U.S. News and World Report ranks Merrick School of Business for tenth consecutive year

For the tenth year in a row, the University of Baltimore has earned the U.S. News and World Reports “Best Online Programs” ranking in the category of “Best Online MBA.” UB is among five Maryland-based programs which made the list in 2021. 

The online MBA program offered at UB’s Merrick School of Business existed years before U.S. News and World Report established their ranking system in 2012.

The University’s program in the Merrick School of Business is the only school in the state of Maryland that has consecutively been ranked since U.S. News initially began reporting on them.

This year UB comes in at #100, tied with notable institutions including Northeastern University and Temple University. The university also garnered a ranking of #63 for having the best online MBA program for veterans. 

Among all institutions, public and private, the program ranks #4 in the Baltimore/Washington area. When just looking at public universities, UB’s online MBA ranks #2 in the Baltimore/Washington area and #71 nationally.

The growing importance of this ranking is proven through the National Center for Education Statistics. Nearly 31% of U.S. graduate students enrolled solely in online education programs in the Fall of 2018. 

UB faculty expertise in online course development, coupled with students’ prior understanding of online course procedures and expectations, made the forced transition to an online platform by Covid-19 all the more successful, when compared to the vast majority of other online MBA programs. 

Dr. Murray Dalziel, Dean of the Merrick School of Business, had a strong influence in creating both UB’s and Towson University’s MBA programs when he came to Baltimore in 1994.

“I am really happy that once again we are recognized by U.S. News and World Report in their “Best Online MBA” rankings. The Merrick School of Business had the first AACSB accredited fully, online MBA in the world. We’ve been doing this since 1998,” Dalziel said.

“But our faculty are still innovating because we recognize that most of our MBA students are working professionals and they want the flexibility to choose whether to study anywhere they are, at a time of their choosing, or in a classroom, or in-person sessions with groups via Zoom.”

The U.S. News ranking methodology focuses on five areas of evaluation.

30% of the ranking is based on Engagement. Programs must uphold participation standards, giving students opportunities to interact with their instructors and fellow classmates as if they were in person. 

25% is based on Expert Opinion. This includes a survey of high-ranking academic officials in MBA programs which account for factors that can’t be quantified. Students may find more job opportunities when completing programs that academics respect.

15% is based on Faculty Credentials and Training. Programs need to retain instructors with academic credentials that are similar to those who teach on-campus courses. They must also have the resources to train instructors so they can provide students the proper on-campus experience. 

Another 15% is based on Student Excellence. This looks at the outcomes of coursework and final grades, as well as what students are able to accomplish after they receive their degrees.

The final 15% is based on Student Services and Technologies. Programs should be able to incorporate diverse learning technologies that allow lenience for students who are learning online. These services provide academic and career assistance and financial aid proportionate with comparable campus-based programs.

With Covid-19 pushing more and more students to online platforms for higher education, U.S. News and World Report‘s rankings help identify schools that stand out based on their stellar online programs.

The Merrick School of Business’ continued ranking as one of the Best Online MBA programs is an important distinction, given that it reflects the program’s ability to meet the needs of a diverse student body. 

Graham Antreasian is a staff writer for The Sting.

Second Chance Pell Grant Program gives incarcerated an opportunity to earn a college degree

After being selected by the US Department of Education, The University of Baltimore has partnered for several years with the Jessup Correctional Institution through the Second Chance Pell Grant Program

The Program is a Federal initiative started during the Obama Administration that allows incarcerated people across the United States to receive a college education.  

Second Chance offers mentorship and tutoring services under its educational platform in a similar capacity to what UB provides for all of its students. The Program’s mentors and tutors are other incarcerated men who take on leadership roles because of their commitment to higher education.

Second Chance is available depending on the nature of the admitee’s convictions and probable parole dates, with the caveat that good behavior is required. Under director Andrea Cantora, Second Chance admitted 52 individuals in the 2017-2018 academic year as University of Baltimore students.

Each semester, enrolled students take two to three courses with an additional 10 hours of weekly half sessions. In these study sessions, the students are provided access to computers, time studying with a tutor or mentor, and general counseling as needed. 

Second Chance allows students to start coursework at JCI with the idea that they will transfer to the University of Baltimore campus when released. When incarcerated students transfer to UB’s campus, there are re-entry strategies in place to help guide them. 

Dr. Nicole Hudgins, an associate professor of History at JCI, has taught classes through Second Chance. 

“As UB is a four-year school, it is able to offer bachelor’s degrees where a good number of colleges on the coveted list are community colleges and can only offer associates with the ability to transfer,” Hudgins said.

At JCI, UB offers a B.A. in Human Services Administration with an option to minor in Entrepreneurship. 

The training for the Human Services Administration degree not only allows felons to have a degree from a reputable institution like UB but also takes into account their skills and ability to use a social justice lens when taking on jobs in the human services field.

Program graduates have entered fields such as public service, addiction counseling and social work. 

“I went into JCI with trepidation but soon discovered that the men were excellent students. Not having technological distractions, they read the assigned texts carefully and arrive to class fully prepared to discuss what is often challenging reading.” Hudgins continued, “It was a revelation to see that the students understood theoretical material perfectly. Anything dealing with injustice, oppression, like Frantz Fanon or Karl Marx, they had a good understanding of the arguments.” 

Spring 2021 starts a new semester at JCI. With Covid-19 making its way into all aspects of everyday life, prisons are no exception. Remote learning may seem to be a challenge to some, but Cantora is familiar with the landscape and is fiercely dedicated to this program succeeding.

Graham Antreasian is a staff writer for The Sting.

Parksville Crabs, A Frequent SEB Partner, Begins Recovery After Fatal Accident

Image Source: News Break

Parksville Crabs, a frequent SEB partner, was involved in a fatal accident on Friday, December 18. 

Shortly after 12:30 PM, a car drove through the front window of the restaurant located on Harford Road in northeastern Baltimore County. Both the car’s driver and passenger, despite extensive damage to the building, did not sustain any injuries. 

Debris from the crash, however, ultimately claimed the life of Deanna Jean Allik, an employee of the restaurant who lived nearby. 

“Parkville Crabs is and has been a great partner of [UB and the SEB] … their number one priority is the community they serve,” said Kevin McHugh, former Student Events Board president who coordinated with Parkville Crabs for last year’s Crab Feast. “What has happened was profoundly devastating, and I hope that they come back better than ever with the support of the Baltimore community.”

This year’s crab feast was cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

A GoFundMe page has been established to support Parksville Crabs and the Allik’s family during this critical time. 

Jennifer Peach, a spokesperson for the Baltimore County Police Department, said that the accident seemed purely accidental but reminded the public that vehicular fatality investigations take at least ‘a month or two’. No arrests or charges have been made at this time. 

Graham Antreasian is a staff writer for The Sting

SGA Makes A Last Ditch Effort to Bring Pass/Fail Option

University of Baltimore’s Student Government Association has made a last ditch effort to reverse the university back to an alternative grading model. 

Although administration, faculty, and students have deliberated on the issue since earlier this year, little progress has been made as the university has gone without the option since the summer semester.

In early November, the Student Government Association unanimously passed a resolution titled “Resolution 11, Resolution Providing Students with Academic Relief” asking for an extension of the option. At the November 25 SGA meeting, Treasurer Camilla Canner said, “The idea was that during this COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of extenuating circumstances that would perhaps make it difficult for a student to finish a class with a grade that would allow them to pass. The Pass/Fail grade gives an option to continue working on their degree.” This was a sentiment shared by all of the SGA, as they felt this was the best way to advocate for students.

Nevertheless, this resolution seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Many faculty members believe that this option not only hampers the ability to track student progress and accurately report information for financial aid requirements but is a blow to the reputation of the institution. 

“Data shows that a pass/fail option is unnecessary,” says interim provost Catherine Anderson. An internal report from the registrar shows similar distributions between spring 2019 and spring 2020 grades with the latter actually being higher and showing fewer withdrawals from courses. 

“Only 5 percent of undergraduate and graduate students used the no credit/credit option and distribution shows that most of those grades were Cs and Ds,” said Anderson. “About the same percent of grades were Fs in the no credit column. In other words, the alternative grading did not greatly boost academic performance.”

She adds, “Ultimately, doing what faculty felt was in the best interests of students, we did not support a Pass/Fail option for students this semester nor did any other USM schools for this fall.” 

Students like senior Zachary Romer believe that a pass/fail option is essential to his ability to graduate without having to incur the cost of a three credit semester in the spring.  To assuage his worst fears, he took 18 credits but did not anticipate the myriad of pandemic-related consequences for this decision.

“When [professors] are not giving full attention to students or even making an effort to try to help students meet their learning objectives,” said Romer. “Ultimately, there is a disengagement from students because they see the disengagement from their professors.” 

“Professors,” he says, “have not abided by their office hours,” citing personal challenges without extending the same leniency to students while also occasionally dropping “ridiculous” grading curves to push them through. 

For the past few months, SGA members have been in negotiations with members of the Faculty Senate and administration in hopes of garnering support for the legislation. Beginning in the summer, attempts to pressure the Faculty Senate to make a recommendation fell flat. Michael Kiel, Faculty Senate president, explained that the Board of Regents’ report addressing UB’s finances released earlier this year has occupied the minds of faculty members.

“I could have probably brought it up sooner and maybe I should have,” said Kiel. “Not a single faculty senator was in favor of discussing it. It gave even more reason to avoid it among other more dominating topics.” 

On December 3rd, SGA president Daniel Khoshkepazi and SGA vice president Kevin McHugh were invited to a Faculty Senate meeting in hopes of being able to speak. Kiel, however, argues that they were under the wrong impression and rather wanted them to simply have a presence in the room. 

The Faculty Senate had passed a resolution encouraging members to “be imaginative, compassionate, and kind in response to student crises,” in hopes that this would ease student minds. 

With time running out and the pass/fail option seeming less likely, some SGA members are seeking better ways to help students. On Wednesday, “Resolution 23, Asking the University of Baltimore to extend the academic probation period due to the COVID-19 pandemic as an academic relief accommodation,” passed unanimously, signaling SGA’s willingness to continue to compromise in the near future while alleviating some of the fears of risk and reputation damage that come with alternative grading. 

The Fall 2020 semester ends on December 18.

Graham Antreasian is a staff writer for The Sting.