Creating lasting connections: the power of collaboration at the Sandermoen School of Business

It is not uncommon for prospective MBA students to consider the opportunity for collaboration when choosing how they will study. Some are apprehensive to explore online universities because of the perception that they will have to sacrifice valuable interactions with their peers, or that the programs won’t provide real-world application. Those who have taken part in the MBA and Executive MBA programs at the Sandermoen School of Business know this is far from the truth.

After beginning their first class in the Executive MBA program at the University of Fredericton, four students, Anthony Taylor, Chris Bowman, Jay Rodriguez, and Shane Ishmael, had their pre-conceived notions challenged. Living in four different cities, spanning three provinces – Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia – they were pleased to find strong bonds and lifelong friendships while studying online.

Anthony’s Technology & Connections

Anthony Taylor has been in healthcare administration since 1999. He immigrated to Canada in 2007 and has been the CEO of the Oakwood Terrace Nursing Home since then. A busy husband and father of three young children with an engaging personality, Anthony initially sought admissions to a local university but was disappointed with how challenging continuing his education as a mature student, with many outside responsibilities quickly became:

“The process of admissions at the local school was painful, as was trying to get information,” he said. He made contact with UFred after reading an article in the Globe and Mail and was pleased with the responsive service he received.

Anthony has been particularly interested in the specialty stream of Social Enterprise Leadership offered by the Sandermoen School of Business due to his background with not-for-profits and community governed sectors. He was also pleased when he discovered UFred’s delivery methods for connecting with instructors and peers, something he had anticipated would be a challenge:

“I love technology and stuff like that, and it looks like UFred just nailed it through WebEx. I mean it was a whole combination of factors. Then once we’d got in, it’s just been good fun. Stressful, at times, but good fun.”

Chris’s New Connections & Advancement

Chris Bowman is a charismatic Regional Sales Manager for Wainbee Limited, and credits his current position with his enrollment at the University of Fredericton. Considering his busy work schedule and family life, he completed exhaustive research before reaching the decision of where to study. Schools he’d considered required travel and onsite classes and some were cost prohibitive. The University of Fredericton online Executive MBA program met not only the needs of his busy life and his budget, but also met his expectations with respect to reputation for strong, quality education. After a call to the Ministry of Education in New Brunswick, he knew that UFred was the school for him.

Chris had previously completed a couple of other online courses, and they did not prove to be interactive. “They were all ‘teacher talk, you listen, submit your posts,’ a lot of online discussions which didn’t necessarily work well for me,” he said. Much to his surprise, he learned that the connections made at UFred are part of the learning:

“I think one of the key factors to the whole Master’s level post-secondary education is that the higher-level learning is outside of just the content of the program. I was amazed at the people enrolled in the program coming from all of these different leadership roles. I’ve met some cool people, and I think that those interactions and those connections helped me to forge through and say, ‘you know what? It’s not me doing my MBA; it’s a team doing my MBA'”

Jay’s Expertise & Diverse Reach

Jay Rodriguez knows banking. The dedicated husband and father has risen through the ranks, from his first job of cleaning a bank, to eventually managing two branches. He completed his undergraduate degree at McMaster University in Economics and Finance while working as a teller at a top-five bank. After he had graduated, he was offered a position as a Financial Service Representative.

Others had attempted to discourage Jay from tackling his MBA noting the difficulty managing his job and family while returning to school and the improbability that he would realize real value from his coursework. They focused on the limitations of attending traditional, bricks and mortar institutions. With this in mind, Jay carefully considered the flexibility and networking opportunities of the programs he reviewed. UFred’s online program offered both, giving him the opportunity to collaborate with diverse peers from across Canada:

I thought it’d be really important because, as I said before, I have only ever been involved in banking. And you never know where your career path is going to lead, so I thought that being able to collaborate with people that have a different skill set than mine or in a different career would help me understand a little bit more of a broader scope of the real business world.

Shane’s Saving Time & Specialty Streams

Shane Ishmael’s nature is intrinsically active and driven which is exemplified in his current role as an executive at Ceridian HCM paired with a long career in martial arts. It was while experiencing tremendous career success that Shane made the decision to “make that capital investment” and pursue his Executive MBA.

Shane selected UFred after extensive research into multiple MBA programs. He was impressed to find the extra specialized touch that is inherent at UFred:

If you look at the majority of MBA programs, business usually encompasses Finance, Accounting, Management, and Marketing. But the fact that you have these specialty tracks, like Innovation Leadership, Global Leadership, Human Resources Leadership, Social Enterprise Leadership, you know, these are very unique disciplines.

He found an ease in studying online. While traveling, he would excuse himself to study, becoming quite proficient in hotel Wi-Fi. Many of his colleagues were completely oblivious that he was completing his Executive MBA and enhancing his ability to add value to his work rather than simply napping. He knows that he saved the long commutes and the missed classes that many other professionals face with on-campus MBA programs, without sacrificing diverse connections:

“They always talk about how in class it’s best to build up that social side of it. I hope that one of the biggest things that I can share is that you’re not compromising anything on that matter when you go virtual. In fact, it’s better. I’ve developed some great relationships and then some true friends in this process, and they’re situated all across Canada. I’ve got not only a new network of friends and people to work with; now they’re diversified across this great nation.”

The Virtual Classroom

A Healthcare Executive, a Regional Sales Manager, a Banking Branch Manager, and a Payroll Software Company Executive would seem an unlikely peer group by most standards, yet these men found a bond that would last throughout their studies, and one they hope to continue into the future. They all mentioned how the diverse abilities and skills of their fellow group members have helped to shape their educational experience. Sharing in the lessons of their classes and through their own experiences is an important part of the learning experience at UFred, according to Anthony:

You’re learning from a different perspective. So, I’ve been in healthcare administration, as I’ve said, for a long time as well, it’s a bit of tunnel vision. So, seeing it from Chris’ perspective, working in a different industry, or Jay, or Shane, is giving you a different perspective on how to tackle some problems and have a different approach. It’s a huge benefit in the whole course, and it really would be my major takeaway when everything is said and done.

At times, they were split up – different groups and courses – but the bonds that Anthony, Chris, Jay, and Shane have remain strong. They know that they can consult with one another for support when the need arises and that they will cheer each other on.

Each has shared that the value of online learning and focus on group work at Sandermoen added to their respective workplaces. As a result, they have become more effective leaders, and they have been equipped with the skills necessary for collaborating with and leading global teams online.

Proud UFred Bonds

Chris mentioned encountering UFred alumni in his travels all over Canada; some are even his clients. Shane went on say, “I find there is a real sense of pride of people that come through the University of Fredericton, we’ll buy our sweatshirts and rock them in 10-to-15 years saying we’re proud to go to that school.”

“Just listing the stuff on LinkedIn, although I’m not looking for a job, you often get little connections coming out,” Anthony added.

For now, the group has requested to work together on their final Integration Project; in fact, they asked a full 8-months before any of them will finish the program. The group has hopes that there will one day be a convocation to celebrate the hard work and perseverance needed to achieve their Executive MBA. Moreover, each would like a chance “to celebrate the relationships that we’ve established through this program,” said Chris and in looking to the future his goal meshes with his sense of humor:

I guess from a personal side I’ve always thought education should be continuous and ongoing, so I am looking forward to potentially doing a Ph.D. in Business, and if I could get the rest of this crew together, I think that the four of us walking around going, ‘hello Dr., Dr., Dr., Dr.,‘ would not only be entertaining, but would also be a great learning opportunity.