Tanya Chatman's personal life went from hectic to chaotic shortly after she enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration program offered by LSU Shreveport.
"It was the worst possible year I could have chosen to go back to school, but that's where I was at the time," she said. "I did it. God got me through it. Finished."
Chatman completed the program in October 2017. Along the way, she dealt with her six children, the serious medical issues of her sister and parents, the loss of her mother and heavily increased duties at work.
"I did not sleep much for a year," she said. "I did a lot of schoolwork in the evenings after everyone was asleep. I went to bed at 2 a.m. and got up at 5 a.m. I would think a normal person would not want to do that. If they would, it would have to be somebody in my situation. Most people are not in my situation."
Chatman, who sells real estate on the side, quickly saw her tenacity pay dividends. She received three job offers, including the one she accepted as director of marketing at Med Express in Alexandria, Louisiana, before she completed her final online MBA course.
"The job is very new," she said. "I love it. I get to go out to the people. It's perfect for me. It entails doing kind of what a pharmaceutical representative would do, but for the service industry. The MBA definitely opens doors. I can say that for sure."
After Chatman earned an associate degree from LSU Eunice in 1997, she went to work in the child support division of the district attorney's office in St. Landry Parish, near her hometown of Washington, Louisiana. Chatman is the first person in her family to earn a college degree.
"I was supposed to return to school shortly after I earned the associate degree," she said. "I got married and started the job. I got comfortable and didn't go to school right away. I started having children and put it on the back burner.
"It was enjoyable for a while. It kind of got routine. Then I said, 'Okay, I'm ready.'"
Chatman first completed a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Marketing/Management at the University of Louisiana Monroe in 2012. She then landed a job in the continuing education department at LSU Alexandria.
"I was on the fence about getting my master's degree," she said. "I wanted to do it prior to going to work for LSUA, but I just didn't know if I had enough oomph left in me. It was really an effort to better myself and satisfy myself."
As if she didn't already have an overflowing plate when she started school, Chatman was named interim director of LSUA's Learning Center for Rapides Parish in addition to running the Continuing Education Department on the main campus.
"I was doing two totally different jobs," she said. "It was just a crazy year. If you told me right now that I had to do all of this and go to school, too, I'd tell you, 'I'm definitely going to do all of this, but I'll have to drop some of the school so I can do it.' I don't know how I did it, but it was great."
Chatman decided to attend LSUS partly because she worked for the university system.
"It was the initial driving factor," she said. "I talked to so many people about it, but I think that's what got me there. Even if I hadn't been working for [the LSU system] at the time, I would have likely considered it because it was LSU."
Her favorite course in the curriculum was MKT 701: Marketing Strategy with Dr. Karen James.
"It was very involved," Chatman said. "It was probably one of the ones that took more hours than the other ones. She was great. I'm kind of drawn to marketing."
Chatman also enjoyed both courses she took with Dr. Michael Meeks.
"I liked his style," she said. "I felt like you really got a lot from him. He had you in groups, and you had to really interact with the people in your group each week. Then, there was a big project at the end. It kept you real involved with the people in your class."
She said a big key to her success in the program was to not look too far ahead and take one day at a time.
"If you can throw a few hours a week to it, it's going to pass quickly," Chatman said. "Look at it by term, not like, 'I have a year-and-a-half to do this.' It's so much better to look at it that way and get through the seven weeks. As soon as the first week starts, the other six will go by in a blink. If you look at it like that and just get through each one, that's helpful."
Setting an Example
Chatman hopes all of her children -- Olivia (17), Jenna (16), Eli (11), Iva (8), Audra (5) and Thea (2) -- will follow her lead into higher education.
"I have told many people, 'If nothing else, as long as it really shows my children how important education is, it will be worth it,'" she said. "Based on the struggles that happened to get here, the older ones really noticed and could understand it. I know they all did. I'm hoping it really makes an impact there. I think it will."
Her friends and family, including her husband Heath, provided Chatman with support along the way. Even with such a busy life, they knew what she was doing was important.
"Some of them were not surprised at all," Chatman said. "I like school, and they know that. Some thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I can't believe it.' They mostly thought it was great. Of course, I had a lot of encouragement along the way. A lot of them are just amazed now. Some of them even look at it as something they might potentially want to do."
Without question, Chatman has proven that even with some roadblocks along the way, the online MBA is still very attainable.
"Most people don't believe they can do things," she said. "I find that is so common. Not everyone needs to bite off two classes at once like I did. I would consider one class versus the two, but it's definitely doable. If I can do it, anybody can do it. Seriously."
Learn more about the LSUS online MBA program.
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