Becky Moreno fought back tears as she stood in the CenturyLink Center and watched her eldest child, Sarah, graduate with a master's degree from LSU Shreveport.
Then, Becky went from proud mom to proud of herself as she took the stage and became the second person in her immediate family to earn a graduate degree.
"She wanted me to go first, but I said, 'No, Sarah, I want you to be the first one to get a master's degree,'" Becky said. "I wanted to see her walk across the stage. It made me want to cry. It was all worth it for that moment."
Becky graduated from the online Master of Business Administration in Hospitality and Casino Management program, while Sarah graduated from the online MBA in Project Management program on December 20, 2019.
"I couldn't have imagined doing it without her," Sarah said. "It was so nice having somebody there who knew everything I went through to get to that point. She also worked so hard. I knew she wanted to be there with me."
Becky and Sarah, who live about 90 miles apart in northern California, enrolled at LSUS together in Summer 2018.
Becky, an administrative assistant at the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Stockton, graduated with a bachelor's degree in speech and language therapy from the University of the Pacific in 1984.
"I spent over 14 years in insurance, and I was in different tiers of management," she said. "If I wanted to go further, I would need to have a master's degree. I burned out from that because I was working 60-plus hours a week with a family. It was too much.
"I found a position as business manager at the school my kids attended. It was a very progressive school. I loved it. If I wanted to go work on the regional level and be more effective, I needed to have that degree. That was the impetus."
Sarah, who works for Sequoia Consulting Group in the Bay Area, graduated with a bachelor's degree in political economy from the University of California Berkeley in 2016.
"A lot of the jobs I was applying for that I liked required a master's degree," Sarah said. "So, I started looking into different MBA programs during my senior year at Berkeley. My mom was researching for me when she found the program at LSUS."
That research paid off for Sarah, who was recently promoted to a program manager. She'll be redesigning a mobile app and developing an online platform for people to access their employer benefit information.
"After a couple month of meetings, I finally landed a new role – thanks to my degree," Sarah said.
Pacific Coast Homework
Becky and her husband, Aaron, have three children — Sarah, Ariana (23) and Michael (13). Ariana graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a computer science degree in 2018.
"My dad was surprised my mom was going to earn a degree with me," Sarah said. "My sister was inspired seeing us go through the whole program. They have been very supportive and understanding of the time I had to devote to school. Now, I am getting back to my family time."
Becky was initially drawn to the LSUS online MBA program for its affordable tuition, accelerated time to completion and Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation. She also liked the inclusion of books in the tuition cost and the flexibility of the online format.
"I am working on the regional level, which was what I wanted to do," Becky said. "I have a really good employer who allowed me to go back to school and do the program. If I were still at the school-site level, I wouldn't have had time to do the program.
"I didn't have to juggle any scheduling. I went to work and did what I needed to do after work with my schooling. I was able to work it around all of my obligations. It didn't feel like I was giving up one thing for another. That was a plus."
Sarah was working for Pacific Dental Services as a benefits coordinator in Stockton when she started the program. She transferred to Apache Junction, Arizona, for seven months before landing an employee advocate job at her current company and moving back to Cali in March 2019.
"I was leaning toward online education because I wanted the flexibility to be able to move if a different job took me to a different state," Sarah said. "Being able to work during the day in town and spend weeknights and a lot of weekend mornings working on school was helpful. I came out of it without great financial burden. Plus, I was still getting work experience and going to school."
Becky and Sarah took only one class together at LSUS, but having each other to talk to while going through their online MBA programs was beneficial.
"I was very nervous about going back to school," Becky said. "From 1984 to 2018 is a big chunk of time I wasn't a student. It was nice to be able to start the program off together. If I had questions with Moodle, Sarah was more familiar with that than I was. I got it pretty quickly. Moodle is a wonderful platform."
Sarah was able to immediately apply the information she learned in the online MBA in Project Management program to her career.
"I've been consulting with what my company is doing right and what it's doing wrong," she said. "The MBA program has helped me think about how an organization operates and how it could be better. I have definitely been able to help in small ways. Hopefully, I'll have a greater impact now that I am done."
Both Becky and Sarah love their current jobs, but they have laid the foundation for the future by earning master's degrees.
"As I get closer to retirement age, I want to have flexibility because I don't want to completely retire —that's the ultimate goal for me," Becky said. "I'd like to do some special projects. We have quite a few casinos around, although I'm not a gambler. Twenty dollars is my limit."
Now just a couple of months after graduation, Sarah has landed that promotion and is excited about what lies ahead.
"I definitely want to be a leader for projects that are important to benefits in different capacities. There are a lot of things brokerage firms are missing in that industry. I'm excited about my new role."
Even though Becky had not been in school for quite a while before enrolling at LSUS, she now realizes that anybody can thrive in the online program.
"You have to make sure to stay on top of the program and not get behind," she said. "If you can do a little bit each day, it's manageable and it won't feel overwhelming."
Added Sarah: "I have a friend who I have been pitching this program to. There is a lot of work that will be on your plate with work, life, and family and friends. Make sure to set aside time for yourself and to work on everything. It goes by fast.
"You'll learn so much about yourself and business, in general. Everybody is going to take it differently with the workload, but understand that it's a process. You will learn a lot and get a lot out of it."
No matter what the future holds for Becky and Sarah, they will always fondly look back on the memories of earning a graduate degree together and especially of sharing the commencement ceremony stage.
"LSUS did a great job of making people from all over the country feel welcome," Sarah said. "Everything was communicated clearly. There was a nice brunch for all of the online students.
"I felt like I was a student on that campus because I was so welcomed. It was nice to be a part of that. Both of us achieving that together was very special."
Learn more about the LSUS online MBA programs.
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