The irony of having a career in higher education after dropping out of college was not lost on Ashley Davis.
"I'm in a career where I work with students, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and passions, and I had never finished what I started," she said. "That prompted me to consider going back to school. After completing my bachelor's degree, I thought, 'I have this great momentum going. Let's start a master's degree.'"
So, Davis is enrolled in the Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources online program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. The Wylie, Texas, native is on pace to graduate in December 2019.
"I knew that earning a college degree was important," Davis said. "I've been told no in my career because I didn't have a degree. It hurts to hear, 'You have the skills and the experience, but I want somebody with a degree.' After being told no, I said, 'It's time.'"
Davis, who has worked as a student services coordinator for a higher education company for nearly five years, graduated with a bachelor's degree in general studies from Texas Woman's University in 2016.
"I was intrigued by the HR program at Southeastern," Davis said. "I was looking for the next step in my career and where I wanted to go. After researching, I said, 'HR sounds like a great career path for me.' The pricing of the MBA program was also great."
Twist of Fate
After starting college right out of high school, Davis was working as a server at a Tex-Mex restaurant. She had no intention of pursuing a career in higher education until a customer interaction late one evening nudged the door open.
"The patron came in at 9:30 p.m. and we closed at 10," she said. "I gave him great service. He said, 'I really love your personality. I'm hiring. Come in tomorrow for an interview and we'll see.' I was hired that same day and thus began my career in higher education management."
Davis eventually became director of admissions for National American University. Her current role is also heavily focused on online education, so she knew the ins and outs of the process before enrolling at SOSU.
"The majority of the online classes are feasible for working adults who have a hectic life," Davis said. "My father had a stroke while I was in one of my classes. It happened to be the week before my final in the class, and I could not focus on school."
After explaining the situation to the professor of the MNGT 5443: Supervisory Management course, Dr. C.W. Von Bergen, Davis arranged to take the final at a later date.
"It's nice having that one-on-one, personal experience and not having a professor say, 'Hey, suck it up. You're in grad school,'" she said. "They realize things happen. It was a comforting humanistic component to the online accelerated program."
A desire to prepare for Society for Human Resource Management Certification or Professional in Human Resources Certification was further motivation for Davis to choose the online MBA program at SOSU.
"That was a big deal for me," she said. "I heard great things about Dr. Von Bergen's HR class and that students felt really prepared for certification. You can get two in one with your degree, take an extra class toward certification and be prepared to pass them the first time. That really sold me."
BUS 5253: Data Analysis for Managers is Davis' favorite course in the online MBA curriculum, so far.
"I had no idea how much we use data in our day-to-day lives," Davis said. "The program heightens your sense of thinking. You're learning about things that are happening right now. It's applicable and shows you how to use it in the next step of your career. We were discussing data analytics, and that is preparing me for my next management or a leadership role."
However, MNGT 5223: Behavioral Management has been the course most applicable to her job.
"One of our chapters discussed conflict," Davis said. "We were talking about functional conflict and dysfunctional conflict. With my job, a lot of different variances can occur. It's helped overall with my communications and interactions at work."
Although Dr. Von Bergen's course was the hardest one Davis has taken to date, she believes she got the most out of it.
"I would not change that experience for anything," she said. "He makes you work for your degree and bridges the gap between online and campus classes because he forces those interactions with the students. He says, 'You're going to reply to all of these people and have an open discussion.' I loved his class, even though it was the most labor intensive."
Davis, who enjoys cooking and baking, looks forward to making her first trip to Durant with her family on graduation day.
"My dad is better now," she said. "Everybody is excited. We're going to make a weekend out of it. I was the first in my immediate family to obtain a bachelor's degree, so I'll be the first to earn a master's degree."
Once Davis completes the program, she will likely go the corporate recruiting route to gain human resource experience. Davis hopes to eventually become a HR business partner or HR director. And now when she tells potential students that an online degree is attainable with the right mindset, she speaks from personal experience.
"I tell them to take the program seriously," she said. "So often, there is a stigma about online classes that it's going to be easy and you're going to be able to do it at your own leisure. This degree means so much more. If the MBA were easy, everybody would have one.
"You have to go in and be prepared to put the time and effort in. It's going to be rewarding and worth it in the end. I talk to a lot of students who say, 'I'm finished!' I'm going to know that feeling soon."
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA program with an emphasis in Human Resources.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.