David Geri is a blessed man. He spent the last decade feeding his two passions as a financial executive and music minister at First Pentecostal Church of Pensacola in his hometown.
"My loves are accounting and music," Geri said. "In high school, I went to state for accounting in Florida Future Business Leaders. I started playing piano at five years old. It's funny because I have several music director friends who are the same way. It's weird. I think our brains are just wired differently."
With a career goal of becoming a Certified Public Accountant in mind, Geri returned to his alma mater, the University of West Florida, for a graduate degree. Instead, he earned two. Geri graduated from the online Master of Business Administration program in December 2017 and the online Master of Accountancy program (MACC) in May 2018.
"I went back to UWF because I needed some additional courses in order to take the CPA Exam," Geri said. "Originally, I went back only to do the MBA because it was all online. Then, the opportunity opened up where I could do the MBA and the MACC, so I decided to do both."
After he graduated from the Bachelor of Business Administration program at UWF in 2013, Geri looked at other online master's degree programs before opting to return to UWF. Once an Argonaut, always an Argonaut.
"I knew all of the faculty and staff at UWF," Geri said. "They are very good. I looked at the online MBA at the University of Florida because I'm a Gators fan. There were three things that pushed me toward UWF: the cost, the teachers and the business programs — especially the MACC, which is highly ranked in the nation for graduates passing the CPA Exam."
The fully online format was a necessity for Geri with his hectic work schedule at church and a family at home. Geri and his wife, Laura, have two children, Nicole (20) and Benjamin (16).
"I'm basically the comptroller of the church," Geri said. "I was doing a major recording, a big Christmas drama and all of the finances all at once when I enrolled in the MBA program. I am also the treasurer of a small nonprofit. Online made it so much easier for me to manage everything. The flexibility of the program is huge. My wife was also very excited and supportive."
Geri devoted a couple of hours on weeknights and all day on Saturdays to his schoolwork. The tax courses were especially applicable to his financial executive position at First Pentecostal Church, although he found value in all of the program courses.
"I have to deal with contributions, and even though churches are nonprofit organizations, there are so many different governances over tax laws for churches," he said. "The curricula of both master's degree programs were really applicable and also helped me do research."
UWF Department of Accounting and Finance Chair Richard Fountain proved that returning to the university largely because of the faculty was a divine decision by Geri.
"My son is interested in becoming a lawyer," Geri said. "Professor Fountain took time with him and told him that if he wants to be a corporate lawyer, he would get a good start as an accounting major at UWF because it would prepare him for law school. To me, the UWF faculty — especially in the accounting department — aren't just interested in numbers; they are interested in family. "
Higher education remains a big priority in the Geri family. Nicole recently graduated with a bachelor's degree from Pensacola State College, and Laura is also back in college.
"Walking in my graduation ceremony was a cool experience," he said. "It was nice to see my daughter walk at graduation a few months later. My wife got her undergraduate at UWF as well, and is doing her second graduate degree in educational administration there now. We're big on education and big on UWF."
Geri, an avid fan of cars and college football, said time management is the most important skill to have in the online MBA program.
"The program is manageable and doable, but you have to manage your time and not procrastinate," he said. "Those papers are going to come. You also have to do a portfolio. They're up front and tell you what you need to do at the very beginning and you start working. Time management is the key to success."
After earning a bachelor's degree in music from Jackson College of Ministries in 1997, he served as music minister at the Pentecostals of the Twin Cities in West Monroe, Louisiana, for almost four years and dean of music at Texas Bible College, in Lufkin, for more than six years.
Geri, who also earned an associate degree from Pensacola State College in 2012, is gearing up to take the CPA Exam in 2019 after spending most of his adult life working for churches.
In fact, he is studying with one of his fellow music directors in his spare time. He feels prepared to take his career in a new direction. It's safe to say that he'll enjoy listening to music every step of the way.
"I plan to specialize in churches and nonprofit organizations once I'm a CPA. The rigor of the courses and the knowledge that you gain in the online MBA program will definitely prepare you for the real world."
Learn more about the University of West Florida online MBA program.
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