Executives looking to take their career to the next level should look no further than the Illinois Gies College of Business online MBA
Anastasia Linuwih-Kreuzer was working for Bosch in Germany when she was presented with an opportunity: to take a three-year assignment in China to help her company implement industry 4.0. Despite the big move, the big job and the jump into a foreign culture, she didn’t hesitate.
She had recently completed her MBA from Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a top-15 American public university, when she received the opportunity.
The Gies MBA – called the iMBA – is delivered completely online. It is highly engaging and develops both hands-on skills and career-ready business knowledge.
“The iMBA gave me courage,” says Linuwih-Kreuzer, a native of Indonesia who was living in Germany while she was completing the iMBA. “I learned so much and grew so much, and after working with many people – leaders from different fields from all over the world – it inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and to be willing to take on challenges such as being an expat to China.”
Online by design
Serving learners from more than 90 countries around the world, Gies online programmes are “online by design” and that makes this kind of robust student development possible. In addition to the iMBA, the college also offers an online Master of Science in Accountancy (iMSA) and online Master of Science in Management (iMSM).
“Our programmes are much more than just video lectures,” says Brooke Elliott, Gies’ Associate Dean overseeing the strategy of the college’s online programmes. “Our students engage meaningfully with each other and with faculty through our live class sessions and group projects. There is a great deal of hands-on work that makes learning real and relevant. The academics are career-curated, so you can take what you learn in the programme and apply it at your job the next day. That’s distinctive among Gies programmes.”
It’s also more interactive than traditional European education, says Manuel Breschi – a native of Italy now living in Ireland – and that was a big draw.“ In my iMBA classes, you could ask questions, you could challenge the professor, you could have conversations about the material. It was like family,” says Breschi, who noted that Gies’ top faculty teach in the online programmes. “In a traditional European programme, you don’t challenge the professor. In the iMBA, I had personal relationships with the professors. They cared about my success. I didn’t expect that.”
Interactions with professors and working with fellow students – all part of Gies’ online by design approach – were both surprising to Breschi and among the benefits he came to value most. He estimates that he worked with more than 100 fellow students over the course of the programme. The opportunity to collaborate with and learn from seasoned professionals – some with decades of industry experience – help students broaden their learning and glean important insights from the experience of others.
Breschi, who used the iMBA to help advance his career, graduated from the programme in 2019. By early 2021, he changed jobs, landed a promotion and earned a double-digit percentage salary increase.
“Calculate the cost versus the pay increase, and the value of the degree is obvious,” says Breschi. The tuition for the iMBA is less than $22,500, well below the price for similar programmes, which can go up to $100,000 or more.
The inside track to a better career
Gies reports that iMBA students see an average pay increase of 21% – and 54% of students received a promotion, job offer or accepted a new position during their time in the programme. iMBA students bring, on average, 11 years of rich work experience to the programme – and the average age is 37. Students also come from around the world, and they include lawyers, doctors, executives, entrepreneurs, and more. All this brought to life the content from his classes, says Breschi. And that has contributed to driving his passion and has increased his impact on the job.
“You can apply what you learn immediately,” says Breschi. “But you also learn material and develop skills that will take you into the future.”
While Breschi’s experience may not be typical in online education, it’s woven into the fabric of Gies’ online programmes. That’s a big reason why the iMBA has a 97% student satisfaction rate. The programmes off er opportunities for heavy interaction with faculty and fellow students, and they are also highly flexible and fit within busy schedules. Courses are offered 100% online and include weekly live sessions and online faculty office hours.
“The flexibility was important,” says Linuwih-Kreuzer. “I have two sons and a busy life. The programme fits. I think that’s important, especially for women. Being in Germany was also a benefit. I worked with people in the United States as well as Asia. It was nice being in a time zone that’s between the two.”
Rob van den Blink is a graduate of Gies’ online Masters in accounting programme – the iMSA – which is designed and delivered just like the iMBA. A native of The Netherlands who splits his time between Miami and Honduras, van den Blink echoes the importance of flexibility.
“When I started the iMSA I was travelling all over the world,” says van den Blink. “It’s the whole set-up of the programme that I love, especially the interaction with fellow students and professors. But the fact that I could be in Honduras or Miami or travel while I do the programme was great.”
Van den Blink liked the iMSA experience so much, he is now considering enrolling in the iMBA programme. The bottom line, according to students, is the career benefit.
“I’m progressing in my career and I’m using what I learned in the iMBA at each step,” says Breschi. “I draw on what I did and learned in the programme and take inspiration from that.”
For further information: