Conversations with higher education leaders about online learning, the future, and the pandemic’s lasting impact on higher education.

An interview with: Adam Herman, Rice University – Executive Director, Office of Academic Programs and Student Experience

Adam Herman serves as executive director of the Office of Academic Programs and Student Experience at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business in Houston, Texas. Nurturing a dedicated team of talented professionals, Adam is responsible for delivery of a high-quality MBA student experience to full-time, professional, online and executive MBA students at Rice Business.

Dr. George Rohde interviewed Adam as we approached the Fall of 2022. Here are edited excerpts from that interview.

George Rohde: How are you currently leveraging online education?

Adam Herman: Our team’s primary engagement with online education is in supporting our MBA@Rice program, the business school’s online MBA. When the pandemic emerged in March 2020, we pivoted immediately to remote delivery of our coursework to ensure that we could deliver courses on schedule so that our students would earn their degrees on time. Since then, we’ve utilized technology to deliver different degrees of optionality and continuity to our students. In Fall 2020, for example, students in our campus-based MBA program had the ability to select in-person or remote learning, depending on their individual circumstances, needs, and comfort level. 

A new opportunity has emerged to honor and amplify a core element of the value proposition of our campus-based programs while also retaining those elements of COVID-era delivery that may make sense. Rice University continues to utilize those resources we found helpful in the height of the pandemic to educate our students today.

George Rohde: How have expectations for students changed pursuing the online MBA?

Adam Herman: Students continue to expect high-quality synchronous and asynchronous course delivery. The online MBA is becoming an increasingly popular opportunity to pursue, especially for students who want to retain their full-time employment while seeking the additional capabilities, confidence, and knowledge that comes from a graduate business degree. 

We’ve been excited by the desire of our online MBA students to be more fully invested with in-person student activities and co-curricular programming, from a popular Thursday evening social gathering known as “Partio” (party on the patio), to our Women in Leadership Conference, to off-campus gatherings designed to increase networking and interaction among online students.

George Rohde: What strategies has Rice University deployed to keep online learners engaged?

Adam Herman: We continue to seek opportunities to ensure that online MBA students can be involved and engaged in ways that resonate with them, and allow optionality and flexibility. This includes facilitating networking and social gatherings, student clubs and organizations, career services, etc. The recent establishment of a student government association for our online MBA program will allow us to partner with students to collaborate on programming and new initiatives. An overarching approach that allows us to innovate and serve our students is the willingness to try new strategies, identify what works and what doesn’t, and adapt as necessary. We’ve used these engagement strategies before the pandemic and will continue to assess their success with online and in-person learning in the future. Concerning reengagement, students in the online MBA program receive regular outreach from their student success advisor on success in the program and progress toward their degree. This outreach does extend to students who have been out on a Leave of Absence or were not enrolled in the most recent term, including those who may have paused their progress.

George Rohde: Thank you for your insights, we look forward to publishing them for our readers.