When it comes to higher education, dance enthusiast Jessica Barker is doing the hustle.
Two years after she graduated with a Master of Public Health degree, Barker enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration program at Southern Oregon University.
"The first master's degree gave me the background and knowledge of public health," she said. "However, you don't get the administrative part of the job. I want to work in more administrative roles, whether it be in a health department or a hospital."
Barker is the Healthy Families Program manager for Linn and Benton County out of the Old Mill Center for Children and Families in Corvallis, Oregon.
"I felt the MBA would give me a more well-rounded education experience," she said. "Whereas the public health gives me the hands-on program planning, the MBA gives me more of the administrative side of it that is more important for the kind of role that I am looking to land."
The flexibility of the online format helps Barker fit schoolwork into her schedule. Her husband, Matthew, is earning a Ph.D.
"Online is the only way I could do school right now because I work 40-plus hours a week," she said. "It's good to be able to do it on my own time — I can do it after work or on breaks.
"It's more accessible for somebody who is working full-time. It's also been nice to have another student in the house."
Barker grew up in Reno, Nevada, and has lived in Oregon for four-and-a-half years. She owned a dance studio when she was in her 20s.
"I have always been active and enjoyed healthy living," she said. "Healthcare was a natural progression when I decided to go back to school. I am a non-traditional student.
"This was a way for me to do health, public health and healthcare for a large variety of people, rather than do an individual, direct service job."
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in community health science from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2015, she added the Master of Public Health from Oregon State University three years later.
"I did a lot of research on online MBA programs," she said. "Southern Oregon was more financially reasonable than other programs. The Healthcare Administration track was also enticing to me.
"Living in Oregon, I know about a lot of the universities here. Southern Oregon has a great reputation, so that's how I chose to go there."
So far, Advanced Health Communication is Barker's favorite course in the online MBA in Healthcare Administration program curriculum.
"That course consisted of what I have already done," she said. "I am biased because I have previous knowledge, but health communication is something that I really enjoy."
The information that Barker has learned through the coursework has applied to her role as program manager.
"I have absolutely been able to use what I have learned in the program at my job," she said. "I run the program, but I don't do the budget side of it. The budget courses allowed me to expand my responsibilities on my current job, which has been helpful."
Moving and Grooving
Once Barker graduates from the program in Summer 2021, she will seek a public health director or hospital administrator position.
"Having an MBA and an MPH — especially in healthcare administration — will open up a lot of doors for leadership positions," she said. "I am hoping to easily roll into the type of job I am looking for with the MBA."
Barker was successful in the online MBA program once she found the right pace for her course load.
"You have to be realistic with the timeline and the expectations for yourself," she said. "You don't want to burn out and not finish. At first, I thought that I was going to take three classes per term and get out. But seven weeks per course is not a long time. It's not necessarily a sprint.
"Keep an open mind. You will expand your knowledge of a field you are in or want to go into. It should open some doors for you."
When Barker is not working or studying, she enjoys dancing for fun with a local group in community shows. She started dancing when she was five years old.
She loves striking the right balance between her knowledge and experience, allowing herself to apply the online MBA to her career.
"I have got good value out of the program," she said. "I am over halfway done, and it is teaching me a side of healthcare that I didn't know before. It's been really helpful."
Learn more about SOU's online MBA in Healthcare Administration program.
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