MSM Student Spotlight: Maria Johnson

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MSM student Maria Johnson standing in front of her company sign.After graduating from college and earning work experience, many people often get the itch to pursue higher education. However, as a full-time employee, it can be difficult to commit to graduate school while balancing work and life.

After graduating from Georgia Southern University in 2015, Maria Johnson joined Zaxby’s Franchising as the Field Testing Coordinator, responsible for coordinating, consolidating, and executing field tests and implementation for its 900+ stores. Despite having a job that requires a significant amount of travel, Maria decided to join OHIO’s Online Master of Science in Management (MSM) program.

“I always knew I wanted to get a master’s degree,” she says. “But, after completing my undergraduate degree, I first wanted to accumulate real-world work experience. Likewise, I was not quite sure in what field I wanted to earn an advanced degree. So, by the time I applied to the MSM program, I was at a point in my life where I was stable professionally and ready to commit. I am a firm believer there is no time like the present and, if I did not commit to getting a degree now, I would always regret it.”

Maria says when looking for a graduate degree in management, she wanted a program that was flexible, virtual, affordable, and customizable. As a working professional whose job requires a lot of travel, an online program was a necessity for Maria to achieve her professional and personal goals. After she finishes her MSM, Maria hopes to focus on becoming an entrepreneur and someday open her own restaurant.

Online programs like OHIO’s MSM allow you to study the topics you want at your own pace, on your own time. Our part-time program is structured for you to take one, seven-week course at a time. This allows you to focus and master each topic before moving on to the next course. “I really like this format because of the speed and the flexibility,” Maria says. “The courses are so informative and applicable in everyday life, too.”

Maria’s success was aided by her organization and time-management skills: “I usually do my schoolwork in the evenings and on the weekends (typically Sunday),” she said. “My Sunday evenings are focused on preparing for the upcoming week’s assignments, readings or lectures, or attending class. I allow myself to enjoy the weekends and relax, but I allocate a few hours every Sunday night to tackle any schoolwork. I have not had to sacrifice any leisurely activities since starting the program and I still find plenty of time in my busy schedule to accomplish my schoolwork.”

As a Field Testing Coordinator, Maria’s job varies from day to day, with frequent travel. Maria felt in her gut that OHIO’s MSM was a good fit for her lifestyle, “I just knew it was going to be a good match, and I embraced the uncertainty of what to expect,” she said. “I liked how not only was I able to achieve a degree in management but take the certificate path of entrepreneurship and supply chain operations. Both certificates relate back to my current job, so I knew it would be beneficial for my overall long-term career goals and my current work life.”

OHIO’s MSM program prides itself on mentorship and commitment to student success. “Even though the program is virtual, the relationships I have formed with my professors and the support and opportunities they have given me is unmatched,” Maria says. “Dr. Taylor-Bianco has led this program and faculty to put the students first, and it shows.”

Maria is about halfway through the program and serves as the president of the MSM Student Leadership Board. The board coordinates and schedules student programs to encourage networking between students and executives. MSM students can attend virtual Fireside Chats and Executive Coaching sessions, receive a mentor through the Executive Mentor Program, and network with fellow classmates through the Ally Family.

From these virtual events Maria has learned how to stand out. She says the key to success is, “engage, engage, engage — I cannot stress it enough. Since we have all been virtual for so long now, it has become second nature to most of us. Most, if not all, of our executives who have become friends of the program are more than willing to speak with students to offer advice.”

While some students may have reservations about attending graduate school online because of the lack of physical interaction, Maria doesn’t see it that way. “Even though the program is virtual, you can network with your classmates. I have formed great relationships with these wonderful people, and knowing we are all on this journey together makes things a little bit easier.”

And when asked if she would recommend OHIO’s Online MSM to others, Maria says: “Yes, I would scream it from every rooftop if I could! The coursework is applicable to the real world, there are plenty of networking opportunities available, and the flexibility to build which certificates a student wants to pursue is a unique feature of the program that not many other online programs offer.”

“Do not let the fact that the program is virtual scare you away,” she says. “I have never once felt like I have been alone on this journey!”

Learn more about Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Management, which is comprised of stackable certificates and can be completed in less than two years.