MBA@Syracuse Residency Program Is Differentiator for Online Student Networking, World View

images of buildings at major cities

MBA@Syracuse Residency Program Is Differentiator for Online Student Networking, World View

Students in the MBA@Syracuse program at the Whitman School are classmates, but they rarely, if ever, get to spend time together, as these working professionals pursue their degrees online from all over the world.

The Whitman School understands this challenge and, in response, has, over the past several years, offered a growing number of residency experiences to allow students not only to get together but also to expose them to regulatory, environmental and cultural factors essential to the understanding of the global business community. The residency programs have become a true differentiator for MBA@Syracuse and are so popular that trips often fill up in minutes.

In 2019, several hundred MBA@Syracuse students gathered for short residency programs in Hong Kong examining global innovation management; Munich, Germany, exploring global supply chain management; New York City, focusing on blockchain; Denver, where there were two concentrations: the emerging market for cannabis and entrepreneurial turnarounds; and on campus in Syracuse in January, March and June.

Cities and topics differ from year to year with locations based on relationships with other universities, companies or alumni, but every experience is a valuable one. In 2018, students traveled to Atlanta; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Florence, Italy; Dublin, Ireland; and also Syracuse, as many wanted the experience of spending time at their alma mater.

“Topics like the emerging cannabis market or advances in blockchain may be talked about briefly in our online classes, but the residency programs take these concepts to a higher level where students can really see for themselves the challenges and opportunities that are in the works in different areas of the world,” said Amy McHale, assistant dean for master’s programs.

students sitting at a lecture during a residency

Under the guidance of Whitman School faculty members, the residencies last only a few days in order to accommodate the schedules of the MBA@Syracuse students, most of whom are busy working professionals. However, international residencies offer an optional extended stay, where students can visit companies or universities in the area, as well as absorb some of the business and social culture. Each residency is worth one credit, and students are required to attend three.

students at Munich residency

The residency in Munich this summer was a great success, according to Jenny Henderson, assistant director, student services and online operations, who coordinates the day-to-day logistics on all of the residency programs. Accompanied by McHale, the group of 80 heard from and networked with professionals on the digitalization of supply chain and the incorporation of artificial intelligence. MBA@Syracuse students discussed with German-based experts ways to make the supply chain more efficient — creating parts more economically and using materials in a more sustainable manner — while also keeping the supply chain as small and digital as possible.

Thirty students stayed on in Germany to visit the Technical University of Munich’s maker space lab, where students are bringing ideas to life through the use of technology like 3D printers. Later, students visited a BMW factory to see how the company is using artificial intelligence and robots to slim down the supply chain without putting humans out of work, as well as observed systems that use robots to paint one car red and the next one white without a time-consuming changeover of equipment.

“The Munich residency was a great opportunity to understand what digitalization means and see firsthand how companies are utilizing new technology to drive business forward,” said MBA@Syracuse student Patrick Caruso, who works as an enterprise account executive at Salesforce in Chicago. “I really appreciated the opportunity to engage with business leaders and discuss how technology is changing the way they are producing goods and services and interacting with customers.”

The September residency in Denver had two tracks and was equally well received. In fact, registration for the event filled up in approximately 10 minutes, according to Henderson. The first track, led by John Torrens, professor of entrepreneurial practice, was a wider view of the marijuana business landscape, particularly practices associated with CBD products and way the industry itself has grown exponentially. The other focused on entrepreneurial turnaround, under the leadership of Ken Walsleben, professor of entrepreneurial practice, and was geared toward students not only interested in entrepreneurship but who anticipate turmoil in their businesses or expect to act as consultants, investors, advisors or in other roles of potentially tumultuous enterprises.

MBA@Syracuse student and senior supply chain manager at Microsoft Penematafele Seloti attended the marijuana track in Denver. In his home state of Washington, cannabis is legal, so he was eager to learn more about how this industry may impact where he lives and works. “This residency presented a good opportunity, and I walked away with three key learnings: The cannabis industry is heavily regulated and very difficult to navigate, educating prospective customers about the benefits and drawbacks of cannabis is a tall order, and it’s a young industry that is steadily growing with huge potential,” he said. “The residency was a full three days of guest speakers, group work and learning. It was also a nice way to spend the weekend with other students and kick-start the fall semester.”

students at Syracuse University residency

The New York City residency on block chain was also extremely popular, with 92 Whitman students participating alongside 40 Communications@Syracuse students from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. And 174 enjoyed a weekend on the Syracuse University campus, with 57 attending an orientation track designed to acquaint new students with classmates and faculty at the Whitman School, as well as learn about the resources of the program; 117 attended a track focused on the evolving topics in human resources.

“The residencies are a draw to our MBA@Syracuse students, and we’ve found that those who participate in them are less likely to take a leave of absence or drop out of the program,” said Henderson. “It’s an anchoring experience for them. Human contact is great for cementing those connections.”

Residencies in Panama and Costa Rica are already on the agenda for 2020. These will be the first residencies that will designate a limited number of spots for traditional MBA students, giving them the opportunity to benefit from networking with some of the MBA@Syracuse students, who often have 10-plus years of professional experience to share.

“It’s a great time to focus on Latin America right now,” said Eunkyu Lee, associate dean for global initiatives and professor of marketing. “Latin America is a very different business environment from that of Asia, Europe and the United States, and our students will benefit from seeing that firsthand.”

Panama’s residency will focus on supply chain management. While it has a small economy, the country also takes on a unique position in the world because the Panama Canal — a major thoroughfare of trade — runs through it, according to Lee. Costa Rica is undergoing increasing economic development, which will bring forward issues related to the importance of sustainability, including city congestion, urbanization and distribution of wealth.

A residency on the Syracuse campus will be offered in 2020, as well.

Faculty and staff are constantly looking for places to present new and exciting business topics and a chance to network and soak in the culture of places far and wide. The residencies not only fit in with the Whitman School’s objectives but also with Syracuse University’s overall strategic plan, which emphasizes student experience, internationalization and innovation.

For more information on MBA@Syracuse, visit

students at Syracuse University residency