Leslie Williams, a health promotion specialist for a corporate wellness fitness management company in Falls Church, VA, enrolled in DMU’s master of health care administration (MHA) program because she could complete the degree online. That’s a big plus for most students in the program.
“I love my job. It was not an option for me to give up work,” says Williams, who, on weekends, also is a patient care technician in a local hospital.
One might think, then, that Williams – who’d never been in Iowa before – would be upset by the program’s new executive residencies, which require students, during their course of study, to come to campus three times, five intense days each time.
One would be wrong, however.
“It’s been great to be able to put a face with the professors and students whom I’ve been communicating with online. And the faculty are not the typical ‘Dr. Drone-on.’”
Bill Kohler, MHA student and executive residency participant
“It’s another learning opportunity that DMU offers,” Williams said at a lunch break during the inaugural residency, Sept. 12-16. “Getting to know the faculty and other students is a big plus, as is the focus on leadership and how to manage as a team.”
The residencies are designed to immerse students in real-world scenarios that integrate theory into practice. They include required curriculum as well as professional development seminars, interactive workshops, self-assessment activities and networking.
“I had my apprehensions the night before coming to campus, but meeting the faculty took the pressure off,” said Amanda Marotta, from Gladstone, MO, one of the 35 students who participated in the September residency. “I like to meet people face to face, to get to know their backgrounds and how we’re going to communicate online.”
The executive residencies support the MHA program’s overall goal of offering real-world knowledge and skills in leadership, communication and teamwork.
“We try to offer a rigorous, relevant, practical experience to students so they can immediately use the knowledge they’re gaining,” says Carla Stebbins, Ph.D., M.H.A.’93, director and chair of the MHA program. “That really engages and motivates them.”
That’s a high priority of the residencies, she adds, acknowledging that requiring students to come to campus may be an imposition. During the inaugural residency, students participated in almost nonstop discussions on topics ranging from leadership and health care human relations management to research writing and personality assessments.
“We saw a lot of light bulbs going on,” observed Carla Stebbins during DMU’s first oncampus MHA executive residency.
“We wanted to give them the biggest bang for the buck,” Stebbins says. She adds that feedback from students on the inaugural residency was very positive. “We saw exactly what we hoped to happen, happening. Students were connecting with each other, and we saw a lot of light bulbs going on as they were connecting one concept or workplace scenario to another.”
With the residencies, DMU’s MHA program gives students “the best of both worlds,” says Assistant Professor F.R. “Fritz” Nordengren, M.P.H. “Students gain from our blended approach of the best of online education and face-to-face experiences that allow them to learn and apply interpersonal skills with peers.”
FAST FACTS on DMU’s MHA program
- designed for early- to midcareer working professionals who seek a graduate degree to progress in the health care profession
- year-round program calendar with three 12-week terms each year
- degree consists of 20 courses and 48 total credit hours; they include a three-credit hour Field Based Learning Practicum that entails actual project work and the supporting academic research in a blend of theory and practice
- students can complete their degree requirements in as little as two years but no more than seven years