Maria Ballesteros-Sola

Students pursing an online bachelor’s degree in Business from CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) have a new academic director at the helm, Assistant Professor of Management Maria Ballesteros-Sola.

Ballesteros-Sola, who holds a masters and a doctorate of business administration, is taking the lead for a year while the current director, Assistant Director of Marketing Ekin Pehlivan, Ph.D., is on sabbatical.

Online learning has always been a passion for Ballesteros-Sola, so she is looking forward to heading up the program, which is for students with two-year associate degrees from community colleges.

“These students may still be working and have a family and were unable to go back to complete their four-year degree,” Ballesteros-Sola said. “We don’t require students take their online classes at any specific time of day, but they can finish within 16 to 18 months.”

Ballesteros-Sola began teaching online in 2011 and was so excited about the possibilities online learning held, that she undertook a series training programs to learn all she could about teaching and learning online, and eventually became certified not just to teach, but to review online teaching programs.

“In the early days, there was a misconception that online learning was slides and recorded video and that we were doing the same type of thing we were doing in a classroom,” she said. “What we are learning now—especially in the middle of this crisis created by the pandemic—is that the most important aspect of online learning for students is connection with your instructor and your peers. It’s not about the technology or using fancy tools, it’s about connection and creating empathy online.”

Online learning can be immensely rewarding, she added, because “it encourages students to engage in learning that doesn’t reward short-term learning and memorization.”

The degree is offered by CSUCI’s Extended University, which is headed by Associate Vice President and Dean of International Programs & Extended University Osman Ozturgut, Ph.D. Those who graduate from the online program will receive the same degree as other Business & Economics majors pursuing their degrees through the MVS School of Business & Economics on the Camarillo campus.

Interim Dean of the MVS School Susan Andrzejewski, Ph.D, said Ballesteros-Sola is ideal for the year-long appointment because of her online teaching experience, but also because of her breadth of experience across a variety of business disciplines. Ballesteros-Sola was a Fulbright Scholar (1998-2000), Paul R. Lawrence Fellow (2016) and enjoyed a career in financial services and management consulting on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean before joining CSUCI as a lecturer in 2007.

“We are thrilled to appoint Dr. Ballesteros-Sola as the Academic Program Director of the Business Online program. Dr. Ballesteros-Sola is well-qualified to step into the role, given her years of experience as both an online educator, course reviewer, and mentor to faculty members new to virtual instruction. I know her passion, creativity, and commitment to serving our students will undoubtedly help the program grow and thrive under her leadership.”

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