By: Dr. Mark Alexander, Regional Dean, Indiana Wesleyan University—
When Brittani Richards started her Master of Business Administration program at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in January 2015, she never imagined just how crucial flexibility would be to her success. While at IWU, she experienced health obstacles that many would consider insurmountable, including the surgical removal of one eye due to complications from cancer she suffered as a child. Despite her challenges, Richards preserved and completed her MBA in August 2017.
A pathway to success
Richards’ path to higher education began as it does for many adult learners. While she loved her position as marketing director at Thrive Credit Union in Muncie, she was ready to take the next step in her career and into a leadership role. Her boss suggested an MBA, to help prepare her for a promotion, but she initially had concerns.
“I needed something convenient with my schedule as a mom and with a full-time job,” Richards said. “The program at IWU was perfect because it was six-week classes, and I was able to do everything online. I never had to step foot in a classroom to receive my degree.”
Richards researched her options before she committed to a program, and that was an important first step. Before selecting a school, adult students should ask about the school’s credentials, the involvement of the faculty in each course and the faculty-to-student ratio. Prospective students should weigh those factors as well as the program’s cost, its requirements and time commitments.
Beneficial to employees and employers
IWU’s adult online graduate degree program fit Richards’ criteria because it was flexible enough to work into her busy life. With online education, the classroom comes to the student. Students can attend classes online at a time that best fits their schedules. Online students also find that the accelerated pace allows them to move swiftly through their required programs. And, to the benefit of both the student and their employer, they can pursue a graduate degree while remaining in their current professional career and are often able to immediately apply the academic concepts they’re learning in real-time at their workplace.
In addition, employers who support their employees’ educational efforts often find that their employees gain skills that help them grow and become better employees. Employers also benefit in other tangible ways. They benefit when their employees bring the theory that is being taught in class into practical application at work. Employers also can get tax breaks for offering tuition reimbursements. The IRS gives companies a tax deduction for tuition reimbursement up to a certain dollar amount per employee.
About eight months into her MBA program, Richards began experiencing excruciating eye pain, a residual effect of the more than 40 corrective eye surgeries she’s had throughout her life due to treatment for Rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer that is made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles and frequently affects younger children.
Doctors determined that Richards’ illness required surgery to remove an eye.
“I didn’t see it as losing anything,” she said. “The loss of my eye was a gain, because I got to have my life back.”
K. Evans, Richards’ IWU advisor, was instrumental in providing the emotional support and encouragement that Richards needed. Despite never meeting in person, Evans helped with logistical issues and provided the same support that traditional college students are accustomed to.
When Richards returned to school in January 2016, she said the transition back to class was “easy.” IWU’s faith-based curriculum had attracted her in the first place, and her decision to attend a Christian university was reaffirmed by the treatment she received.
“I would have professors let me know that they were praying for me,” she said. “I have always overcome every obstacle in my life — they saw in me that I really wanted this.”
In August 2017, her persistence paid off: Richards attended her graduation ceremony and met K. Evans face-to-face for the first time.
“I had every reason to quit — no one would have questioned me,” she said. “I had lots of excuses that were really good excuses, but I decided to overcome them. With the help of IWU, I was able to do it.”
Mark Alexander, Ph.D., has worked for Indiana Wesleyan University since 2002. He is a regional dean at IWU-National & Global, the campus that includes more than 10,000 adult learners throughout the world who study online or at one of 15 educational centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. In his capacity as regional dean, Alexander is responsible for several teams that oversee the needs of 8,000 fully online students pursuing associate through doctoral degrees in east central Indiana. Alexander has a Ph.D. in Technology Management from Indiana State University, and a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in religion from Indiana Wesleyan University.
For more information on IWU-National & Global and certificate, associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs offered to adult students at Indiana Wesleyan University, call 866-498-4968 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is also available at www.indwes.edu.