Stephanie Strobel is no stranger to earning college degrees.
The Downingtown, Pennsylvania, native raised her total to five when she completed the online Master of Business Administration program at the University of South Carolina Aiken in August 2020.
"Considering I am moving up the ranks in the healthcare field, dealing with funding and starting up programs, I felt like an MBA would propel me and move my career forward," she said. "Plus, it would keep my foot in the door if I decide to do something else. I would have the flexibility to do that with this degree."
Two years ago, Strobel changed roles at the State of South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control in Columbia. Already an alumna of the University of South Carolina, she enrolled at UofSC Aiken.
"I wanted someplace close so that if I had to drive to campus, it wasn't too far," she said. "There are so many online programs. UofSC Aiken had the most positive reviews and a higher percentage of graduates who were able to [propel] their careers forward quickly."
In addition to holding down a full-time job while earning an MBA, Strobel is a single mother to her children, Michael (13), Isabella (11) and Gabriella (6). So, the asynchronous online format was the only realistic way she could return to higher education.
"The flexibility of it is amazing," she said. "It took me longer than I wanted because I took one course every seven weeks, but it has been a wonderful experience. I could study at my own pace and access lectures and course materials whenever I wanted.
"You have deadlines to meet and certain times you have to take tests, but as long as you put in the time and the effort and study, you'll be fine. We have discussion boards, so your classmates are there and available for you. They have different jobs that can relate to the material that you may not be so familiar with. That was also helpful."
Strobel holds three associate degrees from Midlands Technical College in Columbia, South Carolina. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences from Trinity Southern University in Plano, Texas, in 2002.
"I fell into a series of jobs within the medical field and outside of it. At one point I was a customer service manager for Walmart and I eventually started as a manager at a Lauren's Hallmark store and loved everything about business."
Once the store closed, Strobel hoped to become its new owner. Instead, she returned to the healthcare field and landed a position in a hospital laboratory.
"I fell in love with the lab and the nature of testing," she said. "Without lab work, doctors and nurses don't know how to treat a patient. Since then, I have dabbled in everything in the healthcare field."
Strobel returned to school and graduated with an associate degree in medical laboratory technology from Midlands Technical College in 2006. She then completed the four-year degree in the same area of study at Georgia Southern University one year later.
"I worked in the lab for more than nine years, and I did every shift under the sun," she said. "After working third shift, I needed a first shift position to better my family dynamic. I went to work for the State of South Carolina in the Department of Health and Environmental Control, specifically the newborn screening department within the laboratory."
Strobel's favorite part of the online MBA curriculum was the capstone course — BADM A760: Business Vision, Innovation and Strategy.
"I loved it," she said. "It was challenging and wonderful to work with a lot of diverse people for the globalization project. In one of my classes, we had students from France and Istanbul. It was quite amazing."
Taking the Fifth
Now that Strobel has her first master's degree, she is excited to see the career opportunities it leads to, although she has already tasted some of the fruits of her labor.
"I believe that this degree will definitely help open doors for me," she said. "I would like to become a program manager. My supervisor and director of my department said I'll get a raise with the MBA. That's a win-win."
Strobel also showed her children the importance of education by earning the degree, while they helped her stay on course. She has also completed certifications in occupational therapy and physical therapy.
"They are so proud of me," she said. "They say, 'Oh my gosh, Mommy does school.' They're my biggest cheerleaders. All of my family and friends are excited."
The UofSC Aiken faculty was also readily available to Strobel anytime she had a question or concerns, which helped her thrive in the online format.
"The professors at UofSC Aiken are great," she said. "They are knowledgeable and understanding. Sometimes things come up, and you might need to get further help or seek further resources.
"I have had a professor get back to me at 10 p.m. when I needed help. That is amazing and unique to this program. It's as difficult as you want to make it, but it's also rewarding if you invest your time in it."
Learn more about UofSC Aiken's online MBA program.
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