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How My MBA Helped Me Navigate the Pandemic

July 13, 2021
Seattle University Online MBA student Gian Luca

Gian-Luca Matsuda has had a unique online MBA experience so far: he started the Online Master’s in Business Administration program at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics two weeks after the city shut down for quarantine. While Gian-Luca and his cohort had to quickly adapt to the fully-remote experience, he was also feeling the direct effects of the pandemic in his role as a data analyst for Seattle’s low-income housing authority.

With the rapid fire of change and pressure in his work, Gain-Luca is grateful for the patience and empathy of his professors, who helped him navigate the tough times while still pushing him to become a better student, employee, and person along the way. “Having something to work toward and challenge myself with during a pandemic has been helpful in not getting caught up by being at home and dealing with the city’s crises so much,” he explains.

As he approaches graduation in less than a year, Gian-Luca was kind enough to walk us through his decision to pursue an online MBA, the relevance of the coursework in his job, and how he’s used the resources from Seattle U to grow both personally and professionally.

An MBA in the Public Sector vs. Private Sector

Gian-Luca received his undergraduate degree from Washington State University in Public Affairs, which is a hybrid degree mixing public policy and public administration. While most people in his undergraduate class went on to earn a Master’s in Public Administration, Gian-Luca says the decision to get an MBA instead was quite deliberate.

“I knew that an MBA would cover the more data-driven, operational aspects of running an organization, which is beneficial to have an understanding in for both public and private companies,” he says.

Although Gian-Luca is the only person in his cohort working in the public sector, he’s confident that the online MBA program is just as applicable for him as anyone else. In fact, he says it’s exactly what he was looking for in terms of the coursework and skills gained. The program covers financial analysis, business ethics, marketing, relationship management, and more—all of which are an integral part of his job at the Seattle Housing Authority.

“Such skills are just as necessary in the public sector as they would be in the private sector, yet they are mostly absent from more advanced public administration degrees,” he says. “That’s why I chose the MBA in favor of anything else.”

Translating Coursework into Real Work

Given the state of the economy and public health concerns since the pandemic began, Gian-Luca and thousands of others in the public sector have been (and continue to be) extremely busy. The Seattle Housing Authority, among other government programs, has been providing support and resources to people whose lives have been affected by COVID-19, particularly with housing, food, and facilitating remote learning and work. Thankfully, Gian-Luca has found some real one-to-one applications of what he learns in his classes since he started at Albers.

Based on the topic areas outlined in the MBA curriculum, Gian-Luca describes the direct translation of skills as follows: “We need to be able to distribute information on much-needed resources (marketing), budget those resources properly (financial reporting and analysis), and engage stakeholders who will be involved in the allocation, distribution, and receiving of those resources (relationship management),” he says. “They’re all necessary areas of expertise that I have been able to hone through my coursework at Seattle U.”

With all of these skills in his toolbox, some of the most helpful lessons Gian-Luca says he’s learned so far have been in the stakeholder engagement and management courses. Exercises in organizational behavior, conflict resolution, and goal setting have been very helpful in negotiating projects with multiple divisions of his agency.

Student Resources on Standby

Outside of the educational aspects, Gian-Luca enjoys the abundance of resources that Seattle U offers to graduate students, especially those who are working adults like himself. He lists the close cohort relationships, an active and exciting alumni network, and the Handshake job board as some key benefits of choosing Seattle U.

“The cohort-style of the program has helped in forming partnerships with other students who I often end up being in multiple classes with, which is nice,” he says. “We’ve all gotten into a kind of ‘groove’ because we’re accustomed to each other’s learning and working styles. Then, we can find opportunities, meet new people, and attend events with a strong foundation behind us.”

While it’s not necessary to live in Seattle to earn a degree from Albers online, Gian-Luca likes to take advantage of his proximity to campus and our student amenities. “It’s great that I get to use the on-campus resources as well, from study rooms and the library to the gym and coffee shops. It makes having places to focus away from home or work much easier to access,” he says.

As he reflects on his time so far at Seattle U, Gian-Luca is happy with his enrollment, his progress, and what the future holds. “It was a great decision to attend Seattle U; I knew that to be true after the first term. With all of the support, interesting classes, fulfilling relationships, and challenging yet exciting coursework from professors, I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be.”

What Will Your Seattle U Story Be?

Just as every university is different, so are the needs of every student. Offered by the AACSB-accredited Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University, our online MBA program provides recent graduates or working professionals with the education, opportunities, and flexibility they need to thrive.

Set yourself up for success by exploring more about our online MBA and MSBA programs, talking to an Admissions Advisor, or applying at Seattle Albers today.