Simultaneously working for the University of South Carolina Aiken and earning a Master of Business Administration from its online program turned out pretty nicely for Tammie Minter.
The Chicago native started a new job on the main USC campus in Columbia on June 3, 2019, less than one month after graduating from USC Aiken. The new job brings a loftier title, a higher salary and a much shorter commute.
"The job offer happened right around the time I put my MBA graduation date on my resume," Minter said. "This degree helped me out, right off the bat."
After working for USC Aiken as assistant director of financial aid for more than four years, she is now serving as the senior assistant director of financial aid in Columbia.
"In the back of your mind, you are thinking, 'What can I do to be more marketable?'" Minter said. "A lot of companies say they want a bachelor's degree with experience, but they prefer a master's degree. I had been thinking about doing it for a while. I wanted to earn an MBA so I would be ready if I ever need to look for another job."
In fact, Minter started an MBA program a decade ago, but she had to quit in order to focus on finding work after losing her job at Allen University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and started her career.
"That was distracting, and I felt like looking for a job was more important than going to school," she said. "When I decided to go back, I looked at all of the different programs at other schools. I looked at the course schedule and what was needed. The MBA program at USC Aiken seemed like it fit more into what I was trying to do."
Right on the Money
Minter spent the first part of her career working in property management, but she was eager for a new direction when a temp job in the Allen University business office fell into her lap.
"While I was there, I said, 'I might as well work here and get a degree.' Soon after I started, I enrolled [in the bachelor's degree program]," she said.
Minter then moved to a position in the financial aid office where her exposure to undergraduate students provided her with further motivation to complete her bachelor's degree.
"Because I was working in financial aid and seeing students come in, I understood what you needed to do to stay on track and get the degree," she said. "I kind of got tricked into working in financial aid, but I have been there ever since."
After four-and-a-half years at Allen University, Minter worked for Columbia-based South Carolina Student Loan and Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina before joining USC Aiken in 2015. She is also a notary public. The online format at USC Aiken allowed her to balance work, school and her home life.
"I had a set routine," she said. "I spent more time on school on the weekends. If it was a weekend that I didn't have much to do, I could knock out as many assignments as I needed to so I wouldn't have to worry about them during the week. The online format worked out well."
Even though Minter worked for USC Aiken at the time, she had some reservations about enrolling in a fully online degree program.
"At first, I thought online would be awful because what if I needed extra help? I don't have a professor right there to talk to or know who my classmates are," she said. "But the way this program is set up made it work. Emailing the professors back and forth worked. They responded right away. It was also easy to talk to my classmates and get help or insights from them."
Although Minter enjoyed all of the courses in the online MBA program, she highlights MKTG A716: Marketing Management, one of five core courses, as her favorite.
"I did not think I would like that course, but I learned a lot in it," she said. "The professor, Dr. Julie Steen, was excellent. It was as if she was in the class with you. She was in the discussions and gave you feedback right away on your assignments. It turned out well."
Minter believes the knowledge she gained in the program has helped her hit the ground running at her new job.
"A lot of it helped because I work in the financial aid office, so I have to do a lot of charge reconciliation," she said. "In some of the courses we had, you learn how to deal with employees. It was helpful to learn different styles and what you need to do in certain situations."
The flexibility of the online program allowed Minter to battle through adversity on the home front, as well. Her husband, Anthony, had to have major surgery that kept her out of town for more than two weeks of a seven-week semester.
"During that time, I had a lot of assignments to do," she said. "I told him that I should drop the class because there was a lot going on. He said, 'You know what? You need to finish. You can do this.' So, I was at the hospital with my laptop and made it through the class. My husband pushed me to finish."
Minter wrapped up the experience by participating in the hooding and commencement ceremonies. One of her daughters, Taylor (22), is set to graduate from Allen University in December 2019, while her other daughter, Alexis (26), is working in information technology in Atlanta.
"My husband has a bachelor's degree, and Taylor plans to go for a master's degree, but I am the first person in my immediate family with a graduate degree," Minter said.
Minter is excited about her new job at USC, which she expects will keep her plenty busy, and she doesn't plan to stop recruiting MBA students to USC Aiken after her great experience.
"So many other programs stretch it out two years," she said. "If you are willing to put in the time, you can finish the program here in one year by taking two classes at a time. I explain to people I talk to about the program that the material might be something you are not familiar with, but the professors are willing to help.
"I tell them to make themselves as marketable as possible and that you would always have this degree to fall back on. I have two co-workers who are now in the MBA program at USC Aiken."
Learn more about the USC Aiken online MBA program.
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