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Rao Unnava

Rao Unnava, Dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis.

University of California, Davis

In this post, I speak with Rao Unnava, Dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis, about its new online Master of Management program and collaboration with 2U. Dean Unnava discusses the practical aspects of this partnership, from development to launch, and its role in advancing the program’s goals.

Q: Why did you partner with 2U to launch this degree?

A: 2U has been a valuable consultative partner throughout the development and launch process. From preliminary market research to estimated demand for the degree to developing a marketing plan for the launch, 2U personnel were consulted by our team.

We realize 2U has a more global view of the market because of their experience and widespread presence, and we find that experience to be a valuable input for us, pre-launch, during launch and after launch of a program.

Q: The online MBA market is highly competitive. How does UC Davis differentiate its online MBA from the competition?

A: We have a group of highly committed faculty who care about what they teach and whether students learn or not. We also have a committed student-services team that treats each student as an individual, not as a number. But what is special about our online MBA is that these attributes are supported by 2U’s student-success manager.

Students get regular calls from this individual to check on their progress, find pathways for them to successfully navigate the rigors of the program and be connected to the right people for various issues they come up with during the program.

I hear from students when I meet them during our Residentials (in-person gatherings) how much they appreciate the approach during the recruitment process and the care we take of them during their time in the program. Stated simply, they feel cared for, and connected, which happens because of the strong seamless partnership between the GSM and 2U.

Q: For other deans who are considering partnering their programs with 2U, what would be your best advice?

A: It is rare to find a company that is student-centric more than profit-centric. Our experience with 2U has been one of a genuine partnership that is focused on making each student who enters our program experience success. Importantly, the team provides consistent and timely feedback from their monitoring of our program, which adds to the feedback we collect.

Our quarterly planning sessions focus on this feedback and enable us to make improvements. Therefore, it has been a very fulfilling partnership for us.

Some people opine on revenue sharing with phrases like “we are giving away a share of the tuition.” I find that problematic because it is inaccurate. We don’t give 2U any money. They earn it for the services they provide, and they are serious about earning it the right way.

I could replace 2U with another service and will end up spending about the same money, maybe slightly less. But the quality of what I can do will be seriously hurt.

So, my advice to anyone considering 2U as a partner, is that they should go forward. They are a good company to partner with, and share our goals regarding student success.

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