by Meghan Butler
I visited Duquesne University in October of 2019 while I was deciding if this school and program were the right fit for me. In addition, I needed to decide when I was going to start. Before the year ended, I decided that I would move to Pennsylvania, work for one more year as a teacher, and begin the program the summer of 2021. By the end of April 2020, it was clear to me that I had to change my plans. After about two weeks and an overwhelming number of emails (sorry, Chris Rouhier), I was accepted to the program and began preparing for the start of the summer semester and my move from Michigan to Pennsylvania.
Pursuing an MBA was such an unexpected career decision, even as I look back on it now. I received my undergraduate degree in biology and integrated science and I have a teaching certificate (both Michigan and Pennsylvania). But it was through my experience as a teacher that I chose to completely change my career path. I taught natural resources and human impacts units to my 8th graders for five year; as I taught these units, it became clearer to me each year that I needed to do something about climate change and how we as a country and as a world treat the Earth. It took me several years to decide how I wanted to approach this. Having a science background, it made sense that I pursue a degree in conservation biology, engineering, or something of that nature. But I wanted to make sure that I was in a position to make serious changes (not that the amazing scientists and professionals in those fields don’t do important work and make changes). After some research and soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that businesses are some of the main culprits of significant environmental impacts, and therefore, it is in the business sector that significant change and improvements can be made. So as unlikely as it was coming from my zero- business background, I came to Duquesne for the MBA program, but I am really here for the sustainability specialty.
I was really worried to start the summer semester, since I had never taken any introductory business courses like accounting and finance. I was also nervous because I had been out of school for five years and I was going to be taking classes online, which is something I only experienced once in my undergraduate career. Additionally, pursuing this program meant moving out of Michigan, where I have lived my entire life and have constantly been surrounded by my family and closest friends. But, the cohort and the professors have all been supportive and encouraging, so I settled in pretty fast and have surprised myself! I quickly grew accustomed to the Zoom format over the summer and the seven weeks flew by. Due to the success I experienced during the summer and continued concern with COVID cases, I decided to do the fall semester through Zoom. While I have continued to be academically successful in the virtual format, I definitely feel a sense of isolation watching most of my classmates interact in person. One reason I was very excited to go back to graduate school was the opportunity to meet new people and form relationships. And while I do feel like I have gotten to know people and made connections, it is not quite the same through a computer. That being said, I know that I am gaining valuable skills learning and interacting in this format (we all may be on Zoom more often than we think in the future!) and am thankful that I was given this opportunity, even if the experience is different than I thought it would be.
I am excited to see what the spring semester brings and what I will be able to do with my experiences throughout this degree program. I can tell that this program will prepare me to be a qualified and capable employee. Also, the numerous connections through the university, along with the relevant job experience through the project courses, will set me apart from graduates of other MBA programs. I know that when I graduate, I will be able to bring experience, fresh ideas, and excitement to my future employer that will provide a positive impact for the company, and therefore the world overall, as we move towards a more sustainable future together.