UND Today

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Nistler College shares ‘recipe’ for enrollment growth

Nistler College of Business & Public Administration’s graduate programs see major bump in numbers, especially online

College of Business
Graduate program enrollment at the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration has gone up 45 percent in the past year, which translates to an increase of 110 enrolled students across four programs. UND archival image.

The culinary world could learn a thing or two from UND’s Nistler College of Business & Public Administration.

For the College’s ability to boost enrollment through a recipe of fine-tuned curriculum, ample accessibility, potent partnerships and noteworthy rankings, among other ingredients, so to speak, has proven effective year after year.

This past year, for example, the Nistler College set a lofty goal for increased enrollment across all four of its graduate programs: 25 percent.


Amy Henley
Amy Henley

“Our graduate programs have increased by about 45 percent, which is pretty remarkable,” said Kate Oachs, director of graduate recruitment.

That percentage translates to an increase of 110 enrolled students from 2019 to 2020, Assistant Dean Michelle Garske said. Of those 110 additional enrollees, 89 are distance learners.

“I am so proud of the record enrollments in our Nistler College graduate programs this year,” Dean Amy Henley told UND Today. “Our graduate program staff has worked tirelessly to respond to customer demand in these unprecedented times for higher education. Further, the high rankings, relevant curriculum and outstanding faculty have attracted students to our impactful programs.

“These enrollment numbers are reflective of the continued quality we offer to Nistler College graduate students.”

Quality education and service

When you picture the College’s enrollment strategy as a recipe, you can see how the ingredients harmonize.

For starters, the curriculum has broadened across the College, with respect to Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s (ABM) programs and the MBA program.

Streamlining credits is becoming more common as institutions evaluate the core knowledge needed by students, Garske said. As of this fall, concentrations in the MBA program have become optional as the once 43-credit core track now stands at 34 for the required curriculum, with the opportunity to add a 9-credit concentration.

Michelle Garske
Michelle Garske

Meanwhile, the other three specialized graduate programs – Accountancy, Applied Economics & Predictive Analytics and Public Administration – have fully established their 4+1 ABM programs. These five-year tracks let students dual count up to 12 credits toward their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Garske remarked that the ABM programs’ ease-of-access makes them especially popular.

The Nistler College also hired Brian Gutierrez as a graduate admissions officer/advisor in Fall 2019. He has further helped grow the graduate programs through quality service to prospective and current students in the College’s specialized graduate programs.

“Students are wanting to get the most out of their time here, at UND, by starting their master’s degree programs while they’re still undergrads,” Garske said.

UND also stands out for its affordable tuition, especially in the realm of online/distance education. As mentioned, most of the increased numbers for the Nistler College came from a distance. Most Nistler College graduate programs charge the equivalent of in-state tuition, regardless of students’ residency.

Strong marks academically, nationally

Aside from cost, quality rankings and accreditation also are factors in enrollment. The Nistler College currently holds AACSB International accreditation, as well as accreditation by NASPAA, which helps elevate UND’s appeal.

Kate Oachs

“Our accreditations highlight our quality of instruction and admission standards,” said Oachs. “They play an important role when students deciding which program will be a good fit for them.”

Garske added that the Nistler College has a talented, involved group of tenured and tenure-track faculty who also figure heavily in the College’s success.

“We’re very proud of the work they do, and that comes through in our national rankings,” she said.

With respect to the recipe, rankings are the garnish – bright, pleasant distinctions that set the dish apart. The Nistler College continues to boast impressive placements in U.S. News & World Report and Poets & Quants annual rankings.

According to the U.S. News’ list, released in January, UND’s online MBA ranked 35, which placed it in the top 11 percent of schools ranked by the publication. The College’s online graduate programs, overall, ranked in the top 25 percent. UND was ranked 20 for Best Online Graduate Business Programs for Veterans (Non-MBA) and 38 for Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Non-MBA). Poets placed the MBA program at #14 nationwide.

“Our enrollment success is the result of a team effort including staff, faculty, alumni and partners across campus,” said Garske.

As ground breaks on the new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration this week, the graduate programs office is looking forward to upgraded learning spaces that can cater to both in-person and online learning environments. Image courtesy of JLG Architects.

Keeping opportunity in mind

The College has also done more to highlight alumni throughout the country who moved on from UND’s programs to do great things. From website profiles to speaking engagements, alumni can share their knowledge and experiences with potential graduate students.

Alumni generosity also extends to scholarships, as the Nistler College delivers scholarship opportunities to on-campus graduate students as well as those online – another nice touch.

Also, marketing continues to play its part in enrollment success at the College.

“I am passionate about the partnership that we have had with the Division of Marketing & Creative Services for digital advertising campaigns that they contributed resources to,” Garske said. “We’ve also been working closely with UND Admissions and the new customer relationship management tool, which is now a year old.”

Both of those partnerships work to put Nistler College programming in front of enrolled and prospective students. Garske said creating awareness has been a substantial goal over the past few years, and that the 2020 numbers have shown it to be working.

“I think the work we’ve done has contributed to UND branding; and Nistler College Graduate Programs branding has really set us apart from competitors,” Garske remarked. “And our efforts, internally, to be responsive to students have enhanced that distinction.”

The effort also is building up to the opening of the new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, currently being built across from Gamble Hall. Both Oachs and Garske are looking forward to the upgraded technologies, common areas and rooms that will cater to both in-person and online learning environments.

And, of course, the new home will be an exceptional feature by which to recruit new students.

The official groundbreaking ceremony for the building will take place Oct. 9 at 11:30 a.m., as part of UND’s Homecoming festivities.

“We definitely have grad programs in mind as we’re working on the new building,” Garske said.

Oachs agreed. “In addition to the faculty spaces that will enhance learning, the building is a great testament to the generosity of alumni such as Werner Nistler,” she said. “This new building sets the tone for the impact our College could have in other peoples’ lives, and what they do going forward.”