Ryan Kleiss came to Shreveport to graduate from the LSUS online Master of Business Administration program in December 2015. He left town feeling like a Jedi.
"We flew down from Illinois for graduation and did the whole thing," Kleiss said. "I proposed to my fiancee [Elizabeth] there at Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The chancellor had us stand up at graduation and talk about the fact that we had flown down and got engaged. I wasn't expecting anything like that. It was kind of neat. It was a great experience."
Kleiss' uncle, former Eastern Illinois University professor David Arseneau, initially steered him toward researching MBA programs with Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation.
"I kept thinking it would be nice to pursue something more and get more knowledge that could help me get promoted or just become a better leader," Kleiss said. "My uncle said, 'Why don't you look at online programs?' I stumbled on LSUS in a Google search and said, 'I like the look of this program.'"
Kleiss, a financial advisor at Edward Jones who grew up in Illinois, also liked the idea of having a master's degree from an LSU system school. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in finance from EIU in 2006.
"Having that LSU name on the degree at that price point was fantastic," he said. "You really can't find something for less than $20,000 that has that name recognition. The network that LSU has, whether at Baton Rouge or at some of the other campuses, gives you a leg up on other people that you're not going to be able to find elsewhere."
Homework in Cyberspace
Kleiss worked as an internal wholesaler for American Century Investments most of the time he was enrolled in the online MBA program, which he completed in 18 months.
"At the time, I lived in Omaha," he said. "Then, I moved to Kansas City. I took off four weeks from one class when I moved to Kansas City. It was seamless. I traveled to see other financial advisors at my last job. When I traveled, I sat in a hotel room and had class and my material was all right there. It was great.
"Using tools like Blackboard was fantastic. I was able to get quite a bit done via email. I think I only talked to two professors on the phone. My class projects were seamless. The professors were great."
The knowledge gained from the curriculum remains applicable to Kleiss' career, even though he switched companies a few months after graduation.
"With my job at the time, I basically helped financial advisors create personalized strategies for their own clients," Kleiss said. "That environment was competitive. You had chief financial officers and certified public accountants who were trying to get jobs above you or around you.
"Having cost-benefit analysis and the knowledge that I had from the MBA program gave me an upper hand. I could use what I was learning in class while I was doing it. We talked about marketing in a team meeting, and I said, 'Oh, this popped up in class. I can use this.' I could raise my hand and contribute."
The online MBA helped Kleiss achieve his career goal of working for Edward Jones, an investment company.
"My dad, James, has been with the company for over 35 years," Kleiss said. "He's in the process of retiring. I just followed in the footsteps. I really have a passion for it. That's just how it worked out. I've already reached my career goal.
"I want to continue being an Edward Jones financial advisor, helping make an impact on people's financial goals for the rest of my life. I jumped around a little bit in my career, but this has always been the end goal."
One MBA course in particular laid the foundation for Kleiss' current role.
"My favorite courses were MKT 701: Marketing Strategy and ISDS 702: Quantitative Methods in Business," he said. "Quantitative Methods in Business was the hardest class I had, but I learned a ton that's really applicable to my job right now."
LSUS turned out to be a life-changing experience for Kleiss in more ways than one. He also met Elizabeth right as he started the online MBA program.
"If I hadn't had her support, I don't think it would have been as smooth as it was," he said. "She was really encouraging. She is a big proponent of getting an education."
Kleiss believes the LSUS online MBA program is invaluable for anyone in the business galaxy with the right approach.
"You have to prepare to take the time to invest the most effort that you can," he said. "It's like a lot of things -- the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. The thing that sets this program apart is, the professors at LSUS really care.
"They are not afraid to challenge you, but at the same time they are there to help. That's a huge difference between LSUS and other institutions. Prepare to put in the effort and you'll get a lot out of it. If you have a certain focus, those professors will help you."
Nowadays, Kleiss beams over his LSUS degree, the life he has built with Elizabeth, and one amazing weekend in Louisiana.
"When you look at my wall right now, you see the framed MBA, my bachelor's degree and some pictures," he said. "When people take a look around at my office with my St. Louis Cardinals stuff and my degrees, they get a sense of, 'Oh, this person is still continuing to learn.' And I still am. I'm working for another financial designation right now because I love to learn."
He might even use "The Force" occasionally.
Learn more about the LSUS online MBA program.
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