With nearly two decades of work as a certified public accountant (CPA) under her belt, Pennsylvania resident Rusty Williams was looking to the future. She loved the work she did as a CPA, but it required a demanding work schedule with long hours that she just couldn't see herself maintaining for the remainder of her career.
As she began considering her options, she realized that the idleness of a regular, full retirement also didn't appeal to her. Instead, she envisioned finishing out her career teaching at the college level. With that goal in mind, she set her sights on finding an online master's degree in business administration (MBA) program that would not only bolster her accounting background but also provide her with a strong foundational education — one that would position her for teaching various subjects at a college or university.
"Since my goal coming into this was a quasi-retirement period where I would start teaching, it was important to me that the academic rating of the university — and the education — be top notch," Rusty explains. "I did want to generalize so that I could teach different courses ... but I also wanted to have a focus in accounting. UMass Lowell's online MBA with the concentration in accounting really gave me the best of both worlds."
Read on to learn more about Rusty's experience as an online student at UMass Lowell, and the surprising destination it led to.
How did you find out about UMass Lowell's online MBA program, and what were the main things you were looking for?
I did a TON of research, primarily online. I was on the fence between getting a master's in tax or accounting, or an MBA. In the end, I chose the MBA with a concentration in accounting for the greatest flexibility. While we do have some schools locally [in Pennsylvania] that offer online classes, business school accreditation was important to me, as was affordability. I also needed classes that were 100% online but I wanted interactive classes — not just old-fashioned correspondence-type courses. School reputation was another factor I considered. UMass Lowell had some great reviews, so I gave it a try and it worked out wonderfully.
How much did the AACSB accreditation of UMass Lowell's Manning School of Business mean to you?
This was one of my critical requirements. In my research, I did not consider any business programs that were not accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). As I mentioned, I wanted to keep my options open to pursue academia in the future, so accreditation was of great importance in that respect.
Tell me what you liked most about your experience at UMass Lowell.
The [online learning] format was amazing. I very much enjoyed getting to know other students, many of whom I am still friends with, from all over the world. Learning took place in a variety of ways (individual work, group work, testing, papers, projects, etc.). Having the online chat hour was really helpful, and the instructors were wonderful — they really made the program. They were available at all hours of the day and were just so encouraging, nurturing and knowledgeable. My experience was absolutely phenomenal.
Can you talk a bit about if and how the flexibility of learning online at UMass Lowell helped you?
I worked full-time (more than full-time during tax seasons) throughout the program, while at the same time caring for my family. In no way is that an easy task, but it was much more manageable given that I was able to complete the program entirely online and mostly on my own schedule.
What did you like most about the online MBA program itself?
I enjoyed spending more time looking at the bigger picture in this program. In the accounting world, it is sometimes too easy to get lost in the details and "miss the forest for the trees." This program forces you to get out of the weeds and look more at the how and the why.
What is the most important thing that your online learning experience at UMass Lowell has given you?
A broader, deeper understanding of the business world, great friendships and a solid education to build on.
Do you have any advice you would share with prospective students who are considering enrolling in the online MBA program?
Because there is so much flexibility with regard to completing your work, it is VERY easy to procrastinate. Don't. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it!
How has getting your online MBA from UMass Lowell impacted your career trajectory and goals?
Before (and during) the MBA program, I was managing a small, local accounting firm. Since graduating with my MBA, I have started my own accounting firm. After doing so, I have decided not to pursue academia — I am going to focus on my business instead — but I am glad to have left the option open. My business is going very well, and I am currently in the process of expanding. I am also looking forward to seeing what else is in store!