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Cara McJilton Enjoys Fruits of Her Labor After Earning MBA Online

Texas local Cara McJilton enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration General program at Pittsburg State University (PSU) with an open mind and managerial aspirations. She finished with much more.

“My hope was that completing the MBA would help me advance my career at my current company,” she said. “Turns out I was able to earn two promotions while working on my MBA.

“A lot of what I was learning in the courses helped me expand my business knowledge and look outside of my scope. I was able to refer back to that knowledge throughout the interview process.”

McJilton earned her most recent promotion to marketing manager at a Dallas-based company before she completed the program in July 2021. She and her husband, Rush, also welcomed their second son, Rory (2), while she was still an online student. Their other son is Lochlan (4).

“The program structure allowed me to take little breaks,” she said. “I sat out two of the 7-week sessions to give myself extra recovery time, but I was able to jump back in and get it done. Online worked out great.

“Earning an MBA was a personal goal of mine. I wanted to be competitive in the marketplace. It came from having conversations with people about what an MBA would do for them. I convinced myself that those reasons also applied to me.”

Affordable tuition and a diverse curriculum led McJilton to PSU. She started in the online MBA in Human Resources program before switching to the General MBA.

“The courses covered a variety of topics that I could use in any avenue I decided to go with,” she said. “At the time I started, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I needed to elevate my skills in all areas.”

Mother of Invention

McJilton grew up near Fort Worth, Texas, and still lives in the area. She graduated from The University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication in 2009.

“I didn’t have a career goal when I started college,” she said. “Since I worked full-time through school, it took me a long time to complete my degree and my goal was just to get through it.”

After years in the service industry and working in events, McJilton was ready for a career change to go along with the direction her life was taking.

“I needed a work-life balance,” she said. “As I got older and made plans to start a family, it became clear to me that I did not have that in the career path I was in.”

Now, McJilton has worked for the same company for more than five years and found that balance. She has applied what she learned in the online MBA program to each of her roles.

“I could use what I learned immediately,” she said. ” It was surprising how applicable and in the moment it was.”

Quantitative Business Analysis and Marketing Strategy — two of the program’s core courses — were McJilton’s favorites in the online MBA program.

“Those two built upon each other nicely,” she said. “Quantitative Business Analysis was a hard class, but it helped with looking at the data in a different way and helped me connect the data with the narrative I was trying to communicate.”

Cradling Success

McJilton also enjoyed the supports built into the online program to ensure a smooth experience. Each student is added to an advisee group on Canvas that allows them to see the syllabus for upcoming classes and provides additional resources.

In addition, McJilton enjoyed using the online enrollment tool to view her options before making course selections.

“If you wanted to take one or two classes at a time, you could make those changes in the tool and see the different schedules,” she said. “It auto-populated all of the different options for you. You didn’t have to make an appointment, talk to somebody and see what was possible — you could go in and do it yourself.”

The interaction with her classmates was another element of the program that McJilton especially enjoyed.

“I learned just as much in the discussion groups from my peers as I did from the program itself,” she said. “There was a lot more collaborative work than I thought people would do because of busy schedules. Once I saw the value in it, I took the extra time to dig in with my classmates.”

McJilton also had lots of support and assistance from her loved ones during her return to higher education. She is the first person in her immediate family to earn a master’s degree.

“They helped watch my kids when I needed to take tests,” she said. “They were there pushing behind me. They knew I’d be happy when I finished.”

With a milestone master’s degree and a pair of promotions to her credit, McJilton has no doubt she made the right decision to return to higher education. Her advice to potential online MBA students is to not wait.

“There’s never going to be a perfect time,” she said. “It’s a matter of jumping in and knowing what you’re going to get out of it.”

Learn more about Pittsburg State University’s online MBA program.

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