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Business Administration: Real-world learning is the focus

Almost from day one, Tidewater Community College has offered a business degree enabling students to parlay their education into careers in accounting, finance, management, marketing, human resources and preparing to own businesses.

Today’s associate degree continues that work, while readying students for transfer to universities in Virginia and elsewhere. Coursework includes economics, accounting, applied calculus, public speaking, probability and statistics for business and a variety of business-focused general education courses.

Carolyn McLellan, dean of information technology and business at the Virginia Beach Campus said, “We are proud to provide students with the foundational coursework to pursue their bachelor’s degrees in business. Upon completion of the TCC degree, we encourage students to find a specific area for further study, to be competitive in the workforce.”

Business professor Linda Williams engages students with classroom exercises and interactive exchanges
Business professor Linda Williams engages
students with classroom exercises and
interactive exchanges.

“Our program appeals to students who are not quite sure of the path ahead, but they have a business focus,” added Kelly Gillerlain, professor of business management and administration at the Chesapeake Campus. “We make sure the program stays current, because we understand we are sending our students to other institutions of higher learning, and we want them to be prepared for success.”

“We know our students’ names and their stories,” said Linda Williams, professor of business management and administration at the Chesapeake Campus. “That’s the real secret to our success.”

TCC’s business degree produces the second largest number of graduates at the college, with classes offered on every campus and online. Real world learning is the focus. “It’s important to me that students see applications of what they are learning,” said Peter Shaw, professor of business management and administration at the Norfolk Campus. “I engage students with email blasts about global business events, looking at anything from a smart phone launch to a global business concern. I also engage students with myriad resources on my faculty webpage, including links to the real time U.S. debt clock, global facts and satellite photos displaying different economies.”

“I take the first 10 minutes of every class and discuss current events and show how these events impact business,” Gillerlain said. “Last semester we spent plenty of time looking at the Affordable Care Act and discussing how the program will affect companies and families.”

While teaching all of the business basics, TCC also encourages global learning, adding Introduction to International Business (BUS 280) to the curriculum. “We are operating in a global economy, and our students are part of a global labor pool, so providing a global perspective is crucial,” Shaw said. “I emphasize to my students that a lot of what affects the stock exchange is global, because our big companies do much of their business overseas. In addition, the size of our economy is twice the size of the second largest economy in the world, which is China, and the effect our economy has on the rest of the world economies is like saying `when we sneeze, everyone else gets pneumonia.’ ”

Professor Peter Shaw shares real-world experience during lectures.
Professor Peter Shaw shares real-world
experience during lectures.

This year, the college garnered national attention when TCC became the first institution of higher learning to launch its associate of science in business administration as a textbook-free degree program. Known as the “Z Degree” – “z” for zero textbook cost – the program eases the pain of soaring textbook costs for college students by allowing students to complete the degree and spend no funds on textbooks and course materials.

Students in the program use high-quality open textbooks and other open educational resources, known as OER, which are freely accessible, openly licensed materials specifically designed for teaching, learning, assessment and research. It is estimated that a TCC student who completes the business degree through the textbook-free initiative might save one-third on the cost of college.

“The Z-Degree allows me to adapt course materials to fit my students,” Williams said. “It’s a given that I have to teach the learning outcomes in my courses, but each class has its own personality, and now I can better match content to course outcomes and students’ interests and learning styles. To engage learners, we must breathe life into the subjects we teach, and now I have more ways to do just that.”