By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Noel Palmer knows MBA students are busy.
Many of them work full-time jobs and take care of families, leaving less time for the drive to and from campus.
There’s a whole different group of people who’d love to get their Master of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Kearney but can’t because they simply live too far away – whether that’s California, Denver or even Omaha.
Palmer’s goal as director of UNK’s MBA program is to remove these roadblocks, opening the door for more people to pursue master’s degrees here.
“I think we have some opportunities to grow the program,” said Palmer, an associate professor in the College of Business and Technology who joined UNK in 2010.
The 45-year-old started his new role May 7, replacing professor Srivatsa “Sri” Seshadri, who served as MBA director since 2011.
“Dr. Seshadri did a lot of things to get the program to where it is today and I’m just trying to continue building on that,” said Palmer, who has plenty of positives to work with.
The MBA program at UNK is affordable, he said, which makes it attractive to graduate students near and far. He wants to tap into this potential by adjusting the program so every course can be taken remotely, making it more accessible for students who prefer online education.
Currently, the MBA program includes six core courses that are requirements for every student, regardless of their academic track. These blended courses mix face-to-face meetings with online components.
Palmer’s plan eliminates the on-campus meetings, allowing students to connect via video conference instead.
“I want to keep the synchronous piece – working live together and interacting – but it doesn’t require them to come to campus to do that,” he said.
This transition will begin with two core courses in the fall, although students must attend one class meeting in person during the trial period. The change will be fully implemented for all core courses in the MBA program next spring.
The revision also makes it possible for U.S. military members and their spouses – stationed across the country or overseas – to enroll in the program. That’s something Palmer is particularly proud of.
“With a military background, I have a desire to see military able to participate in our MBA program, and the best way to do that is to make it more accessible,” he said.
Palmer, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, has spent 23 years in the military, including one-year deployments to Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2010. He’s also a faculty member at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, where he’ll earn his master’s degree in strategic studies in July through a two-year program that’s predominantly distance education.
At UNK, Palmer will continue teaching business ethics and organizational behavior through the management department while adding a leadership course for the MBA program.
In addition to those duties, he implemented an Executive Education Program about 1½ years ago that connects College of Business and Technology faculty and staff members and their expertise with business leaders across central Nebraska.
The program, which provides participating businesses and organizations with seminars, speakers, workshops and noncredit courses geared toward professional advancement, has the potential to serve as a feeder for the MBA program.
“I think we reach the same audience – the working professional who is looking to develop those managerial skills,” Palmer said.
UNK’s MBA program currently graduates about 14 students per year, but Palmer would like to see that figure double.
“We have the capacity to do that,” he said.