By SARA TILLEY
The University of Mary Washington enrolled its largest spring graduate school class since 2011 after the Board of Visitors unanimously approved the master’s of business administration GMAT/GRE waiver in November.
The waiver allows professionals with five or more years of working experience the opportunity to continue their education without having to take the GMAT/GRE placement tests, which has contributed to the increase in enrollment in the business graduate program.
UMW’s graduate school also makes their courses convenient to take, offering both evening and online coursework allowing working professionals to continue their day jobs.
UMW offers several degrees and programs including a master in Business administration, a master’s in education and a master’s of science in geospatial analysis.
The master’s of science in geospatial analysis at UMW, or MSGA, is one of two schools in Virginia that offer the degree, according to UMW’s website, putting it in high demand. The second school, Virginia Tech, offers a graduate program in geospatial and environmental analysis, according to Virginia Tech’s website.
According to UMW’s website, the program prepares students to go on to work for agencies like NASA and the FBI if they choose by teaching them not only about the field itself, but also critical thinking and communication skills.
While the program in geospatial analysis may sound specific, there are many job options available, ranging from crime analysis to technical consulting. The program only takes a year to complete for full-time students, according to UMW’s website.
UMW’s Master of Business Administration program teaches students both leadership skills and business practices. Full-time students can earn their degree in less than two years, but students have six years to complete the program if they choose to take classes part-time.
According to Lynne Richardson, dean of the College of Business, enrollment in the master’s in business administration program at UMW declined with many other MBA programs when the economic recession took place in 2008 and 2009, Richardson said. “Mary Washington was no different,” Richardson said.
As the economy has begun to improve, there has been more of a push to get the word out about the Master of Business Administration program at UMW, which is taught at the Stafford campus and is cost-effective. The program now has a full-time staff that advertises the program and its benefits.
According to Richardson, the program contains students from a variety of backgrounds and work experience, and while students are often older and have prior work experience – the average age of students is 34 years old – they can use the degree to enrich their outlook on their worlds and careers.
“We have engineers, we have bankers, we have defense contractors in our MBA program,” Richardson said. “Students are going to learn a lot from each other.” Richardson said there is no single cause for the increase, but believes it is instead multiple reasons.
“I can’t point to one thing and say that’s it,’” Richardson said. “It has been a variety of factors that have pointed to increasing enrollment.” UMW has been recognized as a “best value school” by Fiske Guide to Colleges, The Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance for their affordable prices. Students are taking an interest in furthering their education.
One student just starting out their graduate school research is Bethel Mahoney, who is a sophomore psychology major. There is not currently a graduate program for psychology, prompting Mahoney to consider programs at other universities.
“Since I changed my major to psych, I’m sad I can’t continue studying at UMW for graduate school since there isn’t a graduate program for psychology majors here,” Mahoney said. “I hope that changes soon because I’d continue my grad here.”
Senior Caitie Geoghegan, has also considered graduate school and has looked at UMW’s business and education programs as options.
“I have definitely considered grad school and I plan on going sometime in the future,” Geoghegan said. “UMW has competitive programs in both business and education and I would be proud to return to my alma mater.”
After being out of school for more than four years, Julia Norwind, a resident of southern Maryland, also showed her interest in UMW’s MBA program.
“They don’t make the process intimidating and the fact that you can do it on your own time is nice,” Norwind said. “I don’t want to go to a school where I feel like I’m being pressured to finish my degree.”
Norwind also added that she felt comfortable knowing students who are in the MBA program are also adjusting to returning to school.
“It’s also nice knowing that I won’t be the only one there who has been out of school for a few years,” Norwind said.
As UMW experiences a rise in admissions and enrollment in these programs, its undergraduate class is also considering whether they will attend graduate school. The trend toward higher enrollment in UMW’s graduate programs may continue, especially with the waiver on the GMAT/GRE testing and greater economic stability.
Izzy Briones and Emily Hollingsworth contributed to this report.