Inside USD

Distance Learning Brings MSGL Students Closer

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Business and advances in technology make the world seem much closer, both in function and feel, these days.

Educationally speaking, the University of San Diego’s popular 16-month Master of Science in Global Leadership (MSGL) program understands this concept perfectly. Through an effective distance-learning option, all MSGL students — military and civilian businessmen and women — can fulfill the bulk of the 31-unit curriculum from wherever they are in the global business world.

Michelle Sullivan, a 2010 MSGL alumna, earned her degree from Mexico while also focusing on her global consulting business. Sullivan repeated what former MSGL Director Bob Schoultz said to describe his student’s involvement despite the distance: “She may have done the program from Puerto Vallarta, but you would have thought she was here the whole time.”

MSGL, a cohort-based School of Business Administration degree, provides students courses tied to three themes: leadership ethics, best business practices and techniques and global/geopolitical environment. The program requires an intensive, in-person first week that essentially covers three classes. There’s study abroad opportunities in the middle and then a capstone and graduation the final week. In between all of that, students can attend monthly on-campus sessions, use the online distance learning methods, or do a hybrid.

“I didn’t want to study completely by remote but I wanted an executive program with some resident sessions so I’d meet people I’d be working with and have the option of face time with professors,” Sullivan said. “The majority of my program was done abroad, but I still wanted a mix. It was important to me.”

MSGL Director Stephanie Kiesel (pictured, left) and Samuel Chung (below, right), assistant director for distance education, are devoted to an educational experience that gives students access to expert faculty instruction, emphasizes video and cutting-edge technology such as WebCT, Blackboard, Horizon Wimba, Google Documents, etc., and provides quality and consistent support.

Established in 1999 with two military-exclusive cohorts and specifically no distance learners in its earliest stages, MSGL has evolved into a top-flight program that runs multiple cohorts throughout the year and attracts a wide range of business and military leaders. The distance-learning option delivers flexibility for all students.

“The distance learning component is offered, but not because they’re in the military,” Kiesel continued. “It really allows us to reach outside of the San Diego area. We (currently) have people from Las Vegas, in Florida, Virginia, up and down the West Coast, and two in Indonesia.”

Kiesel said nearly a third of all MSGL graduates since its inception are distance learners. The number of distance learners varies from cohort to cohort, but being flexible and prepared for changes in a student’s situation, such as job relocation or other life event, makes this component key to student retention.

“If we didn’t have the distance learning option, students would have to drop out and forfeit the semesters and money they’d invested,” said Chung, who works closely with all technological aspects of the program.

Students often change their designation from resident to distance learning student. One current student, a San Diego senior executive, recently switched because he is required to travel for business and he couldn’t be present for two of four class sessions during the semester.

“We can accommodate that,” Kiesel said. “Students tend to switch to the distance learning track even if they’re geographically in San Diego. They can switch to a different learning track if their business or personal life requires them to be away from San Diego during our resident class time.”

Kiesel said MSGL’s distance learning option is popular for military personnel balancing their education with their military requirements and as they prepare for the next stage of their careers.

“It’s specifically beneficial to our active duty military who’ve chosen to go to graduate school in their transition period. They’re within a year of getting out of the military, they’re looking to be employed in the civilian sector and they don’t know where that job will take them.”

Two December MSGL graduates with military ties, Cohort 52’s Aaron Berger and Kyle McDaniel, are both based in Virginia. Both praised their distance learning experience.

“It isn’t for everyone,” admitted Berger, a Commander Naval Air Atlantic helicopter evaluator. This was his first distance learning education program, but Berger didn’t let that deter him from getting the kind of business degree he sought.

“I came with an open mind because I wanted the business aspects of a master’s and a global leadership education I could apply to the virtual world and do it in the real world. I had to learn to communicate with the group and there was a learning curve, but what was most beneficial for me was working in the distance-learning environment. Instead of everyone being in the same city or location, we were working across the nation, virtually, in a different learning environment. By working on our projects like this we learned a lot about ourselves and what was the most efficient way to work from a distance.”

McDaniel, who is from Coronado, Calif., but works in Virginia, credits distance learning for sharpening his academic focus.

“There’s no way I could have done it without being a distance learner,” he said. “It’s not how I would have chosen to do it but being forced to do so, it really opened my eyes, giving me the skills and tools to be effective. It was a little rough at first, working on a team from a distance, but I’m a team player. It really makes you work, makes you learn and figure out how to do it effectively. It was a learning curve the first semester, but it got better and better; on our final semester project I was the team leader. There’s no question that I can work on a virtual team, regardless of my location.”

– Ryan T. Blystone

To learn more, RSVP for a Jan. 26 MSGL information session.

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