Dawn Parker receives her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Brenau President Ed Schrader during the Brenau University graduate winter commencement ceremony. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Dawn Parker receives her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Brenau President Ed Schrader during the Brenau University graduate winter commencement ceremony. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Online MBA and Graduate Education Programs Earn National Recognition by U.S. News & World Report

Jan 18, 2018
Kristen Bowman

Brenau University’s online graduate education and MBA programs ranked among the top online higher education programs in the United States, according to the 2018 listings compiled by U.S. News & World Report.

Evaluated alongside programs from more than 1,200 colleges and universities surveyed by the publication this year, Brenau University’s two programs scored high marks for student engagement, student services and technology, admissions selectivity, peer reputation, and faculty credentials and training.

In the 2018 national listings, the Brenau online graduate education program was the highest-ranked among private colleges and universities in Georgia and placed No. 3 among all Georgia institutions on the list behind only the flagship University of Georgia and Georgia State University in providing high-quality teacher education and professional training for administrators in public and private K-12 schools in Georgia.

That’s good company, said Eugene Williams, dean of the Brenau College of Education, who added faculty training and credentials are one of the most important factors in the quality of education provided at Brenau.

“Training, along with frequent refresher and professional development opportunities, ensures that our online students receive quality instruction from instructors who possess experience with the course content they are teaching and who have received proper training to teach in an online format,” Williams said. “All of our College of Education faculty possess doctoral degrees in their field, as well as having extensive experience in K-12 educational settings where they served as classroom teachers or administrators.”

Online instructors are able to create an environment that mirrors the setting of a traditional classroom, according to Williams. Many begin each course with a video and engage students throughout the course by asking them to create videos as well, which Williams said also helps the students feel connected to each other. Student engagement is further assured through the use of weekly assignments, which include discussion board posts, multiple modes of communication with professors, virtual office hours and a requirement for faculty to interact with students on a daily basis. These opportunities for student engagement help form a stronger relationship between the instructor and students, he said.

“Whether on-ground or online, Brenau students are actively engaged in the learning process,” said Brenau Provost Jim Eck. “Small classes are a hallmark of excellence at the university, enabling our students to frequently interact with their professors while solving real-world issues that are important to both educators and business professionals.”

Williams said Brenau instructors place high value upon the student-teacher relationship and engagement online, as well as in the traditional classroom setting with an 11:1 student-faculty ratio.

“We provide high-quality rigorous courses that are geared toward helping students master best practices and current information in their chosen fields,” he said. “Smaller classes also makes the class more manageable for the instructor to provide more individual feedback and for students to have an opportunity to interact with classmates.”

Brenau’s College of Education currently offers an Educational Specialist degree in addition to the undergraduate degree programs, and the college continues to explore the possibility of adding a doctoral program. Brenau currently offers doctorates in nursing practice, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Meanwhile, the Brenau online MBA program was one of only eight public and private universities in Georgia to make the U.S. News list. In separate listings published by The Atlanta Business Chronicle, Brenau has more students enrolled in its MBA programs than any other institution. The Brenau MBA also recently ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 25 in the nation by Top Management Degrees for its MBA in Project Management. It was the only Georgia institution to make the list.

“Our faculty are focused on teaching, and we continuously evaluate our curriculum to be sure we are keeping up with needs in the marketplace,” said Suzanne Erickson, dean of the College of Business & Mass Communication at Brenau.

Erickson said the majority of Brenau MBA students are working professionals who take classes part-time, allowing their schoolwork to fit into already busy lives with work and family.

“The flexibility of online is a major benefit to working adults,” she said. “At the same time, the faculty maintains a rigorous curriculum and work on making their online classes engaging and connected.”

The Brenau MBA program offers 13 different concentrations from project management to business analytics, health care management and even entrepreneurship. Erickson said Brenau online business instructors are accessible and responsive and incorporate diverse learning technologies, which also allow greater flexibility for students.

“Our students are working professionals, so the cost of them coming to school is high – the monetary cost and the opportunity cost of their time,” Erickson said. “Roughly half of our students are employed and seek an MBA for advancement in their careers. Another 30 percent are looking at the MBA as a way to foster a career change. This means our students are focused and motivated, one of the things we know makes our program successful.”