Online Students Welcomed to Campus for Residency Weekend Focused on the Customer Journey

In early March, over 100 Online MBA (OMBA) and Online Master of Science in Marketing (OMSM) students gathered at Miller Hall and virtually for the Spring 2022 Residency Weekend experience.

It was the largest Residency to date, and students were energized by the weekend’s focus on mapping the customer experience.

“I have taught customer experience programs to executives many times throughout the world. I was very pleased with the amount of engagement and interaction I had with the online students. In fact, I think they were the best I’ve had in many years,” said Ron Hess, Associate Professor of Marketing.

Hess was joined by Visiting Clinical Professor of Marketing Matt Williams as the faculty advisors responsible for the academic content during the weekend.

A Final Welcome

Dean Larry Pulley welcomed the students during a reception held Friday evening at Miller Hall. The event was livestreamed for the virtual attendees.

“We moved into the online world to provide the opportunity for people all over the country and the world to be able to have a William & Mary quality educational experience. We did this with dedicated faculty, and a program team and staff, and I want to thank each of you here this evening and each of you online for being a part of that adventure and experience with us,” Pulley said. “Online students want to know someone cares about them. They want to be deeply engaged with their faculty and part of the core fabric, the very heartbeat, of the educational enterprise.”

Notably, this was the last Residency for Pulley as he is set to retire as dean of the business school on June 30, 2022. He closed his remarks with his thoughts on what sets William & Mary graduate business students apart, and shared more about the leadership philosophy he applied throughout the tenure of his professional and academic careers.

“We prepare our students for lives of principled achievement. To my mind, principled achievement is what distinguishes alumni from William & Mary for 329 years and counting, and is the only foundation worth building our future upon,” he said. “If you pursue principled achievement, it will guide you in every decision you make every day of your life. It will induce a caring for others and a desire to make a difference for good in the world. It will ensure our reach will almost always exceed our grasp, and it also enables us to look forward with hope, conviction, and confidence. And if you’re at my age and stage of life, if you really try to pursue a life of principled achievement, it will generally allow you to look back without remorse.”

Building Connections

The goal of Residency Weekend is threefold: for online students to create a connection with William & Mary as an institution, to forge stronger connections among the cohorts of students, and to build a solid connection with the academic material.

For the Spring 2022 Residency, the academic focus on the customer experience was prevalent throughout the program. Students were introduced to the topic during an opening lecture and discussion on managing, measuring, and improving the customer experience.

“My goal was to introduce and define customer experience, provide a wide variety of metrics that could be used to measure the experience, and introduce a tool – customer experience journey map – to assist with improving and innovating the experience,” said Hess.

The classroom was outfitted with multiple cameras for the virtual participants to feel more part of the experience, and they engaged in the discussion via the chat feature which was constantly monitored. Regardless of how students participated, they were required to complete two case studies – one on Home Depot and one on California Closets – before breaking into teams to complete a group exercise and prepare a graded presentation.

“When I saw the online MBA program, it was an opportunity to attend a school that I admire while obtaining my MBA. The Residency component was also a big plus because it offered me the opportunity to study on campus, which was exciting,” said Chris Beck, OMBA ‘22, an investigator for local government in California. “I was not too familiar with the material, but it challenged me to gain further knowledge in the subject matter and I gained a little more insight into the marketing side of business.”

For Thomas Latino, OMBA ‘22, the material was extremely applicable to the student “customers” he serves as the Manager of Employer Development & Career Advisor at Florida State University College of Law.

“In my office we are always striving to develop better procedures to measure customer satisfaction and identify ways we can improve our service offerings,” he said. “The insights I gained from all the individuals I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with during the Residency Weekend will allow me to superimpose business concepts into a higher ed setting.”

Bringing Business into the Business School

Hallmark to the Residency experience are the keynote addresses, which bring esteemed alumni, partners, and faculty into the programming to share their expertise front and center with the students. This Residency was no exception.

Saturday’s luncheon keynote was a Q&A session with Michael Medline, MBA ’91 who serves as President and CEO of Empire Company Limited, one of Canada’s largest food retailers comprised of supermarkets, food distribution, and real estate investments. Medline, who is also the Executive in Residence at the Mason School, shared his journey leading the organization and the impact of culture on change.

“Medline took over a company that was in financial trouble. He spoke about not making too many drastic changes all at once to prevent alienating employees. He slowly implemented changes to turn the company around, which made him successful,” said Beck.

The dinner keynote on Saturday was delivered by Clinical Professor of Marketing Dawn Edmiston who recently returned to the United States after a semester abroad in Estonia as a Fulbright Scholar. Edmiston’s session focused on how brands such as Amazon, Hilton, Netflix, and even William & Mary adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of the successful pivots and positive innovations that occurred as a result.

“The opportunity to attend the Residency Weekend exceeded my expectations and made me extremely proud to have been selected to the program,” said Allen Hayes, OMBA ‘22, Consultant of Program/Project Management at Dell Technologies. “I actually sent my 26- and 27-year-old daughters a text message on the Saturday evening I was there to tell them my grandchildren will attend William & Mary, at my expense if necessary.”