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Nov 24, 2020 2020-11 Accountancy Business Administration Student

Quality, flexibility of Gies online programs a home run for student-athletes

In today’s hectic world where no one seems to have enough time in the day, traditional brick-and-mortar education just doesn’t work for as many people as it used to. Combine that with an increased need for strong, dynamic business acumen in today’s rapidly changing world – and you’ve got a perfect storm of circumstances that is driving demand for Gies College of Business’ online graduate programs – especially among graduate student-athletes at the University of Illinois.

Gies’ online degrees – the MBA, master’s in accounting, and master’s in management are 100% online. The unique combination of quality and flexibility is extremely attractive for high-achieving student-athletes who want a world-class education to fit around their busy schedules.

The master’s in management is far and away the most popular degree for student-athletes. The program, which can be completed entirely online in just 12-24 months, is designed for students with any undergraduate degree. Students learn the fundamental business skills so they can develop management expertise they can apply immediately.  The iMSM’s quality, flexibility, and highly engaging online classes deliver an impact that is real and tangible – and can quickly help students from any background pivot toward a successful future in business.

“I encourage our student athletes to strive for professional flexibility, and a master’s in management provides great tools for that,” said Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman, a 2001 Gies graduate. “If you can augment your undergraduate education with a business degree, you’ll emerge with an unbelievable set of skills and a great toolbox at your disposal. I’m thrilled that a large number of them are engaging with Gies in that manner.”

“This creates a unique space for Fighting Illini student athletes to purposefully design a diverse educational experience by adding an additional degree,” said Senior Associate Athletic Director Brian Russell, who leads the academic services unit. “The Gies online graduate programs offer exciting opportunities for student-athletes to take advantage of a world class education and engage in meaningful academic experiences while still pursuing championship experiences athletically.”  

One of those student-athletes is Tyler Underwood, who is playing out his final season of eligibility on the men’s basketball team and already holds a bachelor’s in sociology and master’s in recreation, sport, and tourism. As he was looking for an academic program that could help him achieve of dream of working in an NBA front office, the iMSM stood out as a program that offered a top-quality business education that works around his busy schedule.

“Even though it’s online, the level of engagement with professors and classmates is like you’re in an in-class atmosphere. Gies professors really flourish on Zoom,” said Underwood. “It has been a great way to enhance my business skills, and the professors meet me at my level. It works for students from all majors, and everyone starts fresh at the same point.”

The flexibility has been key for Underwood as well. As a student-athlete, he has a hectic schedule of practice, games, travel, and other obligations. It’s been a huge plus that each of his classes offers three different live lecture times, a discussion forum to ask questions, and a cohort full of peers in full-time employment, who share and understand his time constraints. He says the program has been everything he had envisioned and more, and should prepare him well for a future in sports business.

“One of the coolest things I’ve seen is all the ways the sports world correlates with the business world in terms of leadership, team management, and people management,” he said. “I’m learning that great teams and great organizations share many of the same core, fundamental beliefs.”