For the past two years, mid-career MBA students in Wright State University's Raj Soin College of Business have gotten to know each other well. Really well.

The 23 students spent every other weekend together as they pursued their next educational and professional achievements through Wright State's MBA cohort in Mason.

"I always knew I wanted to do this," says Roxana Turner, 48, owner of an analytics startup. "It was a personal, more than a professional, goal to try to reach the highest level of personal and professional excellence."

Turner, formerly a senior business analyst with Avon Products for 13 years, came to Cincinnati in 1998 from Lima, Peru. She says her decision to pursue an MBA took years, but then she finally decided it was time. She chose Wright State because of its "great depth in research, great seriousness of purpose and a very modern curricula that shapes you as a decision maker, a lifelong learner."

Learning as a Team

With a cohort program, students "” with few exceptions "” start the program together and finish together. They share late Friday evenings and early Saturday mornings. It promotes a common purpose and camaraderie, they say.

Professor Bud Baker, chairman of the management department at Wright State, who taught the group in their final five classes, says he enjoys teaching the cohorts.

"We rarely see that level of cooperation and teamwork" in the regular MBA program on the main campus, he says. "People just don't know each other well enough in the normal program. You're always starting a new team every quarter with a new set of characters." With the cohort, "you have much more strength in the group. They draw on each other. It really works out."

How it Applies

Michael Fiszlewicz, 35, Monroe, a senior infrastructure engineer at Sinclair Community College, says the program allowed the group to "get to know what the other people do and the companies they work for and how the different material that we're learning applies to them.

"There isn't that awkwardness when you first form a group every single class. "¦ You can talk to them more casually, and you feel more comfortable being more frank with them. There are friendships, too."

Andy Dunn, 30, a software engineer at Ecova who lives in Loveland, says "the program fit my lifestyle well. Having every other weekend off, you can manage your schoolwork, and the degree was very, very affordable."

Dunn says getting to know everybody "was one of the major benefits that I didn't anticipate. It's a great networking opportunity."

Tuition Ranges

Monica Snow, the university's director of marketing, business and international relations, says Mason has hosted four cohorts with 92 students so far. She says it's one of the most affordable MBA programs in the region, with tuition ranging from $18,612 to $44,687, depending on whether students are in-state or out-of-state and whether they need lower-level business courses to take part in the cohort.

For Darnell Brown, 41, also a senior infrastructure engineer at Sinclair, the drive every other weekend from his home in Dayton was well worth it. He thinks the MBA will help him secure a management position in the future, plus he has an interest in public service.

"I certainly would like to take the frameworks I've been exposed to in leadership, and lead groups into change," he says.

As part of the MBA program, all of the students worked with regional businesses to solve issues "” including a waste-management company facing new competition, a pediatrician who wanted to start his own practice and a marketing-company owner who wanted to develop a structure and set long-term goals.

Sri Pasupuleti, 35, of Miamisburg, an e-commerce manager at Hubert Co., says the MBA will be her second master's degree, after one she obtained in her home country of India. She says the program "helped us gain perspectives from all different angles, which is what a real business would need.

"And when we, as leaders, take positions, we'll be able to consider the finance perspective, the accounting perspective, the marketing perspective, information systems, supply chain, and most importantly, ethics. It has been an amazing journey."