Center for Online Learning Welcomes Students to Campus for 12th Residency Weekend

Over 90 students from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business online master in business administration (OMBA) and online master of science in marketing (OMSM) programs participated in the Fall 2021 Residency Weekend experience.

This event is a hallmark requirement for OMBA and OMSM students as they earn one-credit hour towards their degree by participating. Approximately 52 professionals traveled to Miller Hall October 22-24 to attend the twelfth iteration of Residency Weekend. It was the first time online students were welcomed back to campus for this specific event since February 2020’s program. An additional 40 students participated via an innovative Zoom format which replicated the in-person experience, virtually.

Mason School Dean, Larry Pulley kicked off the weekend’s events at a networking social on Friday evening held under a tent in Miller Hall’s courtyard.

“We learned early on that online students want to know that someone cares about them, they want to be deeply engaged with their faculty and institution, and they want to be a part of the heartbeat of the educational enterprise. We knew we could succeed in designing online programs that were uniquely valuable to you and uniquely William & Mary because that is who we are and that is what we do,” he said.

Pulley also pointed out the floor tiles in Miller Hall’s atrium which say “welcome” in all of the 28 languages routinely spoken by Mason School students.

“They also say, ‘you belong here,’ and you do. To put it simply, we care about you and I hope you see that in every interaction and experience.”

Focus on Data

The fall 2021 program, “Fostering a Data-Driven Culture in Your Organization,” was facilitated by Mason School Professors Joe Wilck and Matt Williams.

“I am going to leave you with more questions than answers this weekend, and I’m sorry,” said Wilck who delivered lectures on data sharing and how to develop a data analytics strategy. “But you will be stretched.”

During Saturday’s keynote, Phil Hatfield ’94, Head of Small Business Bank Fraud, Credit, Data, and Product at CapitalOne, shared his perspective on the data revolution.

“The frequency at which the world is experiencing transformative invention and innovation is growing dramatically – arguably, exponentially,” Hatfield said. “What technology is doing to the world is breathtaking. I would really like for everyone to take a step back and reflect on this moment in history through the lens of invention, data, and computation. We’re living in a fascinating time.”

Hatfield then dove into a case study on credit card fraud, explaining how in the early 2010s industry losses were high and false fraud positives were affecting the customer experience. Through the practical application of emerging technologies such as Machine Learning, the credit industry was able to accelerate digital transformation and solve the issues affecting consumers. He then went on to talk about the competencies of successful leaders, and encourage the students to make choices about their careers and take advantage of opportunities every day.

Following Hatfield’s address, students divided into teams, both in-person and in virtual breakout groups, to work on a project related to developing a data-driven strategy for an organization. Students then presented their projects to a board comprised of faculty and Executive Partners on Sunday morning.

Building Connections

“It takes grit and determination to be successful in an online program while you’re also balancing your personal and professional commitments,” said Pam Suzadail, Associate Dean for Online Programs and the Executive Director of the Center for Online Learning in remarks she delivered to students. “We’re especially honored that you chose to do it with us. This weekend is an important component in your journey and the focus is to create opportunities for you to experience William & Mary and to create deep connections with each other.”

For students who attended Residency Weekend on campus, the opportunities to network and build connections were limitless. From networking breakfasts each day to attending the William & Mary versus Towson football game on Saturday afternoon, they were able to interact and get to know more about one another in a casual setting.

“I appreciated the fact that the educational aspects of the weekend were intertwined with networking opportunities. It really gave us a chance to converse with other students about academics and career topics while learning new skills. We really had a lot of fun attending the football game and going out together after,” said Dean Driver, OMSM ‘23 and President of Allen Dean Home. “I also loved how welcomed I was made to feel by the teachers, administration and most importantly, the other students. At age 60, I was a little nervous going into the program about being able to keep up with younger more tech savvy students but everyone made me feel so welcome and I hope that some of the younger folks learned as much from me as I did from them.”

But students who chose to attend virtually said they never felt disconnected, and appreciated the thought and care that went into planning the weekend’s events, whether it was the live feed of each panel, lecture, keynote, and presentation or participating in networking breakfasts over Zoom.

“The faculty and staff intentionally extended the opportunity for us to participate during live sessions by inviting us into the conversation and addressing us when we communicated in the chat or on camera,” explained Laura Riddle OMSM ‘22 and Communications Specialist at NC State University. “Even in the virtual environment, the residency made me feel more connected to William & Mary because we were simultaneously experiencing the same events as our peers were on campus.”

Students were also able to build connections with members of the Executive Partner program, William & Mary’s exclusive program through which retired, semi-retired, and active CEOs and business executives mentor Mason School students.

“I was surprised to learn more about the Executive Partners program. Since I started at the Mason School, it has been one of my goals to stay engaged during and following my studies as an MBA student,” said Dan Garcia, OMBA ‘23, Senior Digital Marketing Specialist at Bentley Systems. “I intend to mentor students and collaborate with other alumni, executives, and faculty from William & Mary, and the relationships that I will continue to build upon from Residency Weekend will connect me to this campus for decades to come.”