DBA Program Increases Accessibility With Online Classes


The St. Ambrose Doctor of Business Administration degree program will extend its regional reach to skilled professionals by converting to a synchronous online delivery format with residencies this fall.

The new format will make a program twice recognized by CollegeChoice.net as one of the top 10 DBA programs in the nation available to talented and driven professionals from a broader geographic area.

"One of the features this program has long been known for, and a reason many of our extremely successful alumni chose to pursue a St. Ambrose DBA, is the students' ability to interact with their accomplished peers," said Program Director Monica Forret, PhD. "What we've discovered this past year conducting classes through Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic is that ability to interact and form personal connections isn't lost through technology. Having met face-to-face before the pandemic made the transition smoother, which is a key reason for the residency requirement."

Continuing that sense of connectivity is the critical reason the program opted for keeping synchronous classes, meaning didactic courses will continue to be held through weekly 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. class offerings. The main difference is learners won't have to make the drive to campus to participate.

Beyond that, the more convenient format will accommodate business travelers and life changes, including moves to accept new employment opportunities.

"I've spoken with many prospective students over the years who were interested in our program but for whom driving to class was not a viable option," said Forret. "There are also concerns about completing the program if a new job opportunity outside the immediate area arose. This format helps alleviate those issues, and we are hopeful the change will attract talented and diverse students from a wider area to the program."

Students won't lose the St. Ambrose campus connection that speaks to even the most advanced adult learner. The new format includes a one-day face-to-face residency requirement one Saturday in both the fall and spring semesters. To promote further growth and networking opportunities, the residencies will include a professional development component and social event for both current students and program alumni. The residency will be scheduled to allow learners from places like Chicago, Des Moines and elsewhere to make a morning drive to the Quad Cities and return home without requiring an overnight stay.

Arun Pillutla, PhD, associate dean of the St. Ambrose College of Business and part of a team of veteran DBA faculty members, said the move to synchronous online learning is a long-considered strategic direction whose time has come.

"The DBA program has been refreshed on a regular basis to make it current and tailored to the practicing, scholarly professional," he said. "This new direction fits that innovative, responsive and strategic approach while breaking the pre-conceived notion of what an online degree is supposed to be.

"This will be vibrant and well-designed to bring the strong outcomes we have always seen for this program to an online setting. The timing is right because more people are accustomed to this manner of meeting and interacting and the technology has improved."

Forret again stressed the program will be keeping the sense of community-based learning that has always been a strength of the program and of the St. Ambrose experience, noting a newly accepted student from as far away as California identified that strength.

"He could look at a program closer to home," she noted, "but he said, "‘I feel that sense of community just from talking to you. That's important to me, that sense of community, that I won't just be a number.'"


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