With a full-time job and three part-time gigs, Paulina Ksiazek doesn't have many moments to spare. So, she knew that an online format was the only way she could earn an advanced degree.
"My schedule is insane," Ksiazek said. "I love online. You have to be very disciplined and have good time-management skills. Otherwise, you are not going to be very successful."
Although she is new to the Master of Business Administration online program at Pittsburg State University, she has settled into a groove.
"The first week was a little different because you are trying to get into the routine of things," Ksiazek said. "After that, I structured two or three days after work and also devoted the weekends to school. It's part of my day and part of my week. It's been going well. I am thankful for online education."
Ksiazek lives in the Chicago area, where she was born and raised, and works full time as a specialist for a higher education marketing company. She is also a part-time bartender, photographer and independent consultant for Juice Plus+.
"I do my photography company on the side, but that's based more on referrals," she said. "I don't do any advertising because it's so expensive. Then, I just started my own business with Juice Plus+ in February 2019."
By earning an MBA, Ksiazek hopes to hone her leadership skills, feed her entrepreneurial spirit and make herself more marketable.
"I have always wanted a master's degree, but I didn't know what route I wanted to go," she said. "I have always found business very interesting. I don't know much about it, but I figured that having a background in business would benefit me and open up more opportunities.
"I want to be more well-rounded, learn more about the business side of things and be a better leader."
Ksiazek graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor's degree in speech and language pathology in 2015.
"I was going to be a speech pathologist, but it's hard to get into grad school," she said. "It's competitive and expensive, so I decided to take another avenue. It's working out well so far."
After gaining experience as a senior enrollment advisor at Spring Arbor University for two years, she landed her current full-time role in January 2019. Seven months later, she enrolled at Pitt State.
"I really like how their online MBA program is structured," she said. "I also like the cost. That was a huge selling point for me. I paid off my student loans a couple of months ago and really didn't want to get into more debt. It's also 10 courses, while some programs are 14 courses. That also sold me."
Although Ksiazek has completed just one course in the program, the information she learned in MGT 828: Leadership and Behavioral Management has paid immediate dividends.
"It was about behavioral aspects of how to deal with different types of people and what kind of leadership to use," she said. "I have tried to be the best leader on my team and pushed and encouraged them. Some people need that, some people are more independent. I have noticed my team needs that extra push. I have tried to be motivating and push through and work on our goals, so I have been using those skills already."
Ksiazek quickly learned the importance of keeping her head above water in the online MBA program.
"Coming from a more medical background, I was worried about not having business classes that I probably should have taken," she said. "It's important to make sure you are doing all of the readings and staying on top of things — don't procrastinate and wait until the last minute.
"Take everything in, read everything and interact with other students. Learning about other people in this program has been really fun."
When Ksiazek graduates from Pitt State, which she hopes will be in early 2021, she will become the first person in her immediate family to earn a graduate degree. She was also the first to earn a bachelor's degree.
"I will absolutely walk in the commencement ceremony," she said. "My mom wouldn't want it any other way. If I didn't walk, she would be more upset than I would. My family and friends are very proud and excited for me."
Ksiazek, 26, hopes to eventually own her own business on a full-time basis, although she is not sure exactly what kind of business. Her back-up plan is to move into a management or leadership position, but she plans to keep Paulina Ksiazek Photography going strong.
"I have done photography and had my side business since I was 18 years old," she said. "I have a little creative side and have always loved taking pictures of my family and nature.
"Initially, my best friend was into photography, so I wanted to get into it and got a camera. I kept buying more lenses, and people kept asking me to do their pictures. I went from there."
For now, Ksiazek is excited to continue learning and growing while completing the MBA online.
"This program will make me a stronger leader and allow me to use those skills to get into management roles and director roles," she said. "Especially being younger and not having as much experience, having a degree will be beneficial and will help me stand out in the future."
Learn more about the Pittsburg State University online MBA program.
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