Dr. Neil Tocher

Dr. Neil Tocher

The new College of Business dean at Idaho State University tells many entertaining stories, but one recent encounter really stood out to me. Dr. Shane Hunt was leaving the office one evening last semester and as he was walking to his car, he was approached by an ISU public safety officer. Shane paused, worried he had violated a parking regulation. “Did I do something wrong?” Shane asked in his southern accent. “I’ve been trying to get an Idaho plate but-,” he began to explain as the officer laughed and held up his hand to stop him. As it turns out, the public safety officer was a College of Business student and had made a point to talk to Shane about his experience in the College of Business. The officer explained that he had begun attending Idaho State as a non-traditional student. He had decided to make a career shift later in his life. “He was so nervous about going back to school,” Shane said, telling the story. “He was raising a family, working and apprehensive about joining classes with students fresh out of high school.” But the student needed a change; he needed to further his education. “The officer approached me to tell me that every concern he had about going back to school was put to ease when he experienced the individualized attention given by our College of Business advisers. He explained to me that he felt his professors cared about him as an individual and he was at-home in his courses.”

That day, Shane was approached by a non-traditional student who took that terrifying leap into continuing his education and found that there was someone there to help guide him through the process. He felt he was truly gaining an experience and education that would change the trajectory of his future and he had the support he needed to succeed.

It is for students like this that my colleagues and I designed the new online completion general business degree available this fall in the College of Business. We found that thousands of folks in Idaho were faced with the same concerns and challenges as this student. These are people with associate's degrees that want to continue their education, to grow their opportunities and further their careers, but they are faced with all of the challenges that come with going to school as a parent, full-time worker, etc. The online completion degree offers those with an Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Arts from another institution the chance to finish a bachelor’s degree online and at their own pace.

In 2014, the consumer banking company Sallie Mae conducted a study that found the starting salary of those with a bachelor’s degree was 26 percent higher than those with an associate's degree. This statistic only increases as those with bachelor’s degrees and 10 years of experience under their belts earn 50 percent more than those with associate’s degrees and the same amount of experience.

On top of that, those holding a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field qualify for six of what the Idaho Department of Labor calls "Idaho’s 10 Hottest Jobs in the state." These are the most abundant, highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs in Idaho.

So what is the program? It’s 20 online courses (60 credits) designed to work around the non-traditional student’s life schedule and interests. The program is designed to prepare these students for the next step in their careers and is delivered by our best professors who have taught, practiced and researched their fields for many years.

What makes this online program special? It’s delivered by Idaho State University College of Business. Our college is one of fewer than 200 business schools in the world to hold a dual accreditation from the internationally recognized and highly esteemed Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. What does that even mean? It means that the education students receive at the Idaho State College of Business is quite literally world class and we have the hard-earned and rigorously maintained credentials to prove it. The education students will receive in this program is a quality one that will take time, but will leave their resume with a recognized and valued educational background from a respected institution — making graduates even more hirable.

Further, the College of Business at Idaho State can offer three additional advantages akin to our brick-and-mortar roots: professional development, awesome advising and the Idaho State family.

In addition to the university’s Career Center, the College of Business has its own professional development (PD) program. For non-traditional students with years of professional experience, the PD program will help students rebrand themselves, highlight their added value, connect them personally with business professionals at the top of the field and enhance the success of their professional future. And, yes, the PD program is online, too. Students have the opportunity to attend regularly scheduled events virtually (or in-person) in addition to participating in hands-on competitions and projects that put these skills into practice.

Awesome advising. The public safety officer from our dean’s story had specifically been impacted by the personalized attention he received from our two College of Business advisers, Tara Smith and Ashley Larson. As advisers for the college, this team of genuine, honest and caring individuals help our students through every step of the journey. No, they won’t waive requirements, but they will customize study plans to match with every student’s situation and go the extra mile to help wherever possible.

Every Idaho State student is a part of the Bengal family. In the College of Business, our professors take the time to mentor and ensure the success of every student. With small class sizes, students have the benefit of participating in class discussions, developing valuable relationships with their professors and peers, and gaining the type of immersive educational experience that doesn’t just make them another number in an all-online program. Students here are part of a family, and we want everyone in our family to be successful.

Registration for the online completion degree in general business opens this April with courses starting in the fall semester. Anyone interested will need to meet with one of our advisers and can do so by emailing cobadvis@isu.edu. I am also happy to answer questions and provide advice; feel free to give me a call or send me an email anytime.

Dr. Neil Tocher is a professor and chair of the Department of Marketing and Management in the College of Business at Idaho State University. He can be reached at 509-954-6566 or neiltocher@isu.edu.