MIDLOTHIAN — Enrollment in the spring Masters in Business Administration courses offered by Texas A&M University at Commerce at the Navarro Campus in Midlothian grew 270 percent over the fall class.

That’s what happens when a program goes from one student the first semester classes are offered to 27 students the second semester.

Texas A&M University at Commerce is offering MBA courses at the Midlothian campus as part of its mission to make education more accessible to those working in and near Ellis County who still want to attend classes in person, said Jeanetta Groce, Texas A&M University at Commerce’s director Navarro Partnership program. The MBA program is offered at part of the Midlothian Higher Education Center, one of a select few Multi-Institution Education Centers (MITC) in Texas, offers access to upper-level and graduate courses as well as continuing education opportunities. The Midlothian Higher Education Center partners are Navarro College, Texas A&M – Commerce, Tarleton State University and the University of North Texas–Dallas.

“Texas A&M is very much about student access and bringing an equal education to students,” Groce said.

The jump in enrollment is a lot to do with local businesses and the community helping spread the word, she said.

“We are very excited because as the word gets out, we are getting more interest as people understand it is really here, really doable,” Groce said.

Sherri Busalacchi was the first student to take the plunge, coming back to school after raising a family and still working full time as the marketing and public relations director at Advantage Academy. She said she made a committment to herself to attend every class, even if it was only her and instructor Elva Resendez at the course she took in Midlothian.

Resendez is also the Midlothian MBA program coordinator for Texas A&M.

While the reading and homework took some getting used to, Busalacchi said her first semester grades were heartening.

“I got A’s in both classes. I worked really hard for those A’s,” she said.

Busalacchi took two courses her first semester, one in person at the Midlothian campus, and one at the Universities Center at Dallas, a multi-institution teaching center with classes from Texas A&M University at Commerce, University of North Texas at Denton and University of Texas at Arlington. This semester, she is taking a course online but hopes to jump back into in person classes in Midlothian soon.

“I really miss face to face. I’m trying to do as many as I can in the classroom. To get that input from the professor, otherwise you are basically self taught.” she said. “Elva was very interested in me being successful. She was quick to respond to email and she called me, just went above and beyond.”

Being able to combine online and in person classes is another advantage of the Texas A&M MBA program, Groce said. It will take students in Midlothian two years to compete the courses needed for an MBA if they stay on track with two courses each semester and two courses over the summer, she said. But students can mix online and in person classes to meet their personal learning styles or scheduling needs, she said. The courses offered are structured so a student can begin at any time and some prerequisite classes are also going to be offered on campus to prepare students for certain classes.

While the MBA program in Midlothian is set up to help students work education into their lives, the professors they will study under and the degree they will receive from Texas A&M Commerce is the same as the students who attend classes at the campus in Commerce, Groce said. The professors teaching in Midlothian are tenured Texas A&M faculty members who also teach at the campus in Commerce, she said.

Resendez teaches management courses while professors Lirong Liu and Kishor Kumar Guru-Charana will be teaching the courses related to economics and finance. The three professors have almost 50 years of experience between them, Resendez said.

Students taking MBA classes in Midlothian are also able to apply for the same financial aid and scholarships as students in Commerce, Resendez said. But students in Ellis County get the advantage of one-on-one support from faculty members on campus.

“Because we are smaller, we advise our students here. If they need help transferring credits or with financial aid, we set that up for them,” she said.

That personal interest in each student is what Busalacchi said convinced her it was time to make her dream of an MBA a reality.

“They were so willing to try to help me get into the program and get all my stuff organized and that was another selling point. I have been wanting to do my masters for the last two years,” she said. “More and more people are getting a masters so it is getting more and more competitive out there.”

Resendez said one concern is universal among prospective students.

“They all say the same thing. They have a full time job with full time family. Can they really do this?” she said. “I tell them, ‘Absolutely, you are the norm.’”

That fact that most of the students working on their MBA at Midlothian do have families and jobs has helped the students form a supportive bond that Groce said she believes will help carry them through the program.

“They are all in the same situation, so they support each other through it. They carpool or know who they can call for help. They share notes and bring in assignments for each other,” she said.

The Texas A&M office at the Midltohain campus is staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday – Friday, but it is recommended that those interested in speaking with a faculty member call 972-775-7231 to make an appointment, Resendez said. She also encouraged students to call her directly at 903-886-5376 or email her at elva.resendez@tamuc.edu. Applications will be made through ApplyTexas.org.

Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.