Master of Her Online Domain
College of Business & Public Administration
Small-town Minnesota student earns her MBA from UND online while holding down a full-time job and a social life.
Unlike most graduates who participated in this past Spring’s Commencement Ceremony at the University of North Dakota, Robyn McBrady had never stepped foot on the campus before.
Yet she knew and recognized many of her fellow graduates from the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.
“When we lined up according to majors and degrees, I already knew the people lined up with me,” she said. “Everyone knew each other, and many said, ‘so you’re Robyn.’ It made me feel like I was part of a class and a community. It’s a great program to make connections and network.”
McBrady views advanced degrees as a way to open doors in the future, to set her apart from others. But being from a small rural Minnesota town brought a challenge -- the location wasn’t ideal for completing a degree on a university campus.
“It’s by choice, I love it here,” McBrady said of her home in Kensington. “There weren’t many local choices, so I searched online and UND’s online MBA program kept coming up. It was the most affordable, but I still spent two years deciding if it was the right thing for me. I considered many options during that time. One thing that helped me decide was UND’s accreditation; I was looking for a program with those types of accolades.”
Without the flexibility and convenience of an online degree, McBrady’s other options included a two- to three-hour commute every night.
McBrady balanced a full-time job with her online schoolwork.
The UND MBA program offers a virtual classroom component in which online students join on-campus students by logging in and participating in classroom discussions and interacting with professors. Guest speakers from across the country take part in some of these lectures. McBrady said it was a great way to familiarize herself with the technology and stay connected.
“Everyone would join through Adobe Connect, which was very beneficial. I would have my webcam and headset and be online from 7-9 p.m., certain evenings. It was a pretty cool program,” McBrady said.
McBrady took two classes per semester and was able to finish in just over two years. Each course includes about three hours of class time, along with time spent studying and working on group projects. At times, McBrady found it hard to stay motivated and conjure up the energy needed to study after working a full day. One way she tackled the time commitment was to occasionally get up at 5 a.m., and spend two hours before her job doing homework.
Words of wisdom
According to McBrady, another challenge was finding a balance.
“Working 40 plus hours a week and having time for friends, family, a social life and health and wellness is tough,” she said. “I allotted time throughout the week for each activity. Making a schedule and sticking with it -- that’s the key. I really needed to plan my weeks and use time management skills. Knowing your limits is crucial.”
She passes along words of wisdom from her mother to students looking to complete the online MBA: “Don’t get overwhelmed. My mom gave me this advice, ‘You just have to take it week by week.’”
McBrady’s mother knew what she was talking about as she had just completed her master’s degree a few years prior.
McBrady explained that stepping on campus made it all seem surreal. It was a culmination of all her time and work, and walking on stage for commencement made it feel final.
She arrived in Grand Forks a couple hours before the graduation event, was able to tour campus and made sure to stop by Gamble Hall, the University’s business college headquarters. There she peered into the classrooms, the same ones she had familiarized herself with online.
As far as McBrady’s future now, “It’s tough because I don’t have a set idea. I’m pretty open to where my future goes. I hope this (MBA) provides advantages and opportunities down the road, and sets me apart from others. I can also see myself continuing my education through different certifications and trainings.”
Hannah Manske. "Master of Her Online Domain" (2016). UND News Archive. 1291.