Cara Evans is making the most of starting over.
After going through a divorce, Evans enrolled in the Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship online program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
"I quit my job, went to Colorado and did some work with startup companies," she said. "I wanted to have something structured when I quit so I was still doing something meaningful. I also wanted the flexibility of career advancement."
Now, Evans is back home and working as an innovation coach at Autry Technology Center in the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. She also just completed the final course of the online MBA program. She will walk the graduation stage in May.
"My mom works in education, but most everyone in our family is self-employed," she said. "I gravitated toward entrepreneurship because you're helping people start new entities and become self-employed. I always identified with entrepreneurship and thought it was exciting. I like being the catalyst for getting businesses going."
The flexibility of the online format is important to Evans. She lives in Stillwater and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor's degree in marketing and construction in 2004. Evans started a master's degree in entrepreneurship at OSU eight years later and was able to seamlessly transfer over to Southeastern in 2017.
"Southeastern has the same accreditation as OSU, which made it easy to transfer the credits I had already earned," she said. "The online MBA works well — especially with the classes being in seven-week blocks. Blackboard is an easy platform to use. I also liked the cost and flexibility of the program. It's been fun."
Ready, Set, Go
Prior to her Colorado move, Evans worked for a business incubator for four years. She also served as president for the Oklahoma Business Incubator Association.
"My new role of innovation coach doesn't allow me to work directly with startups like I did before in the incubator, but I get to employ the entrepreneurial mindset as a member of a new department and in research of new programs and technology for the school and industrial clients," she said.
The information in the online MBA with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship program curriculum is also applicable to Evans' current and former positions.
"It is a lot more relevant to my previous job," she said. "With my job right now as innovation coach, broad-based theory-wise, a lot of it applies."
Another element of the online format Evans enjoys is the opportunity to interact with her classmates, academic coaches and SOSU faculty members.
"You have group projects and several of the same people in different classes as you go through the entire program," she said. "You engage in the discussion boards. If they happen to be from my area, sometimes we meet for coffee.
"The professors are willing to talk on the phone and email back and forth. The online format also helps because a lot of people in the class are military and are spread across different time zones, so it makes it easier to engage."
Once Evans completes the master's degree program, she hopes to use her knowledge to build a brighter future.
"I've started and managed lifestyle ventures — not high tech or high growth — in the past," she said. "I love what I'm doing with the career tech system now, and I would love to work in administration here. I always think I'm going to have some ideas."
Evans, who enjoys doing velvet paintings and taking solo road trips, has had plenty of support from her friends and family since enrolling in SOSU's online program. She celebrated her accomplishment with them by walking in the May 2019 commencement ceremony in Durant.
"They love it," she said. "I'm catching up. Even with a master's degree, I'm the least educated person in my family. My mom is the president of a junior college. My dad has an MBA and runs his own company. My sister and brother-in-law are both attorneys."
Several of Evans's colleagues across the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education system also earned graduate degrees online from SOSU. She believes distance learning is a solid option for anybody working a full-time job.
"Several of my co-workers across the career tech system attend or have graduated from Southeastern because it's online and affordable," she said. "They can do it online and maintain their jobs and families versus going in person. It's nice having that camaraderie with so many people."
Evans took one course or two courses at a time to tailor the online MBA to her focused learning style.
"Some courses require more work than others," she said. "Read the syllabus up front and get on the message boards and the LinkedIn group or the Facebook group and ask questions.
"You'll see people asking things like, 'I'm about to have a baby. These are the courses I have left. What would you recommend?' Talk to the advisers. They call and check on you and have been very attentive for an online program. Embrace the available resources."
And, of course, relish a fresh start.
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship program.
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