Tim Bludau, Emily Howard and Jeremy Shields held stable, professional jobs at successful companies. They are now students in the university’s MBA program.
None of the three students are victims of the economy. None of them were laid off. They just wanted to further their educations, they said.
Bludau said he returned to school because he thought he hit a ceiling at his previous job. He worked as a senior project manager for a small company that specialized in technology solutions for public and private utilities, he said.
“I had topped out,” Bludau said. “I had moved up quite a few steps but I hit a ceiling, and I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere else.”
In addition to hitting a ceiling, Bludau said he did not like the position he held at the company as a project manager. Working with utilities, he found himself in situations where he was held responsible for something he had no control over.
Bludau said he needed a change.
Peggy Conway, director of MBA admissions, wrote in an e-mail that applications to the Neeley MBA program increased by 25 percent for the fall compared to the previous year. Admissions admitted about half of the applicants to the program, she said.
“While our entering class is larger this year than last, the most significant difference is in our selectivity,” Conway said. “Our new students are not victims of the recession, but talented professionals who are choosing grad school over promotions and/or significant job responsibilities to better position themselves for future opportunities and/or career changes.”
Howard, who worked as a senior sales manager in the hospitality industry, said she chose to return to school because she wanted to work for a non-profit company. She said she did not have the finance and accounting experience necessary to work at a non-profit company.
“One person does so much more than just what their basic task is at a non-profit beacause the funding is just not there to hire more people,” Howard said. “I needed a background in things like accounting and finance to be able to read financial statements and understand a lot more.”
Shields said he also thought he needed to further his education after working in real estate as a commercial broker. He said he wanted to apply the skills he learned in real estate to his education in the MBA program.
All three students said they were able to return to school based on a combination of financial help.
Shields said he depended on scholarships and student loans to pay for the MBA program.
Bludau and Howard said they both received scholarships but were also using some personal savings. Their parents also helped out some, they said.
William Cron, associate dean of graduate programs, wrote in an e-mail the benefits of an MBA are worth the money it costs to return to school to receive one.
“The primary benefit is personal growth along with a high level of involvement and satisfaction with their professional growth,” Cron said. “How does this come about? I would argue by being involved in addressing better opportunities and working and networking with interesting people.”