Home Blog The Online MBA Experience: A Grad Student’s Perspective

The Online MBA Experience: A Grad Student’s Perspective

July 09, 2021
Photo of Kelsey Kauffman over the Seattle downtown skyline

If anyone knows how to make online graduate school work for their schedule, it’s Kelsey Kaufman. After working at a digital marketing agency in Seattle for a few years, Kelsey moved to New York in 2016 to launch an influencer marketing program for makeup and skincare brand Milk Makeup. Helping the brand expand internationally and develop their event partnerships gave her the inspiration and confidence to start her own business, Call Mom Productions, where she is currently a freelance and consulting producer.

Shortly after starting Call Mom Productions, Kelsey decided to supplement her business skills and build her network by getting her Online Master's in Business Administration. She enrolled at Seattle University in 2020 and is actively working toward her degree in the Albers School of Business and Economics. Below are some of Kelsey’s thoughts from a recent student webinar where she shared her experience, along with some insider advice for making the most of online graduate school.

A History of Online Learning

Since Kelsey lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, a graduate school program in Seattle might seem difficult to coordinate, especially when it’s entirely virtual. But when the pandemic hit, Kelsey knew she wanted a school that wasn’t still trying to figure out its virtual teaching methods.

“The big thing that stood out to me about Seattle University’s online program is that they had been teaching online pre-COVID,” says Kelsey. “The online format wasn't in response to the pandemic, so it really appealed to me that they had a clear understanding of and reputation for not only being involved in the business community, but also having online learning down to a tee. I just knew I wanted to go there.”

A big bonus of the online MBA program for Kelsey is the flexibility of time and formats. In each course, professors present information in new and engaging ways to keep students interested and involved. Within a given week, Kelsey notes that there may be some traditional reading from textbooks (which she reads on her Kindle), essays, quizzes, and group discussions, all mixed together with YouTube videos and case studies from professors that she can fit into her schedule.

“They do a really great job of having variety for how they deliver content each week and allowing time for us to finish the work,” she says. “You're definitely challenged in ways you wouldn't expect in the traditional online environment.”

There’s also a healthy balance of group and individual work throughout the course that Kelsey enjoys, as well. “For example,” she says, “Yesterday I recorded a Fishbowl discussion with three other colleagues. Two of them are actually based in Seattle, one in San Francisco, and we recorded a 30-minute discussion of our thoughts on readings that we had done independently. It was nice to have the time to think alone, and then to share and discuss my ideas with others afterward.”

Managing Time (and Time Zones)

With a full-time job and a four-hour time difference, Kelsey has to be extremely aware of her schedule. To continue her studies, she scaled back slightly on her freelance work and created a system to keep herself on track and appropriately allocate her talents. “Time management is crucial to being successful as an OMBA student—and in life. In this virtual world, we have to be more flexible than ever,” Kelsey explains.

Some weeks may be busier than others, but since most of her peers are working professionals, Kelsey says that they have a pretty good ability to prioritize meetings or shuffle work to meet deadlines. To help students gauge the workload, the general practice is to spend anywhere from 10 to 15 hours per course per week on class-related activities and assignments. But Kelsey stresses that with some motivation and commitment, it’s entirely doable.

“All of my colleagues in my cohort are full-time students and full-time working professionals, and we’re all doing well,” she says. “It’s a transition, just like anything else.”

However, Kelsey’s biggest piece of advice for time management has nothing to do with calendars and scheduling. “Group collaboration and teamwork is a big part of the OMBA program, so communication is key,” she explains. Since many of Kelsey’s cohort are located in different time zones and have varying priorities at home, they rely on frequent communication and transparency. They use Microsoft Teams, a LinkedIn group, and text group chats to stay in touch, ask questions, and provide updates.

Bridging the Digital Distance

Even with her home in New York, Kelsey feels very connected to her cohort, professors, and the Seattle U network. She creates and maintains relationships by reaching out to her professors individually, attending virtual events, and joining online networks that match her interests.

One opportunity that Kelsey takes advantage of is Seattle U’s career advising. She uses their resources to edit her resume and receive one-on-one interview coaching. She also enjoyed the virtual residency retreat, which helped her get to know her cohort better and establish a sense of camaraderie.

“It’s a trusted community all around. We look out for each other not only to be successful in the program, but also outside of it as we grow as leaders and individuals. It’s a great thing to be a part of,” Kelsey says.

For those looking to create similar relationships at Seattle University, here are Kelsey’s pro tips for connecting & career growth:

  • Sign up for the Albers Weekly Email
  • Connect to the SU community via the online resources available to you
  • Attend the plethora of virtual events & panels
  • Pay attention to the upcoming career networking and career advising opportunities

Create Your Own Story at Seattle U

To find more information like what Kelsey shared, schedule a call with an Admissions Advisor or visit the online MBA page. At the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University, we want to help you succeed however we can.