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How One Howard Student Balances Her Graduate Studies and Personal Life

Headshot of Monique Davis.

Monique Davis has had her eye on Howard University since she started looking at colleges for her undergraduate studies. She ended up pursuing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture and interior design at another university, but she never lost her interest in Howard.

Davis spent many successful years working for architectural firms as a designer, but her interests and outlook evolved over time. She found herself wishing she could contribute more to the direction projects took and be part of the larger decision-making process. Everywhere she looked, she saw opportunities for process improvement.

As the COVID pandemic stretched on, she decided it was time to make a change. As she researched graduate business programs that would give her the management and leadership skills she’d need to make a bigger impact in the business world, Howard came to mind.

Today, Davis is pursuing her Master of Business Administration in the Howard University School of Business Online MBA program remotely from Miami, Florida. In this interview, Davis explains how she balances the rigors of graduate school with a busy family life.

What prompted you to explore the possibility of earning your MBA?

During my time working for different firms and with different supervisors, I realized that there were organizational matters that I knew could be handled better. But as a junior designer you don’t really get opportunities to give your input on certain things. I had this desire to lead and do more management. More than just managing design projects, I wanted to make a difference in the way that these firms were being run.

That’s why I decided to pursue my MBA. I minored in business in undergrad, but beyond that, I hadn’t done anything in business or management. There was also the fact that during the pandemic, my husband and I decided to start a business. He’s a realtor and I’m an architect, so we wanted to put our powers together. I knew I’d need more education to knowledgeably run a business.

What attracted you to the online MBA program at Howard University?

Howard was one of the schools I seriously considered when I was looking at bachelor’s degree programs. Even though it didn’t work out at the time, my interest in Howard stuck. I just love this school. I love the culture, I love the traditions. I love everything that Howard is.

When it came time to choose an MBA program, I gravitated toward Howard University’s online MBA for several reasons. The program is ranked, the professors are great, and although I can’t be on campus, I’m still afforded the same opportunities as those in the traditional MBA program.

The part-time cohort style definitely gave me what I needed. I had just had a baby and I was trying to figure out how to work with an infant during a pandemic. Being able to earn an MBA online was perfect.

How do you juggle the demands of MBA coursework and a busy life?

Planning out my day to the best of my ability is key. I try to do my work or do the modules and readings while my daughter is asleep or while she is occupied. Sometimes I have to put on a show or something while I get a few things done.

The mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning in the Online MBA program has helped a lot. I’ve always been a night owl, so I am able to utilize those late night hours to get work done. Some people in my cohort are not like that, but I can knock things out up until three in the morning and be fine.

Are there benefits of studying online that surprised you?

Definitely being able to manage my own time using the resources Howard provides. Just being able to see on a weekly basis what I have going on is valuable. I love that the Canvas and Blackboard learning platforms spell it out for us.

One surprising thing I love about Howard’s Online MBA program is the synchronous component. We meet for one hour or an hour-and-a-half every week for each class. It gives you a chance to really get to know your cohort and your professors.

Professors at Howard don’t just see your assignments or read your comments. They get a chance to hear your voice and see your reactions in live sessions. I’ve had professors that would call us out by name when they’d see our reactions to make sure we understood everything.

Another is that the Online MBA program lets me connect with people from all over. In my cohort, I get aspects of what’s going on in Michigan from one of my classmates or what’s going on in Dallas. Just getting those different perspectives is great.

Have you encountered any unexpected challenges in the online learning environment?

During my undergraduate years, I found the in-person office hours to be really useful. There are office hours for online MBA students during which you can have conversations with professors, but it’s all virtual. I make more of an effort to reach out to my professors. There are also a few of us in the cohort who actually visit the campus occasionally. I’m in Miami, but I am not afraid to book a flight and go, just to get the experience of actually meeting the business school faculty in person. I’ve gone to conferences, I’ve gone to orientation, and I’ve attended other events that were safe to attend in-person. Last semester I traveled to the Howard University campus three times.

Have any professors had a particular impact on your experience at Howard?

Dr. Price was our global economics professor. When we stepped into his class, a lot of us hadn’t been in school for a long time. Many of us hadn’t studied some of these ideas before, and he just made sure that everyone understood the material. He wanted to see everyone in his classroom succeed. He was the type of professor that would answer the phone at any time. If he’s awake, he answers, and you could tell he is smiling on the other side of the line. He always wanted to know how you were doing in your learning process.

The impact hasn’t just been about coursework. My grandmother passed away last December, and we buried her in January. Dr. Ferguson, the Associate Dean, has been making sure I’m okay. I feel like she would reach out and check on any student, and I love that.

What will you do with your MBA when you graduate?

I’m still ironing that out. During my time at Howard, I’ve gone to conferences that have exposed me to different avenues of opportunity I’ve never even thought about. So now I’m open to anything. I’m asking questions like: Do you go into project management? Do you want to be a financial analyst? Do you want to be a director? I’m not sure yet.

But I know I definitely want to continue my education and get my PhD in Business Administration, with some sort of research on management. The reason I started pursuing an MBA was to help organizations run better. To be able to do research projects in that area of management would be amazing.

Howard University School of Business ranks high among the nation’s business schools, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report. The first business school in Washington, D.C. to earn AACSB accreditation, Howard offers a supportive student experience on campus and online. Howard’s online MBA programs deliver expert instruction and cutting-edge experiential learning in a flexible format adaptable to busy schedules. Howard graduates are highly sought out by recruiters from leading corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Financial aid and scholarships are available. Start your application today.

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