When Stephanie Decker ‘16, ‘18 MBA decided to return to school after working for 20 years in the food industry, she knew she needed a flexible option that would allow her to continue to raise her family, work, and remain active in all of the things that were important to her.
An alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, Decker checked there first when she decided to complete her bachelor’s degree. Upon learning they did not offer an online bachelor’s degree, she looked into Johnson & Wales, where she eventually completed both her undergraduate and graduate degrees online.
Why did you choose JWU Online for your degree?
The academic rigor of JWU was excellent and I could learn at times convenient to me with my busy work and family schedules. After completing my BS – Culinary Arts and Food Service Management online in 2016, I chose to stay on and complete a graduate degree here. I completed an MBA with a concentration in finance this past May.
Many of our online students are balancing a full-time job, a family, and more. Was this true for you?
Yes! I am a full-time program director for a college in Pennsylvania. I have an active social life, a wonderful husband, and four children. Additionally, I am the concession stand manager for our local little league and a volunteer at our church. In order to be successful, I had to have a strong support system. My husband picked up so much of my slack for four years while I completed my studies. My kids encouraged me even when I had to bring my laptop on family vacations. Finally, my bosses encouraged me and supported my decision to go back to school. Without all of the support and encouragement I received, I don't know if I could have pulled it all off.
During your time with JWU Online, was there anyone in particular who helped you reach your goals?
My advisor, Mike O'Malley, was a big help. Tim Howes was an exceptional professor. He took the time to explain to me through video a tricky financial concept that I was struggling with. Professor Randy Kemnitz was also a huge help and encouragement. Sometimes in life, we want to make a switch but wonder if we can pull it off. When I contemplated adding the finance concentration to my MBA studies, I worried if I could handle it. I had spent my entire career studying the culinary industry, but he saw potential in me and encouraged me to make the leap!
What advice would you give to someone who is considering pursuing an online degree?
Know your why. If you have a strong why, you will persist even when things get difficult. I had many reasons to complete my degree, but my biggest reason was that I wanted to show my daughters they could do anything they set their minds to. They watched me commit to the goal and were there on graduation day as I walked the stage. For me, that why helped me push through to the finish line.
And just remember that this journey will test you, but you can do it! Give yourself a set day off. For example, I gave myself Fridays off. Most first discussion posts were due Thursday before midnight so I worked hard all week then took all day Friday off. Little rewards like that helped me stay motivated.
What are your plans now that you have earned your master’s degree?
Now that I have completed my MBA – Finance, I am taking on a bigger role at work. I am also volunteering to help the less fortunate in my hometown learn how to budget and make wise financial decisions. Being an online student for so long gave me so much insight into what makes for a great online learning environment. I want to take that perspective and help other JWU students achieve their academic goals. So, I will be teaching finance online in the fall here at JWU!
To learn more about the Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education and how one of our degree programs can help further your career, complete the “Request Info” form on this page or call 855-JWU-1881 or email [email protected].