Even as Erin Jeffreys was about to graduate from the University of West Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, Public Health, she was already planning to continue her education with a graduate degree.
"I knew I wanted to get my master's because a master's degree is pretty much the standard now," she said. "I was going to continue with public health. Then, I decided at the last minute I was going to try this MBA."
Jeffreys complete the final course of the online MBA program in the fall. She graduated from UWF once again on Dec. 16, 2017.
"I've always had an interest in business and an entrepreneurial side," she said. "Since I had that interest in business and figuring out how things work, and business is all around us, I decided I really wanted to know more. I'm in marketing and communications, so I've had a lot of that side of it. I wanted to know about finance, accounting and operations. The MBA had it all."
Jeffreys is a public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. She started that job after finishing her bachelor's degree program in 2015.
During the last semester of her undergraduate program, Jeffreys completed an internship with the department in the Communications, Health Education and Nutrition division.
"It just so happened there was a woman working as a public information officer who left. I just kind of stumbled on this position. It's been nice."
Her job with a state agency has also paid dividends in the form of higher education.
"I was able to get the MBA under the State Tuition Waiver program," Jeffreys said. "Some people might not know about that. It's a good thing if you work in a public service job."
Online, Any Time
Jeffreys primarily did a hybrid format in the bachelor's program, so she had some experience with online education before she enrolled in the master's program.
"I started out going face-to-face, but then I decided I needed more flexibility," she said. "When I found out the MBA program was fully online, I said, 'Okay, sure. Let's do this.' Some of my classmates in the last year or two had never done online before, so they had to get used to the time management, being organized and having that sort of structure that you have to have in place. It's made me a master time manager and made me get a lot better with my organizational skills, too."
Jeffreys, who spends between 10 and 16 hours per week on school, has not missed a beat in the online MBA program. She maintains a 3.94 GPA after she graduated, cum laude, from the bachelor's program. Plus, she is able to fit school into her schedule.
"My friends, my family and my co-workers see the true value in education and the things I've been learning," Jeffreys said. "My supervisor is even so intrigued with the things I've been learning that she might consider the program herself."
Not surprisingly, Jeffreys gained a whole new outlook on the business world in the MBA program. The knowledge she has gained has also been immediately applicable to her career.
"Since I have started the program, my analytical skills and my problem-solving abilities have gone up tremendously," she said. "I'm naturally adept at those things anyway, but they have improved during the program because you are constantly having to solve problems."
Two of her favorite courses in the curriculum were ACG 6309: Accounting Aspects of Business Policy Determination and MAN 6721: Strategic Management and Policy Formulation.
"We got to play this simulation game called Capsim in strategic management," Jeffreys said. "You are the CEO of the company and got to basically be in charge of everything. It was a nice, strategic view. You were able to see how every little part worked together."
Accounting was more of a challenge for Jeffreys, but she found the course to be one of the most practical ones.
"I really enjoyed it," she said. "We learned all sorts of budgeting, profit planning and controlling costs. It helped me out, because I do some freelance work with marketing, graphics and websites. I've always had a hard time with pricing and determining my own costs. This class actually gave me tools to figure that out. It's been really beneficial to me."
Jeffreys is also pleased with how much access she has had to her professors.
"All of the instructors I've had in the program have been so readily accessible," she said. "Some of them tell you that you can send them a text -- they're just like that now. They're there for you. At first, you think, 'Oh, it's online, I'm never going to see them. That's just not true."
Music to Her Ears
In addition to Jeffreys' success in her career and higher education, she has also enjoyed some prosperity in the music world.
"Music has always been a huge part of my life," she said. "It's something that has always come naturally to me. I've been playing since I was 12. I play drums, bass, guitar. I sing, write songs. That's the creative side. I've done some cool things with it. I recorded an album in New York City, traveled around and played in some different bands."
Recording under the name Elyse Therose (Elyse is her middle name), she released an eponymous EP on iTunes; it's also available on Spotify, Amazon and iHeart Radio among other outlets.
"Obviously with the MBA, I didn't play too much music," Jeffreys said. "I plan to get back on it."
Though she had to sacrifice some music time for the MBA, Jeffreys believes it was a fair trade-off.
"It's helpful for people to know if they're considering the degree that they think it's going to be worth it," she said. "Trust me, it is."
Learn more about the UWF online MBA program.
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