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31 Jul

An Outstanding MBA Student’s Online MBA Experience

Allison Bradley

Former CSUMB Online MBA student Allison Bradley always knew that she was going to pursue a graduate degree. She said "I already knew when I was in my undergraduate program. I knew that I was going to go further and I thought, 'Oh, I can do way more than this.'" It took her about 18 months after earning her bachelors to start her MBA experience, and Bradley knew that she had a certain list of requirements that would help her reach her fullest potential.

As a single parent, she knew that she needed the program to be online so that she could have the flexibility to devote time to her daughter, her full-time job, and her studies. She also wanted to be sure that the program met high educational standards. As a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, she has a "soft spot for the Cal State system", and knew that CSUMB and its pending accreditation would meet those educational expectations. An added bonus was the fact that CSUMB does not currently require the GMAT1 for admissions to the Online MBA program. "I don't think that a standardized test necessarily shows the level of intelligence that I have," said Bradley. She felt that the test wasn't going to say everything someone needed to know about her and didn't like the idea of attaching a number to herself and "feeling like I'm this number forever."

Another key consideration for Bradley was the fact that CSUMB's curriculum was generalized. "It didn't have a concentration. It wasn't specific, and that's what I was looking for. I didn't want to do a finance master's or a management master's. I wanted it to be generalized so that going forward into my career, I could be good at anything." She also liked that the curriculum was sequential and builds off itself, and not just a list of requirements to check off. " You learn, and then the ceiling is shattered and then you're able to learn more. Every single class, it just expands and expands, you're stacking building blocks," she said. By tying each concept together and revisiting key elements repeatedly, this program truly helped Bradley and her cohort master essential business acumen.

Hard Work and Teamwork Pay Off

Once enrolled in the program, Bradley immediately set high standards for herself, "In my mind what I was going for was valedictorian, that was my first goal." She says that about halfway through the program she realized that graduate programs don't award high honors, which was a bit of a disappointment to her. But Bradley says "I still just kept doing my best, because that's who I am. And then this award came about, and I was so pleasantly surprised because I didn't know it was there, but it was nice to have that validation of all my hard work."

The award she's referring to is the Outstanding Master of Business Administration Graduate Award. This award is voted on by the business school faculty and given to the student with the top GPA who demonstrates exceptional commitment to both their education and the community.

Bradley was not only committed to her own education, but she was also committed to helping her friends and classmates along and elevating their MBA experience. She said, "Being in a cohort was an experience that I had never had before. But it was comforting because no one else really knows what I'm going through right now, except these 19 other people." She enjoyed being challenged by classmates who had the same, or higher, level of understanding, it made her want to be better. But on the other hand, when she was in groups with peers who weren't quite at her level of understanding, it compelled her to step into a mentoring and guiding role.

"If I could see that someone was struggling, I would reach out to them," she said. Throughout the entire program, she and her cohort would share templates and collaborate to increase the level of learning. To Bradley, this was an excellent opportunity to simulate real-life workplace situations, "There was an aspect where I pretended that these are people that I'm actually working with. Sometimes I'm the manager or sometimes I have to follow."

It was in Dr. Schaap's Organizational Leadership class that her cohort finally came together. Dr. Schaap stressed that they were peers, not competitors, and from that point on, Bradley says they were a team. "If I knew when someone was either not understanding something or not grasping a concept, I wasn't going to let a team member fail if I could help them," she said. "But then other people did that for me too. There were times that I didn't understand things, and I thought, 'Well this must be my good karma.' And I realized it's a community."

What an MBA and This Award Means to You

Bradley was quick to point out that she was just doing her best, not for recognition, but because "I just wanted to learn as much as possible and as deeply as I could." She said that it was nice to have proof that she's different, "I'm not just somebody who's kind of plugging away and wants the title or wants to level up the management," and this extra unexpected recognition was incredibly validating to have.

Earning this outstanding student award has made life after MBA a bit different for Bradley. She describes herself as her biggest critic, so completing her MBA and finishing at the top of her class helped her realize "I really can do anything. When I doubt myself, it's a reminder that I can do anything I set my mind to."

Going through this program also showed Bradley how strong her support system is. As a rigorous and demanding master's it's imperative to have people around you who can help you juggle everything.  As a single parent, she felt that earning her MBA was something she needed to do for her daughter, she said "I thought, 'Well, I have to do this for my family.' For future growth, for income levels, and to show my daughter that she can do anything. No matter what you're up against, you can do anything."

Responsible Business and Life After MBA

While she wasn't aware of CSUMB's focus on responsible business in the Online MBA program, this ethical way of doing business has changed the way she views things in and out of the office. Bradley was already looking for every opportunity available to give back to her community and do more for others, which made CSUMB's curriculum another perk of the program. But she admits that "I don't think I would have understood responsible business completely until I went through it and experienced it."

The longer she was in the program, the more she loved the values the university upholds, "When you're really immersed in responsible business, and it's ingrained in everything that the program has, that's when you can really experience it and it makes your understanding deeper."

The concept of "people, profit, and planet" was one that Bradley was particularly taken with. "The idea of bettering your community, sustaining where we live, and interconnecting people while still making a profit, it's just the coolest model, I've ever seen," she said. In fact, it's changed the way she sees things and how she approaches business, "Quite honestly, before this, I didn't think about the planet as much, but now I do. So it's contributed to who am as a person, which spills over to all the other facets of my life."

The Online MBA experience permeating everyday life has served Bradley well. The ability to write concisely was the first and possibly most important skill she carried over to her current career, "Instantly I was able to increase my level of business communication. And it changed the way I think about how I write things or how I present things." She found that she was able to apply every class to her current role in real-time, and this became particularly useful when she was promoted to a senior HR role while she was in her organizational leadership class.

Upon entering the program, Bradley thought she wanted to open her own business and take on an entrepreneurial role. As she progressed through her Online MBA experience, she found that she excels at managing people and projects simultaneously. She now knows that she wants to stay in the education system, and because she has been able to tie in all the concepts from the MBA program, she has excelled in her new role and earned yet another award---employee of the year.


If you need the business skills and knowledge to achieve the bright future you've envisioned for yourself, an MBA may be what takes you to the next level. Consider how CSUMB's Online MBA program can help you get there. Interested in learning more?

1 Some admissions requirements (as well as the minimum required GPA) will change for fall 2020