After gaining more than 20 years of real-world experience, Selene Moniz couldn't pass up an opportunity to increase her higher education and enhance her business acumen.
"The company where I work offered an enterprise scholarship opportunity," she said. "I had thought about getting an MBA because I knew the functionality of what to do, but I didn't have the technical terms and book knowledge to put toward my practical knowledge."
Moniz landed one of the scholarships offered by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) where she is the business manager for the MUSC Center for Telehealth. She graduated from the online Master of Business Administration program at the University of South Carolina Aiken in August 2020.
"I didn't ever want to be at a disadvantage by not having that degree to back up my experience," she said. "If you don't have an MBA, sometimes you can't advance in the business part of an enterprise. It worked out well."
Although Moniz was open-minded when she researched online MBA programs, she had a few stipulations for choosing a university.
"My heart was in South Carolina," she said. "I knew I wanted to stay in state. We are fans of the Gamecocks. We have family who went to school there. So, being part of the USC system was one reason I chose UofSC Aiken."
Moniz's personal life and career were factors in her decision, too. UofSC Aiken's online format gave her the flexibility to work full time and enjoy being with her family. She and her husband, Brian, have two children, Peyton (21) and Ella (11).
"It had to be completely online, because I knew that I would have to do my work evenings and weekends," she said. "UofSC Aiken's ranking was a big deal to me. The courses offered and the comprehensive material were important.
"I knew a couple of folks going for their MBA, as well. One or two of them were looking at online-only schools. I didn't feel like the depth of those programs was there, compared to UofSC Aiken."
On the Menu
Moniz changed majors twice before graduating with a bachelor's degree in education from the College of Charleston in 1996. She got married the following week.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do," she said. "Then, my husband and I went into the private sector. He had a business opportunity to be an independent operator of a quick-service restaurant in Columbia. His family had been in the business, but it was my first experience in the business world."
After running successful franchises for 13 years in Columbia and Myrtle Beach, Moniz and her husband returned to Charleston in 2012.
"Our desire had always been to come home, preferably within the business we were in," she said. "Over time, my husband decided that wasn't his calling. We always knew he wanted to do something else."
"I wasn't sure where my skill set fit. At that point, I had been a partner in running a $2 million-a-year business, but I didn't know how that would translate elsewhere."
Moniz landed a position as a unit secretary with MUSC. After two years, she moved to the Center for Telehealth as an office coordinator. She took on her current role as business manager in March 2019.
"The MBA has accentuated my understanding and given me the depth I didn't have before," she said.
"The program added a level of insight I would have appreciated knowing when I started in business. I didn't know the technical words for a lot of what I was doing. To be able to have those conversations and have the resources makes it even better."
Now that Moniz has completed the online MBA program, she looks forward to applying her knowledge and taking advantage of new career opportunities.
"Especially since MUSC was gracious enough to offer the scholarship, I'd like to continue with the organization," she said. "I didn't allow myself to believe I could finish the program. I said, 'I'll take one more class. I'll take one more class.' Now, it's done. I really did this."
Moniz received a lot of encouragement from her family during her time in the online MBA program.
"They were all very accommodating," she said. "Education is important to me. It's always worth the time and effort. Having their support and remembering it was okay to do something for myself was nice. Sometimes it was their cheerleading that got me through to the next day."
Throughout her time at UofSC Aiken, Moniz applied the knowledge she gained to her career on a regular basis. "Suddenly, the light would come on when people would say things in meetings," she said. "My practical experience finally meshed with an academic understanding. The MBA has allowed me to be more valuable to my company."
Moniz believes that the best path to success while earning a degree online is devoting the right amount of time to school. She is happy that she got her degree and made the most of a good opportunity.
"My aunt, who started her MBA later in life, told me the program was going to be hard," she said. "You can't go into it and think that you are going to do it in your spare time. You have to commit to it and accept that it's a journey. It is 100% worth it."
Learn more about UofSC Aiken's online MBA program.
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