Best and Brightest Online MBA 2022: Whitney Graham, Auburn University (Harbert)

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I am a hard working mother, driven, keen to increase my knowledge and give back to others in my community/organization. »

Age: 42

Hometown: Carrollton, Kentucky

Fun fact about yourself: I love to travel (especially with my family) and I have been able to visit all continents except Antarctica. My family is currently planning a trip to Italy, which will be my children’s first time out of the country.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kentucky

Where are you currently working? Senior Director of Strategy and Product Management at Valvoline

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have spent my entire professional career, 20 years, at Valvoline. I am very proud to receive the Valvoline V award in October 2021. I was nominated by my peers for championing an innovative new product for the organization. Each year, only 5 people in the world receive this honor.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose the Auburn MBA program because it is an excellent nationally recognized course. The Auburn program has also mastered online teaching and allows students to feel part of the in-person experience. I also needed a program that would allow me to take 1 course per semester. The flexibility of the program was important to me since I worked full time and had three young children involved in several school and sports activities.

What was your favorite part of an online MBA program? My favorite part of the Auburn Online MBA program was being able to use my work experiences over the past 20 years in an academic setting. Merging the academic knowledge I was acquiring with real-world experiences gave me a different approach to assignments such as case studies, discussion posts, and group projects. My second favorite part of participating in an online MBA program was the example I was able to set for my children regarding study habits and hard work to achieve your goals. The example I was able to set for my children was as valuable as all the academic knowledge I acquired during my time at Auburn.

Ohat was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The most surprising thing about an online learning environment was how easy it was to connect with other online students in the program, even though we were in different states and time zones. . The professors did a great job trying to adapt to the different geographies when selecting project teams.

How does your online experience compare to your classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Since I graduated from my undergraduate degree almost 20 years ago, a lot of changes have happened. However, Auburn has been participating in the online learning platform for over 20 years and has mastered its ability to provide a classroom experience for remote students. The lecture halls were equipped with cameras and audio equipment that allowed online students to feel included in the classroom without being physically there. Of the 13 classes required, I only encountered one lecture that had audio issues, which is a big achievement for the Auburn team. Professors made sure to give online students extra time to complete projects, case studies or exams and were also available via Zoom or email for questions/help.

What is your best advice to a candidate for success in an online MBA program? My best advice for a candidate would be to connect with other students in the program. Having a support system is very important with an online program. I was fortunate that throughout my time at Auburn, I had three colleagues who were also enrolled in the online MBA program. Sharing this experience with colleagues was a great opportunity.

What would you change about an online MBA program? Unfortunately, many people think that attending an online MBA program isn’t as prestigious as an in-person MBA program. However, this is not an accurate statement regarding the Auburn online program. Online students must participate and complete the same work as in-person students. Therefore, I would like to change the personality of online MBA programs.

How has your online training helped you in your current job? My undergraduate degree is in engineering, but for several years I have worked in the marketing segment of my organization. Sometimes I was unfamiliar with the terminology my colleagues were using due to the difference in our backgrounds. By obtaining my MBA, I was able to acquire additional knowledge which benefited my professional career.

Did you get promoted while in the program or immediately after graduation? When I started the MBA program, I was the Director of Valvoline Heavy Product Strategy in my organization. However, I was recently promoted to my current position, which is Senior Director of Strategy and Product Management.

Did you get a raise during the online MBA program? I prefer not to answer this question.

Number of hours per week devoted to the online MBA: I usually spent 10-12 hours a week on my homework. It is important to note that I only took one course per semester.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to continue to progress in my responsibilities within my organization. I want to add value by applying my educational and real life experiences to improve the business. I also enjoy coaching and mentoring others in my organization and in my local community.

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