Las Vegas resident Sara Sullivan is doubling down on her healthcare career with a Master of Business Administration in the LSUS online program.
"I'd been wanting to do this for six years, but I never thought it was the right time," she said. "I feel like everyone has a bachelor's degree and that I need an MBA in order to stand out and advance in my career. A lot of the positions I'm looking into in hospital administration and senior leadership require an MBA. I was scared to try to do it while working full time. I had to jump into it and work it out."
Sullivan, a regional marketing manager for Dignity Health - St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, is on track to graduate in December 2018 -- 10 months after enrolling. She plans to make her inaugural trip to Shreveport to walk the graduation stage.
"It's funny because Allegiant Air has direct flights from here to Shreveport," she said. "It's the weirdest thing ever. That's a random city to fly to from Vegas."
Even without laying eyes on campus, Sullivan clearly saw the value of the LSUS online MBA program.
"I did a lot of research for a couple of months before I made a decision," she said. "What I liked about LSUS is that I wasn't hounded, which is nice. When you request information, you normally get blown up with emails and phone calls. They were very supportive and very explanatory."
Sullivan said the affordability, accreditation, accelerated pace, brand name and quick time to completion were factors in her decision.
"You can't go wrong with the cost for what you get, for the accreditation," she said. "Plus, you can get it done in 10 months. It can be done. That's huge."
Sullivan grew up in a small town in Montana. Her father, Dan, has worked in pharmaceutical sales for 35 years. After graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration and Management from the University of Montana in 2008, Sullivan worked in marketing outside of the healthcare field.
"I love relationship building. I love meeting new people. I love being the face of the organization and representing the organization," she said. "Marketing, specifically with digital, is such an evolving, interesting field. It suits my personality style. I'm outgoing and able to interact with a lot of people."
With the intent of working in pharmaceutical or medical device sales, Sullivan accepted a position as a hospital development liaison for the Nevada Donor Network in March 2014.
"I got into developing donor programs for hospitals and doing a lot of clinical work," she said. "That got me hooked on being in the medical field. It's a good industry to be in. You have job security because people are sick and need to go to the hospital, unfortunately. My main focus going into the medical field is that you get to help people, even though it's kind of in a roundabout way."
Sullivan hopes the MBA will eventually help her transition into a senior leadership role at a hospital.
"I'm really passionate about healthcare and what patients and their families experience when they are in a healthcare environment, whether in a hospital or a clinic," she said. "A patient experience director is the next goal I want to accomplish."
Even with a rigorous work schedule that demands between 45 and 55 hours a week, Sullivan has enough time for schoolwork with the help of her boyfriend, Michael Clay.
"He is very supportive," she said. "He's picked up a lot of duties around the house, if I can't do laundry or the dishes when I have a lot going on with school, he does it. It's really helpful if you have a good support system that understands and supports you."
Sullivan also devotes the bulk of her time away from work to school.
"People say, 'Earning an MBA can't work if you work full-time,'" she said. "It can. I'll be at the gym on the StairMaster reading for class. Every spare minute I have, I'm dedicating it to school. We also travel a lot. I have family all over the country, although I haven't been able to do that much since I started school. If we do, I'm able to bring my laptop and work through things as I go."
Although Sullivan works in marketing, she opted for the general specialization rather than the marketing one for a broader educational experience.
"I was going to do marketing, but I decided, 'Who knows if I'm going to stay in marketing forever?'" she said. "I fast-tracked the degree by taking two courses at a time. That's the one thing that really drew me to the program. I'm just going to knock it out, get it done and be cool."
The information in the online MBA curriculum has still been quite applicable to Sullivan's career in several ways.
"I work in a hospital environment where it's all about customer service, and I have shared a lot of the required articles and videos for class with my leadership team and staff," she said. "Even in the marketing course, I learned a lot about things currently being done that I didn't really have a lot of knowledge about. I found that to be very rewarding."
MKT 701: Marketing Strategy, taught by Dr. Karen James, and MADM 720: Leadership Communication, taught by Dr. Kimberly Williams, are Sullivan's two favorite courses so far in the online MBA program.
"Leadership Communication was one of the most rewarding classes that I've taken so far with what I learned and how it can contribute to the real world," she said. "Marketing Strategy was the most difficult class I've ever taken. Once I was done, I was so proud of myself. It was interesting, as well."
With graduation day rapidly approaching, Sullivan sees the light at the end of the tunnel and believes the MBA will continue paying off.
"My current job is already anticipating my graduation," she said. "They have a plan for me after I obtain my MBA. It's already laid out for me, which is awesome. The MBA is definitely opening up a lot of doors for me to progress in my career."
That Sullivan opted for a healthcare career and chose to continue her higher education to bolster that career is a point of great pride for her father.
"He wanted an MBA but never got one," she said. "He's old school. He never really saw the benefit of it because his bachelor's degree was kind of like a master's degree is now when he was starting his career. He's really excited for me."
Sullivan is so pleased with the online MBA experience at LSUS that she has recruited other students to sign up.
"One of my boyfriend's friends just enrolled after I told him everything about it," she said. "My director at work doesn't have his MBA, so he is looking into it. I gave him some advice, too. I would recommend it to anybody who is looking for flexibility and affordability and for a good degree."
However, Sullivan cautions prospective students to not expect a cake walk.
"So far, I have a 4.0 GPA, but it's not been from me slacking off," she said. "I've had to work my butt off. You have to be committed, motivated and driven. Otherwise, you are going to fall so far behind. You have to be self-motivated and a self-starter. I know it's hard for a lot of people to get off work, go home and force themselves to do more work. You have to be 100 percent in it to succeed."
Following that advice is a safe bet.
Learn more about the LSUS online MBA program with a General Business Specialization.
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