Miriam Keith of Bay St. Louis decided as an undergraduate at Millsaps College that the Early Start Program, which would allow her to take graduate-level business classes during her senior year in college, made perfect sense.
“I decided that I wanted to do the Early Start Program shortly after I declared my major in accounting,” said Keith, who graduated with her BBA in accounting in May 2018.
The Early Start Program allows Millsaps undergraduate BBA students to get a jump on obtaining a graduate degree. Students may be eligible to take up to two graduate courses in the spring semester of their senior year, if they have accumulated enough undergraduate hours and do not have to take a full course load during that final semester.
Attending graduate school at Millsaps is advantageous for Millsaps graduates, Keith said, because they are able to build upon already established relationships with professors. “What other graduate school could I attend where I would not only receive an excellent education, but continue to develop my professional network with faculty that I know personally at the same time?” she said.
Keith said she knew if she became overwhelmed with coursework and studying for the CPA exam that she could easily speak with her professors. “I knew I could trust their advice during stressful times because I had developed connections with them when I was an undergraduate,” she said.
As an undergraduate, Keith was an assurance intern in the financial services sector for Ernst & Young (EY) in New Orleans. “During my three-month internship, I was able to combine classroom knowledge with real-world experience and assist my engagement teams in performing critical audit functions,” she said.
Knowing where she would attend graduate school eased some of the stress related to preparation for the CPA exam, Keith said.
“I was able to set out my exam schedule during my last month of undergraduate classes with guidance and support from my professors,” she said. “Studying and planning for the CPA exam became even easier because one of my required graduate classes was a CPA preparation course. With changes that have been made, I can sit for the exam before I even start grad school, which gives me more time to pass all four parts before I begin working full time for EY.”
Thanks to the Early Start Program, she was already working on her graduate degree. The program allowed Marsh to take a graduate-level course during her senior year in addition to the undergraduate courses she needed to graduate.
“I realized during my junior year that the Early Start Program was something I needed to do,” she said. “I spoke with one of my professors about it, and he convinced me it was a great way to knock out some credits and save time and money on the journey to earn my master’s degree. He was right.”
Marsh was able to tackle the number of undergraduate hours she needed for graduation, satisfy her obligation as a student-athlete, and start on her graduate degree, thanks to guidance from the Else School of Management at Millsaps.
Business Communications was the first graduate-level class in which she enrolled.
“It prepared me for a new culture of education,” Marsh said. “Graduate school is very different from undergraduate, and I'm grateful I had the chance to adapt early on. The Early Start Program means one less class that I have to schedule for my MBA and it saves money in the long run.”
Professors in the Else School of Management were helpful, she said. “Open communication and close relationships with my professor and advisors helped tremendously,” she said.
Marsh said it was a challenge to juggle her undergraduate classes, graduate classes, the extracurricular activities in which she was involved, and study for comprehensive exams required for undergraduate graduation, but she managed.
“I practically lived in Murrah Hall the last semester of my undergraduate years,” she said. “Looking back, I know my last semester would have been just as stressful even if I had not taken a graduate course. The Early Start Program is doable, and I recommend it.”
"I took away valuable lessons such as to pursue jobs that you really enjoy and be open to new opportunities you may have not considered," he said. "I also learned that jobs at Southern Farm Bureau are not all about being on the phone and selling insurance but are varied."
Foropoulos said he appreciates Suzi Nyberg, career specialist for the Else School of Management at Millsaps, for the guidance she provides and for arranging the tour of Southern Farm Bureau for MBA students interested in careers in finance, human resources or management.
"I have utilized the career services available to MBA students the entire semester I have been enrolled at Millsaps," he said. "Mrs. Nyberg has been a huge help to me in discovering a career path that I want to pursue."
Foropoulos said his experience at Millsaps has been different from his undergraduate experience.
"Coming from a larger school, I have grown to enjoy the small size of the classes," he said. "The small class size has enhanced my learning experience. It is easier to form relationships with professors and classmates. The small class size has made it easy for me to receive help on any subjects or questions that I struggle with."
Foropoulos would like to earn a degree in physical therapy and open his own practice after he earns an MBA from Millsaps. "I am also interested in pursuing a career involving financial investments," he said.
Selena Swartzfager and Ashton Swartzfager share more than just a mother-son bond. Both chose to continue their education at Millsaps College, where they each earned an MBA. Although they graduated years apart, they consider their experience at Millsaps second to none.
Gibson, a 2017 Millsaps graduate who earned a BA and majored in both mathematics and literature in English, said her MBA classes and work as a business analyst with the ELSEWorks Entrepreneurship Program at Millsaps are preparing her for future employment.
“I want to be the full package for any future employer,” said Gibson, who is from Clinton, N.Y. “My desire is to be analytical, creative, and business-minded, and that is why I chose to pursue my MBA at Millsaps.”
Gibson asserts the importance of a wide breadth of knowledge in the business sector.
“Business is knowing facts and figures and how to apply them to decision-making, as well as effectively communicating in all media,” she said. “My undergraduate studies apply to everything I do in the MBA program. I highly recommend STEM and humanities majors consider pursuing a MBA.”
As a business analyst with ELSEWorks, Gibson works with start-ups and business development projects.
“I get to explore both nonprofit and for-profit enterprises,” she said. “Understanding how both business models work will give me an edge in the future. My work with ELSEWorks will influence not only my future career but also my personal dreams.”
Gibson credits her professors with enhancing her Millsaps experience.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with one of my former English professors, Dr. Michael Pickard, because of an ELSEWorks project,” she said. “My professors enhance my MBA experience in every way. They are there to support my endeavors.”
“The Business Advantage Program taught me the fundamentals of managing a business, and the EMBA program educated me about what I needed to know to be successful in my career,” said Cooper, a Byram resident who is campus program supervisor at Canopy Children’s Solutions in Jackson.
Cooper said his participation in the Business Advantage Program, which is a certificate program, and his interaction with professors in the Else School of Management at Millsaps helped him decide to earn an EMBA.
“The EMBA program is detail oriented and provides the opportunity to learn not only from your professors but also from the experienced professionals who are your classmates,” said Cooper. “It is an experience you would not get in a regular college setting.”
Cooper said his EMBA class was culturally and occupationally diverse.
“Throughout the 16-month program, we were able to learn about each other and from each other,” he said. “Listening during class discussions to classmates share their professional experiences was a plus. I was able to build relationships that are useful for networking for career purposes and when seeking professional advice.”
Cooper, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics from Alcorn State University, said he values his EMBA experience.
“All of the professors were awesome,” he said. “Everything I learned in class and from my professors helped me become a more knowledgeable person and better leader. It was difficult at times, but well worth it.”
The EMBA program provided a first for Cooper: a trip out of the country. As part of the program’s capstone experience, Cooper traveled with his classmates and professors to Millsaps’ facility in Mérida, Mexico, where they studied issues in international business.
Cooper said he would encourage anyone thinking about earning an MBA to consider Millsaps.
“Obtaining an EMBA from Millsaps was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I now have a degree from one of the best business schools in the nation.”
Chambers, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing plus a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Mississippi State University, said small classes at Millsaps have allowed her to easily make friends with her professors and classmates and interact with them.
“I like being part of a smaller, connected program,” Chambers said. “Everyone was extremely helpful when I applied to the program. I was offered opportunities that I didn’t know were options. I believe my success matters to everyone here.”
“I worked as a graduate assistant, which was a great way for me to learn more about the campus and immerse myself in the program,” she said. “This summer, I have filled my schedule with a trip to study abroad and an internship.”
“I went to study with professors and students from the Else School in Yucatán where we studied the economic environment of developing countries. It was great fun, and I absorbed a lot of the culture.” The week she returned, Chambers started an internship with L3 Technologies.*
After graduation in December, Chambers plans to work in marketing research or to find a competitive intelligence position. “I’ve always loved marketing, and I’ve learned a lot during my internship with L3 Technologies,” she said.
Chambers’ experience with Millsaps has been successful, and the time in Jackson has been rewarding as well.
“I love the Fondren area of Jackson,” she said. “Green Ghost Tacos, which is located in Fondren and near Millsaps, is one of my favorite restaurants. It has a great patio, and I can take my dog there. I also like visiting the Reservoir.”
*L3 is a leading provider of a broad range of communication and electronic systems and products used on military, homeland security and commercial platforms. Sydney is interning as a marketing research analyst this summer.
When the price of crude oil declined and jobs became scarce, he sought a new career path and decided to seek an MBA.
He began an MBA program at another college but switched to Millsaps.
“I was not happy with the teaching styles they had implemented in their program and wasn’t getting the return on investment I was looking for,” he said. “I attended the Commercial Real Estate Investment Seminar hosted by Rogers and Associates at Millsaps, where I met some faculty members of the Millsaps MBA program who insisted I make the switch to Millsaps.”
Cox, said he learned to look at details and solve problems during his undergraduate program but he had no exposure to business applications. “Having an MBA will allow me to gain business tools that will set me up for a lifetime of success,” he said.
A sales associate at Speed Commercial Real Estate, Cox has worked full time while earning his MBA. He has attended classes two night a week and participated in group and individual projects on the other evenings. “While working full time and taking class at night can be time consuming and overwhelming, it teaches you time management skills and allows you to take what you learned in the classroom and apply that to your business,” he said.
The Capstone Strategic Management class instructed by Dr. Ray Grubbs, professor of management, was the highlight of the program, Cox said.
“The class focused on an online simulator where we competed amongst ourselves running a company that manufactured sensors,” he said. “Dr. Grubbs does a tremendous job challenging the students to make real-life business decisions and incorporating all aspects of a company that boards of directors are faced with on a daily basis.”
Cox, who will complete his MBA in the summer of 2017, said Grubbs is among his favorite professors.
“Dr. Grubbs will have taught me in four different classes,” he said. “He is a very encouraging professor with a strong desire to see his students succeed. We had many conversations inside and outside the classroom and I am honored to have him as a mentor.”
Roulla works as a sales manager at Aerostar Global Logistics, Inc., a company that provides a full spectrum of international and domestic shipping services, plus logistic services that encompass global warehousing and fulfillment programs.
“The business acumen acquired at Millsaps helps me in my line of work, particularly dealing with international customers and agents,” he said.
Roulla decided to pursue his MBA right after finishing his bachelor’s degree, and Millsaps College was number one on his list of schools to apply to for numerous reasons.
“The Millsaps program was my top choice because of its renowned quality education, prestige, and smaller class size,” he said. “The Millsaps location in a beautiful part of Jackson, which was also important.”
Roulla is confident that the education and skills set he learned through the MBA program led to a return on his investment. “The program provided me with a much-valued education in the spheres of finance and management, knowledge, which is useful to me now,” he said.
Vladimir Roulla, who earned his MBA in 2007, keeps his diploma on the shelf in his living room so it can always be seen.
Jordan Bryan thanks the education she gained from the Millsaps College Else School of Management MBA program and a recommendation from Millsaps College Professor Dr. Walter Neely with helping her earn her job at Ross & Yerger Insurance, Inc.
After working at a financial firm in New York City for three years after earning her undergraduate degree, Mississippi native Jordan Bryan moved back to the South to pursue her MBA at Millsaps.
“I chose to come back at that time because I was at a point in my job where I had met the ceiling of potential in my current role,” she said. “I was interested in a challenge and moving forward, so I took advantage of the opportunity and have never regretted it once.”
Bryan, vice president and shareholder at Ross & Yerger Insurance, Inc., an independent insurance agency in Jackson, said the Millsaps MBA program provided her with a foundation on how to apply practical, real-world leadership skills.
“Six years later, I can now see how I use this knowledge not only in my every day work life but also in organizations and community groups that I am involved with. I think it prepared me to be a better team player in a lot of aspects, but also how to be a more effective leader,” she said.
Bryan said each professor in the Else School of Management helped her learn how to apply her knowledge to the working environment.
“I enjoyed that most of the professors had been in the workforce prior to teaching so they were able to apply the textbook knowledge in a different manner. From the business law class to finance and accounting, we were learning from lawyers and CPAs about their experience and how they applied their skill sets in their own careers,” she said.
Bryan said she has a competitive advantage in her field as a result of completing her MBA at Millsaps.
“The advantage I gained from Millsaps is the ability to study and apply new knowledge,” she said. “In the business world, we can be quantitative and analytical but if you don’t have the people skills to apply that knowledge, then you are missing out. I learned both aspects of that from Millsaps.”
Bryan, who received her MBA in 2010, said she has seen a return on her investment. She hangs her framed diploma in the center of her office at work.
“The classes I took through the MBA program at Millsaps College helped me learn the ability to work with, for, and alongside others to accomplish common goals,” she said. “The program challenged me to think in new and different ways and helped me develop a skillset that I use each and every day.”
Vish Sankaran is confident that the education gained from the Millsaps College MBA program helped him create a smooth transition from an engineering based background and ultimately advanced his career.
In his last year of undergrad, Vish Sankaran faced the tough decision on whether to jump into the workforce or continue his education. After realizing he wanted to be a part of the corporate world, Sankaran found that it would be beneficial to him to complement his undergraduate electrical engineering degree with an MBA.
“As I was researching graduate programs that could complement my degree, I came across multiple success stories that mentioned a combination of a MBA and an engineering degree. The prospect of a MBA program enticed me and what better college to choose than one of the best in the South for an MBA, Millsaps College.”
Sankaran now works as a senior engineer at Entergy Services, Inc., an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production delivering electricity to 2.8 million utility customers in the Deep South.
Sankaran believes the Millsaps MBA provided him with the skills to communicate at a high level and achieve career goals.
Knowledge from his MBA helped him better present highly technical information to those who do not have the technical expertise, he said.
“Having the skill set to communicate at a high level, understanding what the audience can comprehend, and having the ability to summarize information in basic terms is a huge plus in a career in the utility industry,” he said.
The Millsaps MBA program and professors prepared him for the working environment, he said.
“When the program overall is great, it’s hard to narrow down any one course or professor that has guided me down this path,” he said. “The professors and the subjects that they teach go beyond just the textbooks. They aid in setting students up for the real world with case studies from the real world.”
Describing his experience and the academic rigor of the program, Sansarkan said, “Papers, papers, and more papers! I spent a great deal of time reading various articles, case studies, and books. Each of the reading materials covered various topics and definitely broadened my business knowledge.”
Sankaran, who earned his MBA in 2009, is confident that the knowledge he gained through the program have given him a competitive advantage in his field.
“Compared to other engineers, I am able to communicate my engineering related information to non-engineers in laymen’s terms. I have definitely seen the impact a MBA has had on my career at Entergy.”
He decided with much thought to pursue an Executive MBA after being out of school for ten years.
Black said he always envisioned expanding his professional horizons, but that was difficult to do because many positions he aspired to required additional experience and education.
“I had a sense of competitiveness and came to view attaining my MBA as a way to challenge my career expectations and build on my undergraduate degree,” he said. “I was at the perfect place mentally and financially and found Millsaps to be the ideal destination to further my career.”
Black, regional human resources manager at Sam’s Club, a chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Fortune-ranked No. 1 Walmart, said one of the most impressive aspects of the Millsaps EMBA program is the faculty.
“I love the fact that our professors live what they were teaching us every day,” he said. “They are not just straitlaced academics with no real-world business experience. They brought real-world experiences into the classroom and showed us how we could make effective change.”
Describing his and his classmates’ experience, Black said, “We all took concepts that had been totally foreign to us and used them to become a more valuable resource to our respective organizations. Each class and professor brought a different perspective to the forefront.“
Black acknowledges the academic rigor of the program. “The experience I obtained through my EMBA provided me with the mental fortitude to look at any problem or situation and tackle it head-on with the confidence that I will succeed,” he said. “The Millsaps EMBA program is the most intellectually challenging endeavor I’ve faced. It forces you to face your weaknesses and challenges your perception of your strengths. The mental dexterity this program helped harness has allowed me to identify, understand, implement, and execute human resource issues well beyond my four years of experience in the profession. Without having completed the program, I truly don’t believe I would have considered, prepared for, or passed the SHRM-SCP (Society for Human Resource Management-Senior Certified Professional) HR certification in early 2016.”
Black, who earned his EMBA in 2015, has seen a 48 percent financial return on the investment in his education that he made in 2014.
Just as important, he believes he has gained “increases in social capital, emotional intelligence, and an understanding of the impact of social responsibility,” something that many of today’s business leaders lack.