Isaac Smith is taking real-world applicability to another level in the UL Lafayette MBA Online Program with a concentration Project Management.
As the former baseball standout at Bradley University wrapped up classes for his May 2019 graduation day, he was preparing to get married, looking for a house and planning multiple road trips. How’s that for a personal capstone project?
”Any time we are doing any of those things, along with work, it’s nice to be able to get up early in the morning and get my schoolwork done, or come home after supper and knock it out then,” Smith said. ”The flexibility of the online program is huge.”
Smith is an account manager at Snap-on Tools in Atlanta. He held a similar position at Otis Elevator Company when he enrolled in the online MBA program in October 2017.
His fiancée, Maria Haymond, is also earning a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. They will be married on July 13, 2019.
”The initial reason I enrolled was, my former company supported going back to school and completely paid for tuition,” Smith said. ”Ultimately, the MBA is to help me move into a managerial role with whatever company I am involved with.”
UL Lafayette met one of Smith’s top criteria for an online MBA — its B.I. Moody III College of Business holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
”That was a huge selling point,” he said. ”I also didn’t have to worry about taking the GMAT. Being in Atlanta, I knew that I didn’t want to travel during the week to go to an in-person class or take up 16 weeks of my time for one class. I like the 8-week semesters.”
Smith grew up in Richmond, home of Eastern Kentucky University. When the EKU head baseball coach left to accept a job at Bradley University, in Peoria, Illinois, he offered Smith a scholarship to play for the Braves. As a senior, Smith helped lead Bradley to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 59 years.
”It was a great experience for me,” he said. ”Baseball definitely forms a lot of lifelong friendships. I played centerfield and was a team captain my final two years.”
After graduating from Bradley with a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2015, Smith landed a position at Otis Elevator Company and moved south.
”It just fell into place,” he said. ”I didn’t plan on it. I honestly thought I would still be playing baseball. I really enjoyed my first job out of college with Otis. At Snap-on it was more of a project management and sales role. That’s what I started to develop, and I want to continue on that path.”
Taking a couple of online courses while attending Bradley helped Smith prepare for the fully online MBA with a concentration in Project Management program.
”It’s set up very well through the resources that UL Lafayette has provided,” he said. ”I knew with my work at Bradley that it would be easy to get in and get started without a lot of hiccups. I took two courses at a time, and I spent about 10 hours per week on schoolwork.”
The three courses Smith enjoyed most in the graduate degree program are: MGMT 555: Project Management I, MGMT 556: Project Management II and BSAT 510: Data Analysis.
”The two project management courses exposed me to the process while I was doing projects at work,” Smith said. ”The data science course was great because everybody these days has to be their own data analyst within their role. It helps you dig in — especially in my case — with the customers I serve right now.”
Earning an online MBA with a concentration in Project Management could not have worked out much better for Smith. In addition to providing him with knowledge he could apply to his personal life, the curriculum helped him thrive at both jobs he had while in the program.
”When you have a meeting with a customer, it seems like there’s always something that comes up in a conversation that, when I go over it in my head while walking back to my car, I say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that before I learned it last week in class,”’ he said. ”It was very applicable.”
Smith had plenty of support from his family and friends in his return to higher education.
”They were excited for me,” he said. ”Both of my parents have their master’s degrees, too. My sister is in currently in a doctoral program. We’re all on the same path right now.”
With his bride-to-be and her family, Smith has become a de facto Clemson University football fan. In fact, he makes several trips to South Carolina in the fall to cheer on the Tigers. However, he had another journey on the agenda before the 2019 season kicked off.
”My dad went to graduation, too. I had never been to Lafayette, so I thought I might as well take a weekend trip. It was cool to see.”
The experience of the online MBA program reaffirmed to Smith some of the lessons that baseball taught him.
”Because it’s an online degree program, you start out thinking, ‘Everything is going to be there for me,”’ he said. ”You still have to put in the work and treat it as a second job. There are some people who will write one or two sentences on a post on the message board.
”You should try to show the knowledge you have and what you can bring to the table in a class or by being a good teammate. Your second job needs to be a professional place, too.”
Once Smith ties the knot, buys a house and has his Clemson football games mapped out, he looks forward to seeing what the future holds for him as an MBA graduate.
”I would like to do some type of business development role or manage projects for the industry I work in — power plants and power generation,” he said. ”Being my age and where I am in the company, I expect the MBA will definitely help open some doors.”
Learn more about the UL Lafayette MBA Online Program with a concentration in Project Management.