Chris Coffin had been out of school for two decades before he decided to seek an advanced degree.
Coffin’s career led him through several consulting jobs in Canada and the United Kingdom before he landed his current position as a global software sourcing manager for Citigroup in Toronto.
“I had been wanting to do my MBA for some time — probably within a few years of graduating with my bachelor’s degree and working in management consulting,” he said. “I could see the benefit of formalizing that education and accelerating it.”
Coffin had put off enrolling in an MBA program until he learned of the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance online program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Its affordability convinced him that he would get a good return on his investment.
It wasn’t the cost alone that attracted Coffin to UL Lafayette’s B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration. He knew the MBA would be worth it when he counted up the benefits.
“UL Lafayette is a school that has brand recognition within the United States,” Coffin said. “It’s not some online, private, for-profit education company. It’s a state-funded, well-recognized university with a strong pedigree. The business school also maintains AACSB accreditation, which is the gold standard for business schools.”
Coffin considers himself a social person, so he was skeptical of enrolling in an entirely online program at first. His doubts were quickly laid to rest as he became more involved in the forums.
“Online as a medium has come a long way since the days of VHS tapes being shipped by the post office,” Coffin explained. “I have found it far more engaging, which has fed my need to feel like I’m part of something else. I had never anticipated that going in.”
UL Lafayette students use Success Hub through Moodle, which allows classmates to achieve their goals and communicate with each other asynchronously. Coffin has been active on this platform, engaging his classmates in an attempt to make the digital space more welcoming.
“I want others to participate, and if I want others to participate, I need to do my part to try to create the conversation,” he said. “I try to make sure that I welcome anybody that seems to be new to the forum or asking early questions, because I wish that sort of thing was available to me when I first joined.”
Coffin likens his experience with the online forum to his time managing a team of 30 people at HSBC, one of Europe’s largest banks.
“Those 30 people were spread all over every operating center of the firm: Brazil, Hong Kong, Dubai, Canada, France and Buffalo, New York,” he said. “I learned through managing that team how to engage people in different time zones and how to understand cultural or interpretive differences. There’s a lot of value to everyone feeling like they’re being heard, and they’re part of the program.”
Coffin has been taking his time in the program, signing up for just one class at a time to take full advantage of his employer’s reimbursement support. At this point, he has completed all of his foundation courses, and he has been surprised by the expansiveness of the program.
“I found accounting far more interesting than I thought I would,” he admits. “I hadn’t really considered how all the different elements fit together. I have run my own independent consulting business, and I now have a better understanding of why accountants did certain things with the books for that business that I never really properly understood before.”
Of course, a great class is often made by a great instructor.
“I found Ms. [Tracy] Bundy to be really engaged and active in the Q&A for the course,” he said of his MBA 510: Foundations of Accounting instructor. “That was particularly beneficial, and it’s one of the reasons why, if somebody were to ask me what course they should start if they had to take all their foundations, I would say start with accounting.”
The Old College Try
Finding the time to complete his coursework hasn’t been a problem for Coffin. With the support of his wife, Tracy, he has been able to concentrate on the material without having to make too many sacrifices.
“I devote a chunk of four to five hours to my studies on a Sunday every week, and then I spread the rest over the week, particularly if I’ve got a gap in my schedule,” he said. “My wife has been quite understanding of my time on Sundays and particular days of the week. At the same time, there are lots of other demands, and we’ve found a way to make the schedule work.”
In sharing his experience, Coffin hopes to bring more people to the digital classroom by allaying any reservations they may have about pursuing graduate studies online.
“It’s an excellent option if what you want is an education in business,” he said. “It’s okay to have the apprehension about online, but you should really try to gain some experience in how it works, because it is an engaging environment to learn in. That isn’t obvious on the front end when you’re considering it.”
There is also no reason to feel confined to the digital learning space, according to Coffin.
“There are lots of resources in your local community that can help you,” he said. “Things like the local library have refreshers on statistics or additional reading opportunities. Students should also think about how they would have access to other elements of the university on campus. If you want to go on campus to have a look around and feel part of the program, they really encourage you to drop by.”
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online MBA program with a concentration in Finance.