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Associate Degree in Business Administration Fills Community Need

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Students considering a career in business will now have more options to obtain a degree through Dalton State’s Wright School of Business.

The business school now offers an associate degree focusing on business administration. Pathways in entrepreneurship or ecotourism are available at the Mountain Campus in Ellijay.

“This is a gateway degree,” said Dr. Marilyn Helms, dean of the Wright School of Business. “Our sincere hope is that students earn the associate degree and stay with us for a bachelor’s degree, but we know how people learn and approach higher education is changing. Not everyone graduates high school and enters a four-year program immediately. Some enter the workforce first and come back to complete their education later. And for some people, a two-year degree is all they need to initially advance in their careers. They typically return later to complete their bachelor’s degree at Dalton State.”

The associate degree will give students a basic understanding of the business world and will cover topics including accounting, Microsoft Office programs, budgeting, supply and demand, regulations and more. At the Mountain Campus, students will take courses focused on either entrepreneurship or ecotourism, depending on their chosen pathway.

“We realized our community, especially our Mountain Campus community, needed these options,” said Dr. Mike D’Itri, associate dean of the Wright School of Business. “Now students can get the first two years of college, have a degree, and then, when they are ready, transition into any of our bachelor’s degree majors in business. Many workplaces recognize the associate degree and will give employees a raise or a path to advancement.”

In recent years there has been a cultural shift to focus on locally-owned businesses, creating a demand for entrepreneurship and for more people to open their own business, Helms said.

“It’s true all over, but especially in Ellijay, there is much entrepreneurship and tourism,” she said. “We all know Ellijay for the Apple Festival, but it is also an area growing because of the mountain experience, hiking, camping, canoeing, wineries and the small-town restaurants and downtown shops.  Airbnb is booming and thriving there. Ellijay is a gem, and there isn’t a large corporate presence. There is going to be even more demand for locally-owned, especially family-owned, businesses. We hope having these two pathways at our Mountain Campus will be a benefit to the greater Ellijay community.”

Classes in the associate degree program will be offered at night, in a hybrid format and some will have an all-online option. The program is ideal for adult learners who may be juggling work and family responsibilities. Classes to fulfill the requirements of this program are offered every semester, including summer.

Additionally, many students entering college directly from high school know they want to work in business but may not know which area of business is best suited for them. The associate degree provides a preview of all the focus areas of business. The Wright School of Business offers six bachelor’s degrees including accounting, finance and applied economics, logistics and supply chain management, management, management information systems and marketing.

“Many students want to be a business major but don’t know which major to choose,” Helms said. “So, this associate degree is a perfect way to explore all the functional areas in business. Students can sample each of the six areas and then choose a major and perhaps a minor for their bachelor’s degree focus area. We assign our students to a faculty member to mentor them and help them explore careers and opportunities. We place them in a job shadowing experience so they may determine which major they prefer and make the best choice for them.”

The Wright School of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which is earned by less than 5% of business schools worldwide.

“The education you receive at Dalton State is a best value option with an extremely high return on investment,” Helms said. “We excel at teaching, particularly targeting first-generation students and our Latinx community. We want students to choose Dalton State and earn a degree here to open a host of options for their careers.”

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