It's a small world after all.
Florida native Stephanie Sandidge earned a Master of Business Administration online from the University of West Florida while working as a dancer for Disneyland Hong Kong. She graduated in December 2018.
"I've been a dancer my whole life," Sandidge said. "I wasn't ready to give up my dancing career, so I did my MBA while I was still dancing. The week that I finished my last course, I got an interview and was offered a job as an assurance associate with PricewaterhouseCoopers [PwC] Hong Kong. I start in January 2019. Everything lined up really nicely for me."
That's an understatement. After leaving home at 21 years old, Sandidge has lived overseas for the last seven years, spending extended amounts of time in Tokyo, Paris, Rome and Madrid. She moved to Hong Kong three-and-a-half years ago.
"I wanted to travel the world," Sandidge said. "I went to the audition for Tokyo Disneyland and it stemmed from there. I wasn't expecting to do the whole online MBA program in Hong Kong, but that's how it ended up. Hong Kong is home now. Now, I'm ready to buckle down and work hard in the industry. I got the travel bug out of my system."
Sandidge graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 2014. She did the first two years of that program on campus and the last two from Japan.
"During my undergrad, I didn't think about how psychology was something that I loved, but it really wasn't something that I wanted a career in," Sandidge said. "I realized that I saw myself more in business, but I wasn't exactly sure where. That's what led me toward the MBA. I knew I wanted to get a higher education degree that would help me in the long term."
Sandidge did extensive research and evaluation of numerous online MBA programs before coming back to her home state to enroll at UWF.
"I knew that I wanted to get an American education," Sandidge said. "UWF offered that option fully online. It was affordable for out-of-state tuition since I'm no longer a Florida resident. It was the best option for me with the affordability and online format."
By bridging Hong Kong's 13-hour time difference from Pensacola, the online format made the MBA program manageable for Sandidge.
"To do an online program, you have to be quite disciplined," she said. "You have to do it on your own. It definitely worked for me. I was able to access the course with my schedule. It was flexible. I liked that I could work when it suited me."
Not only was ACG 6309: Accounting Aspects of Business Policy Determination, taught by Dr. Joseph Donelan, Sandidge's favorite course in the online MBA program curriculum, it also ended up shaping her career path.
"I think there's a huge misconception that in order to like the accounting field, you have to be a math whiz," she said. "I learned that accounting has more to do with being analytical and understanding numbers more like a puzzle. That's how Dr. Donelan, who is my mentor, explained each module in the course. With this line of thinking, my interest in accounting completely makes sense."
Sandidge also gained several intangibles in the online MBA program that prepared her to transition to a business career.
"I always say that beyond the information that you learn from the courses, you learn a lot about perseverance, delayed gratification, discipline and prioritization," she said.
In her pursuit of the MBA program and now her launch of an accounting career, Sandidge has a strong support system in her friends and family.
"They were definitely happy and excited for me," she said. "I don't think they fully understood how difficult and time-consuming it was going to be. It was a lot of adjustment on their end, as well, getting used to the fact that I was very busy and couldn't go to a lot of things."
Sandidge was able to take an extended trip back to Florida to attend graduation at UWF and celebrate her degree and new job with her loved ones.
"It was so great that I could be there," she said. "It worked out that the Pricewaterhouse contract starts in January. I was able to come home for Christmas and all of December. It was fun.
"I didn't walk in my undergrad. This degree felt like a big accomplishment to me, personally. I'm so glad that I could really commemorate all of my hard work and meet my mentor."
The biggest key to completing the online MBA program for Sandidge involved thinking about the dividends the degree would eventually pay.
"I would tell anybody enrolling in this program to keep the end goal in mind," she said. "It's easy to get overwhelmed by the workload and forget your purpose when you're in it. Just keeping that purpose in mind really keeps you driven and helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel. All of your hard work will pay off. Stay focused and keep your goal and your purpose in mind."
Sandidge believes the MBA simultaneously shaped her future and prepared her to meet it head on.
"I wouldn't have gotten the job if it weren't for the degree," she said. "It speaks for itself. All of the hard work MBA students put in really shows. I received more than I anticipated from the program. The program sets MBA graduates apart from other people in a company."
Although Sandidge has squeezed a lot of living into a short amount of time, she is far from finished building her own magic kingdom in a land far away.
"I would definitely like to be a partner at PwC," Sandidge said. "Several years down the line, I'd like to go back and get my doctorate and go into teaching at universities. I think that would be a nice way to wrap it all up before I retire."
Learn more about the UWF online MBA program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.