Business Administration Program Information Session With Dr. Christian Sonnenberg


Khiem Nguyen: Welcome, everyone. Hello. We are excited to be here and talk some Florida Tech online. I hope you guys are having a great afternoon, and if you’re doing this over lunch, I hope you’re enjoying your lunch as well. I know I have something in the kitchen, so I’ll be able to enjoy that a little bit after this. But let me start off with introductions. My name is Khiem Nguyen; I am the Social Media Manager at Bisk. With Bisk, we work collaboratively with Florida Tech to help support many of their online programs, and the biggest thing that I can tell you is that I’m a recent Florida Tech graduate alumni. You can see the swag here. I graduated from the School of Business with an MBA with a focus in marketing. Today, we’ll be going over a few key points, talking about the value of earning a Florida Tech education online, overviewing the Business Administration program offerings specifically for today, some program requirements, and then tips for success in a Florida Tech online program. I have been in it for two years and it was a great experience, completely seamless for me, especially being a working professional.

I’m very excited to introduce to you our guest, Dr. Christian Sonnenberg. He is the Assistant Professor and Associate Dean of Online and Off-Campus Programs at Florida Tech’s Nathan Bisk School of Business. I’d love to let you introduce yourself some more.

Dr. Sonnenberg: Thank you very much, Khiem. Appreciate it. I’m glad to be here. I’m also an alumni. I am actually what they call Triple Panther. I went got my bachelor’s in 2004, my masters in 2007, and a doctorate in 2013 in software engineering and computer science respectively. I was working in the industry and in software design up until 2013 when I then joined full time and I had been teaching part time prior to that work since 2009, since the early days when online just got started there. But given that, Florida Tech is a small school, you really get to know people, you build a lot of connections there and a lot of professors that have the passion, so I wanted to turn around and give something back.

Khiem Nguyen: That’s amazing. A three-time Panther is crazy. I think that’s awesome that you had the will to come back to school so often. I know for me, it was a transition coming back into that educational space. I am actually considering getting my doctorate. I would love to be a professor, so Doctor, if we can talk offline about potentially getting me as an adjunct, I would love to hear more about that. But it’s not about me, it’s about everyone here in the chat. With that said, please, we encourage you guys to put any questions into the chat and we’ll try to answer them along the way. With that said, let’s go ahead and start with the presentation. Doctor, can you give us a general overview of Florida Tech and what makes Florida Tech so special?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Sure. As a university, we’re relatively uncompared to a lot of other universities just going back into the 50s, and I think an important thing to note is, given that our history, our core is technology; it’s in the name, it’s Florida Institute of Technology and so, going into a business degree and we have many, many business students, you may think to yourself, why should I care at all about that?

Well, even if you’re not going to be a programmer or engineer, taking some of the courses through our programs, you get exposed to a lot of these different tools and techniques and things that are going to give you a leverage when you get out in the workforce. We understand that when businesses care about having some of that knowledge of what that is going on and knowing what the latest and greatest tools are. So having the name alongside you, instills that confidence. Part of that fiber, part of what we have always been historically, you can see that in the courses we offer regardless of the programs you’re going to be taking there.

Khiem Nguyen: Absolutely. Let me move on to the next slide here and we can highlight some of the cool things about Florida Tech online. As mentioned at the top, I am a recent graduate, super, super fresh. Actually, I just got the degree last week and put it into the frame so that fresh. Some of these things that you’re seeing on screen are very poignant in my experience. Doctor, can you explain a little bit about what people are seeing on screen?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Sure. Yes, it’s quite a lot to see if you’ve experienced a in person into traditional learning versus what online is, but one of the strengths of our program is asynchronous, meaning that you don’t have to be at specific point in time. There’s no live lecture you have to attend and miss out on. Everything is delivered in asynchronous format so you can take it at your own pace, whether you want to work ahead of time and get everything done or you want to work specifically week by week, the discussions and videos and everything are out there for you to work at your pace. We also offer compressed format, so it’s an eight week term and it’s offered six times a year. There’s a Spring 1 and 2, Summer 1 and 2, and Fall 1 and Fall 2, so you can start at any point in time. You don’t have to wait until the next fall to try to jump into the next cohort. There’s a lot of different strengths to how we present an online versus main campus having access to tech support 24 hours a day, of having access to the professors, through the weekends, is a different approach than just what you might be used to at main campus.

Khiem Nguyen: Absolutely. I think something that was really great for me as a working professional, having a 9/5 was asynchronous setup. It allowed me to move transition from my day job doing webinars like this now and actually getting into the meat of the education. It was something that honestly, it was really flexible for me. I really enjoyed it. To take it a step further, I got a chance to visit campus and the experience online is almost as seamless on campus, so I really enjoyed that. Now that it reminds me, but being located on the Space Coast, I started my first day of class was on May the 4th. If you’re a Star Wars fan, that really plays into all of it. Absolutely. Let’s go over a little bit about the BA in Business Administration. Here are some of the concentrations. We know that business degrees are incredibly popular for undergraduate learners, and Florida Tech offers a variety of online options. As you can see here today, we’re going to be focusing on the various online BA degrees. Can you share a little bit more about the offerings and how they differ from one another?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Sure. As you can imagine, each of these programs have a focus within a discipline. If you’re going information systems, you’re learning about the technologies like networking and databases and information security, you need to be running in the IT sector. If you’re working in health care management, you’re learning about policies, with the current best practices, how things like patient records are created, and electronically stored. If you’re going to accounting, you’re learning much more advanced accounting than the traditional business students are going to be taking just at their core level. You’re learning things about doing taxes and federal income tax maneuvering and investment portfolios and things of that nature. In management, you’re looking into leadership theories and management strategies. In marketing, you look at all aspects of marketing, consumer behavior, entrepreneurial marketing, global marketing, so a lot more detail for each of these disciplines, but they all do share a common core.

Khiem Nguyen: Yeah, that’s great. With that said, if you initially sign up for, let’s say accounting, but later decide to focus on marketing, by the way, sign up for the marketing program, it’s fantastic. Are you able to switch if you decide you would like to focus on another area?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Yes, very easily. We designed a program so that really like the first two years are all common material. You’re getting the introductory courses in management and marketing and information systems. All students go through a lot of that. Then you start to focus on your disciplines and there’s electives in those. We designed to such a degree that if you change your major, you’re not going to be losing out on any of the courses you’ve already taken. If you’re in your final year, maybe one or two electives. If you’re in your senior year and you decide I got to switch out, which is very rare, you might lose one or two electives. But even in that case, we try to having a free elective options and flexibility to make sure that you’re not losing anything. The process is seamless so that we have an option or a portal. You can just log in, choose the major you want and always go straight to me. I’ll approve it, just making sure you’re doing what you want to be doing and then you go from there.

Khiem Nguyen: It’s great that you give the personal touch, the final sign off. That’s excellent. I know for myself it was that seamless. I was fortunate to have an idea in mind how I wanted to approach the program. During my undergrad, I was very undecided, and so having that ability to make a pivot or change a path a little bit, at the beginning is really nice. Now, for online students who are also working professionals, and if you are a working professional, please let us know in the chat, it’ll be really great to see, what skills would they develop over the course of the BA in Business Administration program that they could put into action at their workplace?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Sure. Like I said, there’s a common course. You’re going to get a lot of the same regardless of disciplines and things like strategic planning, decision methods, analysis, quantitative versus qualitative approaches to it, and forecasting models figuring out where your business is going to be going. These are things that apply across the board to any particular business, regardless of what subdomain you’re going into. Then, of course, you’ll learn those disciplines in and of themselves. But on top of that, you also get a lot of soft skill experience, things like making an elevator pitch, memos, how to do job interviews. There’s a lot of things that maybe are not as quite as obvious, but they’re extremely important. Communication skills are generally one of the most highly sought after, first things, that employers say they want high levels of this in the candidates that they’re looking for.

Khiem Nguyen: Absolutely. Especially, as we’re even doing this online and virtually, I think communication is more important than ever. That’s fantastic. I know I was able to apply a lot of what I was learning in the program to my day job. Especially consumer behavior, that was my favorite course.

Dr. Sonnenberg: I think so. I’ll let our chair of marketing know.

Khiem Nguyen: Absolutely. Now, I’m sure there’s a lot of questions about what requirements are necessary. Many of you on the webinar have already seen the basic admission requirements for this program. But Dr. Sonnenberg, can you speak to what makes successful students in this program?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Sure. There’s couple of points I wanted to mention here, and I get asked a lot by prospective students, and maybe my GPA isn’t so great, or I took these courses long ago, and I’m not sure maybe I would like to jump right into this. Don’t worry so much about GPA because we look at your case as an entire package. We look at what your job experience has been since then, and I understand a lot of that really comes into play. If you’ve been taking tests and courses maybe they’re pretty old, but you’re working in the accounting field, and you want to jump into that, we evaluate that as the entire process. Also, one thing to think about is answering the question, what makes you successful here? It’s coming up with a plan. Thinking forward, it’s a commitment for a couple of years and while we provide the flexibility, you got to make sure that there’s going to be time set aside. You don’t want to let this go by the wayside. Don’t let life completely eclipse a great opportunity here for solid education.

Khiem Nguyen: Absolutely. Many of us have been part of a traditional classroom setting, but not everyone has participated in online learning. I know for myself, the last time I was in a traditional classroom was 12-plus years, so that dates me. Can you speak a little bit more about the online classroom experience and what students should expect?

Dr. Sonnenberg: It is a little bit different. Given its asynchronous nature, we have activities and opportunities still to engage with students in the life. We have things like our discussion boards and which are weekly opportunities to jump in on a topic of the day to discuss, maybe over the case studies, students go back and forth on that. There’s a number of projects and experiential learning. We have labs like for example, on information systems, we have these programming labs where students each week do exercises and work back and forth with the professor on that. Then we have team projects where students work together over the course of the eight weeks and try to achieve. Sometimes they can even be competitive in nature, though they’ll of course try to meet that best final goals there. Ultimately, all of this is provided through a learning management system or an LMS that you may or may not be that familiar with, but ultimately, it’s a way that can house all the stuff in a very easy to navigate manner.

Khiem Nguyen: Absolutely. I think for me, it was incredibly easy to tap into what was needed, what was necessary, what was scheduled. It allowed me to really sync up with everyone, especially like you mentioned, everybody has a life, we don’t want life to take over everything, so there’s a some flexibility there for sure. How could students anticipate interacting with their professors and classmates in the online classroom, since there are no set class times?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Again, there’s always the challenge that you’ll have people being in different time zones or people will be in different areas of the world. But we offer a lot of different tools within the classroom to help with this. Things like the discussions, not only the ones that are provided but students can create their own discussions. They can have one-on-one chat sessions with the professor or other students. If you’re in team projects, you’re always open to using different tools beyond what we provide. But there is a core team area in each classroom used as a jumping off point for students to get together and collaborate inside the class itself.

Khiem Nguyen: Got you. Absolutely. I think there’s some flexibility there. We’re generally working professionals, so we know how to communicate through the distance.

Dr. Sonnenberg: I’d say definitely with regards to the timing, we understand if you’re working at 9:00-5:00, a lot of your activities is going to be on the weekends, and so our professors are well aware of that. They’re there to field emails and have one-on-one sessions as needed on the Saturdays and Sundays as you’re working to the projects then.

Khiem Nguyen: Got you. Now that’s excellent. We actually have a question that came in. Is there a minimum number of courses I have to take at a time?

Dr. Sonnenberg: The average is about six credits, so usually two courses for an eight-week term at undergraduate level. I’ve believe there are exceptions for that. That matches up to more or less what is the traditional 16-week model, which is usually 12-15 credits. We try to keep that aligned, but I get many requests for exceptions to go above and beyond that, so really what we just do is evaluate your GPA and your background to make sure that you’ll succeed if you want to take more than that.

Khiem Nguyen: Awesome. Now we’ve talked a little bit about the classroom experience. I think, some of the technical questions in regards to courses. Let’s actually focus a little bit on success of the student. In your opinion doctor, what skills do successful online learners often possess?

Dr. Sonnenberg: I think the biggest thing about this is going to be time management, because like we’ve been talking about, everyone has got a lot on their plate. Our working professionals have a lot of things to deal with, and so just being aware of schedules and deadlines is very important. You don’t want to let things cascade because since this is an eight-week term, it can be very easy for things to spiral out of control. In some courses, they’ll even have projects that depend upon earlier submissions. Just being aware of that is extremely important. I think another part of this is communication. To that end, we are flexible and understanding and so if you have to miss the assignment, it’s better off saying in Week 1 or Week 2, hey, I got this thing coming up. Can I get some flexibility here? Rather than waiting until the final week instead of saying, please let me submit all my work at once and grade it. At some point, we have to submit grades for the class itself. We’re understanding. But let us know is really the most important part here.

Khiem Nguyen: Just be professional about it.

Dr. Sonnenberg: Professionalism is key. Having an open mind in terms of just sharing your own experiences and listening to what others have to share in the discussion boards is also extremely important.

Khiem Nguyen: Absolutely. I think my experience was very seamless. I actually started during the pandemic so if that’s an environment that we can work through and succeed, I think you as a student can definitely succeed today. What are some of the benefits to students enrolling in an online program?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Well, the obvious one, of course, is going to be the flexibility given the asynchronous nature in the way we do things there. But I also want to highlight that as a Florida Tech student, even though you’re online, you’re having access to all the same resources that campus students do as well. Things like our library, the career services, alumni events. Given that we’re a small school, we remember you, even if the only time we get to see you is when you come to graduation. I write a number of recommendations each year because I get to know the students in my class. We have small class sizes, so we try to emphasize that one-on-one, and you’re going to see that benefit shine through.

Khiem Nguyen: That’s excellent. What advice would you give to prospective students who are new to online learning? I know we spoke about it earlier, but what specifically would you say to them?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Well, if you know of anybody that’s either been through any online program or is maybe just alumni from Florida Tech, those are going to be a great first resources to look at. Look for videos. Florida Tech has actually the Amazon campus tour. While that is focused on campus specifically, it does highlight a lot of our values and what we offer. Then ask us for information about specific programs or classes. If you want a syllabi, for example, of a particular course and you’re interested with what was actually being offered in there, let us know. We’ll be happy to share that information or answer questions. A lot of questions I tend to get are things like what transfer credits will count? I took this course then. How long will course go out of date? Things like that. We can help you walk you through that.

Khiem Nguyen: That’s awesome. I know for me, I was reluctant to start because I didn’t know where and how I would fit this in. A lot of my questions were like, hey, how was your experience? I actually had a few colleagues go through the Florida Tech online program and so they shared with me some excellent advice like you mentioned. But on top of that, the student success reps answered every little question I had, especially when it came to, should I take this course at this time versus this one? Can I finish within the time frame I set up with for myself at the beginning? Speaking of student success reps and coaches, what other tools are available for students who attend and study at Florida Tech Online?

Dr. Sonnenberg: Well, for those studying, I highly recommend our Smarthinking. It’s a tutoring service that will basically pair you up with individuals that are focused in those specific areas. If it’s a math course you’re struggling with, or communications class, or it’s a quantitative course, we cover a lot of the different topics there. We use this service to get you the help that you need. Once you graduate, and even before you graduate, because this helps to build your network, using Florida Tech Connect is a very powerful tool that acts as a social media platform to use with networking with other fellow alumni and build those connections. Before and after you graduate. Even beyond that too, you’re going to have access to a lot of the library resources that sometimes will have discipline specific pages. If you’re going to IT, we’ll have all the material you need within that area. The library has a really great team that’s even focused specifically online. They’ll even have some representatives to help the online students themselves.

Khiem Nguyen: That’s awesome. I would love to elaborate on Florida Tech Connect. I know I signed up right before my graduation. Got a chance to connect with a lot of recent graduates and those who are in the process of graduating. I got the fortune of meeting some of them in person, which was probably the coolest part. You’re online, you’re like, I see the name, I see why they pop up on in the LMS, but it’s really great to actually speak to them and take that extra step, which is really great. I think as you mentioned, Florida Tech Online has a really great way of nurturing you through that process, from potential student to after you graduate. I already have several alumni events to attend where I’m located.

Any final words doctor that you want to share with us? Well, if you have any questions, by the way, this is the time. We are working through that, but I would like to leave it open for you, doctor.

Dr. Sonnenberg: Just letting you all know that we’re very open to communications. Don’t feel like this is a faceless void that you’re trying to figure out. We’re people just like you. We’ve gone through the programs, we’re familiar with being both students and professors and being on both sides of the equation. Well, I may not have the answers to every question, I know the people that do. I can get you information you need, so don’t feel afraid to reach out to us.

Khiem Nguyen: Dr. Sonnenberg, three-time panther knows everyone is what I’m hearing.

Dr. Sonnenberg: I ran out of options. There was no-four time panther.

Khiem Nguyen: There you go. See, that is the best review you can ever get about the program. Well, that concludes our webinar. Thank you all for joining us. Thank you for the questions that came through. If you have anything additional, please feel free to scan the QR code on your screen. This will actually connect to you and schedule you with a student success rep who can answer any further questions. Actually, perfect. We just got another question come in. How many enrollments do you have per year? What does that look like?

Dr. Sonnenberg: It varies. I think our overall enrollment right now at the undergraduate level is about 600, 700, somewhere in that ballpark. Probably about a quarter of that because we tend to have about, ar four-year cycle cohort for that time. Now, in terms of every eight weeks in the six terms per year, it does fluctuate. We do tend to get an influx coming into the fall. It tends to be our largest influx of population. Probably, maybe up in the 80s. Then in the summer, we tend to get maybe lower numbers, that tends to be the lowest. Maybe 50 new students coming in around that time, but it depends.

Khiem Nguyen: Overall, a really intimate experience, I think it sounds like with the sizes of classes and whatnot. Excellent. Any more questions before we close for the day and you guys are off to lunch? I’m going to give maybe like a 10-second count down here. I do want to share that Florida Tech is a fantastic school, the program. While my experience was particularly for the MBA and we’re talking about the BA here, the online portion of that was fantastic, incredibly seamless. Thank you so much for providing this to potential students and those who are attending. Thank you so much, Dr. Christian Sonnenberg, really appreciate your time today. Thank you.

Dr. Sonnenberg: Thank you. Appreciate you hosting this webinar and giving an opportunity for all our prospective students. I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Khiem Nguyen: Excellent. Well, thank you everyone who has been here with us and we hope to hear from you soon. Take care.

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