As a child, Melanie Donahue dreamed of becoming two things when she grew up — a Ragin' Cajun and a lawyer. Check. Check.
Donahue graduated from the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management program online at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a 4.0 GPA in May 2019. She completed the Bachelor of Arts in English from UL Lafayette 18 years earlier.
"I like the business aspect of practicing law — the contracts and working with business clients," she said. "While I can look at it from a legal perspective, a lot of time you need to look at it from the company perspective.
"I felt that getting the MBA would allow me to better serve my clients by giving me a better understanding of the business aspect of what they're doing."
The reason Donahue specifically chose the human resource emphasis was her experience working as executive director of a local government agency when she first became a lawyer.
"I enjoyed the human resources element of that job and working with the employees and doing strategic planning," she said. "I know that the human resources aspect is where my passion lies."
Donahue, who graduated with a Doctor of Law from Western Michigan University in 2009, currently practices in Mandeville, Louisiana. She is proud to be a Ragin' Cajun again.
"My family has been attending school at UL Lafayette since my great grandfather went there when it was Southwest Louisiana Industrial Institute," she said. "Every generation has attended. The online format allowed me to attend UL Lafayette again."
Full Plate of Jambalaya
In addition to running a successful law practice, Donahue serves on two nonprofit agency boards of directors. Plus, she and her husband, John Donahue III, have four children — Kelsey (22), Riley (19), William (14) and Brody (12).
"The online MBA program has been manageable," she said. "During the week, I focus on my office, the kids and family. Then, on the weekends, I get up early and get my work done. It can be pretty time consuming, but it can be done on a weekend. I can do everything that I am doing and work on my own time. The flexibility has been fantastic."
MGMT 525: Organizational Behavior and Leadership was one of Donahue's favorite courses in the MBA with a concentration in Human Resource Management program online.
"That course was intriguing," Donahue said. "It's not just the business aspect of it; you are looking at the behavior of people you are working with and how different personalities interact and work in an organization and at different leadership styles. That's very important."
Donahue believes all of the information in the program is applicable to her job.
"It's amazing how much I am applying what I am learning every day, not only in my office, but also on the nonprofit boards that I serve on," she said. "I was able to jump right into conversations and be on the strategic planning committee on one board because of what I am learning at UL Lafayette.
"It applies. It's not so academic that you're wondering, 'How am I going to apply this to my everyday life?' It's very hands on."
Donahue said her family and friends were excited when she told them about her return to higher education.
"Of course, they also asked, 'How are you going to do that? How are you going to find time?"' she said. "When you really want something, you make it work. Some of my family members are now in the MBA program. Hearing how happy I am with it is encouraging other people to do the same. UL Lafayette is in our blood."
The experience of returning to college also allows Donahue to have a bonding experience with her kids. Kelsey has now graduated from LSU, where Riley is currently attending, but Donahue and her daughters were all in college at the same time for a while.
"When they come home on the weekends, we talk about our homework and our exams and how it's going," she said. "It's always, 'What are your grades?' It's exciting to share that with them."
Donahue also believes it's important to show her younger children the importance of education by example.
"They get off the bus, get home and we have snacks," she said. "Then it's, 'Let's all do homework.' They see me working and ask what I'm doing. I tell them that I have a test. I have a deadline. They see that schoolwork is important and the time management required. They're learning those things."
She has also seen proof that those messages are getting through.
"My son had a social studies project that he could present on a Tuesday or a Wednesday," Donahue said. "It was on the Cajun culture. I told him, 'I can bring you food, but the only way I could do it is if your project is on Wednesday. I have a final exam on Tuesday.'
"He told me his teacher was going to understand because, 'You're getting your MBA and exams are important.' To hear him say that was cool. They see it, and it has clicked."
Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler
Donahue found the faculty very accommodating throughout her time in the online MBA program.
"The professors and deans work with you and listen to you," she said. "When I talk to them, I feel like I'm talking to an uncle or an aunt because it's back home. UL Lafayette is a family.
"The MBA program is flexible. I have encouraged others to enroll for those reasons. I thought online was going to be difficult, but everything you need is right there in front of you. UL Lafayette makes it easy to use. I did two courses a term, but you don't have to do that. You can do a slower progression."
Now that Donahue has completed the master's degree program, she looks forward to enjoying time with her family, hunting, cooking and especially reading.
"I can't wait to sit down with a book of my choosing," she said. "I told somebody recently who owns his own large company, 'If you're going to do your MBA, the UL Lafayette online program is the way to go.' It was everything I wanted plus some."
Learn more about the UL Lafayette MBA with a concentration in Human Resource Management program online.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.