Online MBA Student Shares Inaugural Residency Experience

This past February, students from William & Mary’s Online MBA class visited the campus for the program’s inaugural residency weekend. The academic theme of the weekend was “Managing the Mess: How Companies Prepare and Lead Through Crisis Situations." They were able to get to know their fellow classmates, meet the faculty, and network with alumni and executive business mentors. Leslie McCullough, freelance copywriter and member of the first cohort of students, attended the event and shares her experience and excitement with us.

Friday, February 26:

Walking up to the Wren Building felt almost magical. It was the inaugural residency weekend for the Online MBA program and students arrived, some from as far away as Florida and Arizona, to meet the classmates they had been working with since August. After many hours spent together online, it was great to meet the real people behind the posted photos and videos we’ve shared. Awkward hellos quickly turned to excitement and anticipation as the residency weekend began.

Gathered in the historic Great Hall, we mingled with faculty and enjoyed drinks and appetizers. Mason School Professor Jim Olver and Dean Larry Pulley greeted the group warmly and spoke about their ambitions for the program and the weekend ahead. As a special bonus, each student rang the ceremonial Wren bell, and a fife and drum band set the mood for our short walk into Colonial Williamsburg for dinner. Divided into small groups with a faculty member at each table, we all enjoyed delicious food and friendly conversation. The night was a wonderful blend of new experiences and William & Mary tradition.

Saturday, February 27:

The following morning as the residency participants gathered at Miller Hall in Brinkley Common Lounge for breakfast, we were greeted by a famous Williamsburg local, Thomas Jefferson. As part of his engaging dialogue with the group, Jefferson spoke of the similarities and differences between his time and modern times and he encouraged those gathered to draw from lessons learned from history.

The first session of the day featured Daniel Webber ’02, Executive Vice President at Edelman, DC Digital. In Miller Hall’s innovative Design Studio, Webber took the group through several engaging examples and exercises outlining the key imperatives and new realities of crisis management.

Afterwards, we were introduced to more than a dozen Executive Partners (EP), retired professionals who volunteer their time to offer advice and mentorship to all Mason School students. The EPs joined us for lunch, shared personal career insights, and hosted an interactive crisis situation exercise focused on real-life “what would you do?” scenarios.

Following a brief tour of Miller Hall, we all moved to the William & Mary Alumni House for a cocktail reception and dinner. William & Mary Alumni Association President Cynthia Jarboe ’77 graciously welcomed the Online MBA students. Next, keynote speaker Nathan Ticatch MBA ’91, a generous supporter of the Online MBA program, shared his story as co-founder of PetroLogitics, the country’s only facility dedicated to producing propylene. The evening offered another wonderful opportunity to meet Mason School faculty, staff and fellow students.

Sunday, February 28:

Returning to Brinkley Commons Lounge for breakfast, the group learned the plan for the final day of the residency. Ken White, Associate Dean, MBA & Executive Programs, would facilitate a session titled “Leadership Under Fire” that started with an interactive discussion about establishing credibility and presence. Then we were divided into small groups to practice what we learned through a mock press conference based on a disaster scenario. With only 30 minutes to establish our roles and response, each group went before the bright lights and cameras to answer questions from a panel of faculty “reporters.” This heart-pounding and engaging exercise certainly put each group on their toes and was an exciting end to a full and rewarding weekend.