections other than Wi-Fi.

For three days in September, the Stevens School of Business Online MBA Program students zoomed in on building relationships by turning Zoom off.

This fall’s immersion event was the first of its kind for the program. Realizing that networking—a critical part of any business education—is more difficult in a strictly online environment, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies Brian Rothschild and his team developed the itinerary centered around learning, collaboration and fun.

“The importance of bringing online classmates together is for students and faculty to see each other outside video conferencing during courses so they can actually socialize and get to know each other,” he said. “The immersion gives them the feeling that they really belong, that they're a Stevens student. That’s something you don't always get just being online.”

Melanie Ung traveled to Hoboken from Dallas where she works as a procurement engineer for Lockheed Martin. She has a family connection to Stevens through her aunt, but growing up in Virginia, she had never visited the campus before. The online MBA offered her the opportunity to build her own relationship not just with Stevens, but also with her classmates.

“Most of my friends are my coworkers, and I don't branch out that much,” she said. “Thinking further down the line in my career, it’s good to have these connections. Despite the fact that we all work in different industries, live in different places and are at different stages of life, we are all linked by this experience.  I felt like I left Hoboken with new friends and a network to rely on during my MBA and beyond.”

Four students pose for a photo standing around a cocktail table in the lobby of the Babbio Center.The first chance to meet everyone came during a small reception for the students to gather without being able to turn their cameras off. That face-to-face conversation and genuine curiosity about each other revealed a surprisingly common interest that could not be enjoyed while muted.

“It was amazing to see how everyone's energy just blended together so naturally,” said Steven Palacios, a construction project manager in the Bronx. “In addition, it was interesting to see how many musical talents we have in the group!”

The group had a chance to expand their networks the next night during a reception for all of Stevens’ MBA students and faculty.

The immersion experience wasn’t all handshakes and selfies. The main portion of the weekend featured a 1.5-credit course created specifically for the participants called, “The Future of Work.” The first two sessions were held online to prepare them for their five classes in Hoboken and the course wrapped up with one final Zoom meeting. Taught by Denise Rotatori, Senior Director of Global Engineering at BNY Mellon, the in-person class provided the chance for her to bring several colleagues into the classroom to talk about their experiences.

My favorite part of the immersion was the Q&A session with my professor's colleagues,” Melanie said. “They are leaders with first-hand experience working with cutting-edge technology like AI and Blockchain. Learning about their experiences and their opinions on the future of this technology was insightful and thought-provoking.”

Despite enrolling in an online MBA program, the time spent in Hoboken was far from an inconvenience.

My biggest takeaway from the weekend was that we all have the same goals—to succeed, collaborate, network and make wonderful memories with our peers. Nobody is a stranger anymore. We can work together through our classes, help each other and contact each other without the fear of the unknown between us.
Steven Palacios, Online MBA Student