Christina Hathorn is a woman of her word.
"After I walked across the stage and sat back down with my bachelor's degree, my grandmother, Helen Goodrich, grabbed me and said, 'So, when are you going back?'" Hathorn said. "I promised her then, 'You will live to see that day.'"
Five years later, Hathorn walked across the stage again after earning a Master of Business Administration from the LSUS online program. Goodrich was there with additional family members celebrating the big accomplishment.
"My grandmother said, 'You can never have enough education and no one can ever take it away from you.' I told her the MBA was an aspiration of mine, and she held me to it," Hathorn said. "I had been searching for an MBA program for six months when my grandmother said, 'I will help you pay for your master's if you just do it.' How do you say no to that?"
Hathorn is a human resources manager for Gilchrist Construction Company in Alexandria, Louisiana. She has worked for the same company for more than 12 years, including the last three in her current role.
"I discussed going back to college with my company's chief resource officer," she said. "I said, 'This is something that I want to do. I can commit to one year of putting my family to the side. I want to be able to do this to broaden my horizons.' I wanted additional educational information and ways to put back into my job from outside of these doors -- a fresh look at it," Hathorn said.
Constructing a Career
Hathorn was born in Alexandria and lived in Texas and Mississippi before returning home in 1999. She graduated from LSU Alexandria with an associate degree in 2009 and a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2012.
"When I went to school to get my associate degree, I started in law and went for a year or two, but the lines were not black and white enough for me, so I quickly changed my major to business," she said. "When I got my associate degree, I knew that wasn't it. I knew that I was going to get my bachelor's degree, too. The MBA was simply a dream."
After Hathorn was ready for a change from working retail, she landed a job that engineered her career.
"Working for this company was by accident," Hathorn said. "While looking for work, my aunt told me 'I always see that Gilchrist is hiring -- just send in your resume.' They needed an administrative assistant. I interviewed and it has been like a storybook ever since."
Hathorn gained experience as a clerk and a generalist in the HR department before working her way up to management.
"The people here are phenomenal," she said. "We have a chief resource officer I report to, who serves as my mentor, and absolutely inspires me. She reports directly to our CEO and leads several of our divisions. At some point, I want to be that ultimate department leader that reports directly to the owner or chief."
The MBA curriculum provided the insight for Hathorn to continue her career trajectory at Gilchrist. MKT 701: Marketing Strategy, taught by Dr. Karen James, was her favorite course, although it was the only course she did not make an 'A' in. It still set the tone for her in the program.
"That course was in my first semester," she said. "It was probably one of the toughest, most time-consuming courses, but the instructor was hands-down phenomenal. Any time I contacted her and needed some help, she responded and was absolutely incredible. I had two classes and was completing the program as a full-time student. It was really one of those make-or-break courses to see if I could stick with the program."
Homework on the Go
Hathorn chose the LSUS online MBA program to accommodate a full-time job and a busy life with her husband, Keith, and their 14-year-old sons, Caelib Sillavan and Kristian Hathorn.
"My sons are involved in a number of sports -- archery, football, basketball, baseball," she said. "It took a lot of evening practices in the car with my laptop and my phone on a hotspot to be able to complete the MBA program. When I heard that you can finish on the fast track with seven-week semesters in one year, it was an attention-grabber. The accreditation and affordability at LSUS sealed the deal."
In fact, some of the members of Hathorn's inner circle thought she might have too much on her plate by adding a master's degree program for 12 months.
"They understood why I wanted to do it, but with that added pressure, the job responsibilities that I have and how busy we stay with our kids, they thought I had absolutely lost my mind," she said. "They said, 'I know you like to stay busy and like to push yourself, but I think this is going to be too much.' As little as they saw me that year, they understood and supported why."
In addition to the flexibility of the asynchronous format, the backing from Gilchrist helped Hathorn make time for the online MBA program.
"If I needed to come in late, leave early or come in on weekends, the company afforded me the opportunity to work it to what I needed," she said. "With the family support and the work support, I was able to do it. There were some late nights, but I pulled it off."
Just because Hathorn has an MBA doesn't mean she won't continue learning and growing. In addition to work, she is involved in the local Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter.
"I want to increase my SHRM level to senior professional in HR," she said. "I'm waiting a little bit longer before I start looking at books again. From the time I finished the MBA, I have made up time I missed with my family and poured myself into work. I have all of these different ideas and improvements that I want to put into place. Right now, it's sports, family and work."
Hathorn has no desire to leave Gilchrist, but she has received some interest from other companies through SHRM.
"From time to time, there's the fishing of 'How happy are you?'" she said. "Since I graduated from LSUS, I've had four people contact me directly and ask, 'Hey, would you consider leaving?' Because of how good this company has been to me and how flexible they are -- knowing that my kids and my family come first -- I've happily replied, 'Nope. Not leaving.'"
The effort involved in earning an MBA was well worth it for Hathorn -- especially to keep her promise.
"You have to make sure that you have the support and the time availability in place," she said. "I cannot imagine trying to do it myself. If you have the ability to start off part-time instead of jumping in, like I did, and committing to full-time, start off that way. Once you're in there, don't look back. Do what it takes to finish."
Of course, grandmother knew best.
Learn more about the LSUS online MBA program.
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