Dana Salisbury can't hide her smile.
The chief operations officer for a dental practice management company is enrolled in -- and loving -- the LSUS online Master of Business Administration program with a General Business Specialization. She is on track to graduate in December 2018.
"Very recently, I got that breath of fresh air that a lot of working parents do, and I felt that it was finally time to do something for me again," Salisbury said. "Even though I was a busy working mom, I felt unfulfilled. This MBA program was the right fit. When I saw that it was 100 percent online, it seemed almost too good to be true. I have found it to be true. It's just fantastic."
Salisbury began her career as a part-time administrative assistant at Classic Practice Resources in Baton Rouge while enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana University. She became a full-time employee after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in marketing in 2003.
"Going back and getting your MBA, you really appreciate having the real-life experience behind you because all of these concepts have much more mass as you're experiencing them in the business world," she said. "I always regretted not going straight through. When life happens and you have kids, it's never a good time to go back."
The flexibility of the online format allows Salisbury to work on school anytime, anywhere -- even while on a family vacation with her husband, Bruce, and daughters, Anna (9) and Emma Grace (4).
"A lot of people think, 'I'm going to get my MBA. I won't have time for anything else,'" she said. "We recently took a trip to Disneyland in California. I studied on the airplane. My husband is amazing -- he took the kids to ride the rides. I went to the hotel and took an exam and caught up with them later. It's the best of everything. It was wonderful."
Several factors played into Salisbury's decision to enroll in the LSUS online MBA program.
"I said, 'Wow, I'm getting an LSU-branded, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-accredited degree, and the price is so affordable,'" she said. "I have heard more people say, 'I would never do an online degree program because you don't have the social and networking experiences as in a real-life classroom setting.' There is not a more untrue statement.
"When I come home at night, I talk to my husband about my classmates as if I've met them. A lot of the classes have group activities in which you are making much deeper connections than in an in-person class."
Salisbury goes above and beyond to make sure she thoroughly understands and learns the material.
"Because I am older, I take this very seriously," she said. "I am a diehard perfectionist -- self-proclaimed. On three credit hours, I easily spend 20 hours a week. I'm a big believer in sharpening your axe before you go and chop down the tree. I do a lot of prep work."
"I have learned the most in Dr. Meeks' class because of the level of critical thinking that he gets from you," Salisbury said. "I probably spent more time on that class but had more fun doing it.
"Dr. Vines does the Zoom video sessions and makes finance so interesting. He is hilarious. When you least expect it, he tells a joke. Someone's Mac computer dinged twice when they got a message during a video chat. It was really quiet for a while, and he said, 'Sounds like an angel is getting his wings.' You don't know what he's going to come out with next."
Salisbury was born and raised in a Baton Rouge family that placed a strong emphasis on higher education, which she is passing on to her daughters.
"My 9-year-old and I study together," she said. "We are still technically in the same room. I get to spend that quality time with her as a mother during the week. Of course, my husband takes over. It's one thing to decide you're going back to school, but when you have a supportive spouse, they're earning this degree with you."
While Salisbury still cooks dinner, Bruce cleans up the dishes and get the kids ready for bed.
"My husband knows this degree is 100 percent dedicated to them," she said. "With regard to our family, I am doing everything right now to better myself for them. He's my hero."
The rest of Salisbury's inner circle is also excited about her return to higher education.
"My parents are so supportive," she said. "I've told my friends, 'Look, I'm here, but I'll see you when I'm done.' I'm really trying to finish strong right now. There are two terms where I'll be doing two courses in order to finish. My friends definitely know that I'm putting my nose to the grindstone. In December, we'll go all out."
Salisbury and her mother, Sandy Pardue, work together. In January 2017, they also started a company podcast titled Dental Drill Bits.
"My mother is the face of the company, but I am now her boss," Salisbury said. "I always joke that she can set the record straight whenever she wants. I run the administrative part of the company. I felt I needed more tools in doing that. We're trying to grow this company, and I want to bring it to new levels. Knowledge is power -- there's no getting around it."
Although Salisbury hopes to remain at Classic Practice Resources, she believes the online MBA with a General Business Specialization creates opportunities.
"You've got to have resilience and stamina to make it through this program," she said. "If you don't already have them and you're dedicated, you will leave the program with those skills. There's never a good time to get started. Just start. Just make the commitment. Invest in yourself, and it will change you for the better. You won't get worse."
Salisbury plans to attend graduation in Shreveport to celebrate her accomplishment with her family. She will be more than ready to show off her smile when she walks across the stage.
"I opted to join the Sigma Iota Epsilon Honor Society," she said. "My husband said, 'This is great. Let me take a picture of you.' When I look at my picture and look into my eyes, I am a completely different person than I was a year ago. It really is empowering for me and my daughters."
Learn more about the LSUS online MBA program with a General Business Specialization.
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