Nancy Wells could well be described as a trailblazer. When she sets her sights on a new path, she never looks back. Case in point: She completed the Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Business Analytics online program from Southern Oregon University (SOU) as planned, taking one or two classes per term while she worked and also made time to spend with her teenagers.
“To achieve the highest quality experience, I was looking for instructors who had backgrounds in providing online education,” she said.
A talking head and dry PowerPoint presentations wouldn’t do for Wells — she knew she would be challenging assumptions and focusing on nuances through direct questions. When she discovered that online MBA program coordinator Dr. René Leo E. Ordoñez had significant remote teaching experience, she knew she had found the right program.
Making It Personal
Wells didn’t seek an MBA for the more common job advancement objective; her decision was based largely on personal goals.
“One of my volunteer roles is as treasurer for a school here in Portland and the skills that I’ve picked up in the MBA program have helped my ability to be better at financial planning, budgeting and reporting,” she said. “I was looking for an opportunity to deepen my financial analysis skills, and that’s what I got from this program.”
She chose an online format so she could be available to her children and attend their school events.
“You only have your kids with you for so long and you want to spend time with them while they’re still at home. Instead of delaying my education until everyone went off to college, I decided to better utilize the time I had now,” Wells said.
Her previous completion of free MITx courses offered online through edX just whetted her appetite for more structured education.
“I had gotten a great deal of personal satisfaction from taking those courses and knew that I was ready for another challenge with more accountability,” she said.
Her previous education included a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in economics with minors in international business and philosophy from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
While professional gain was not at the top of her list, it was an added perk. She continues to work at Wells Fargo and has been applying her new skills to her role in risk governance.
Wells has considerable real-life experience in addition to formal education. Her work history includes stints in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Asia and Europe. She has held many IT roles throughout the years, and her career has built leadership and expertise in IT, technology risk, information security, and auditing.
She recently worked with the Grameen Foundation and volunteered on-site through the Bankers Without Borders program near Mount Kenya in Africa, home to coffee, tea and rice farms. She did data analysis for a local financial cooperative to propose better loan options to women and minorities.
“Volunteering in Kenya was a great opportunity that really helped me connect what I’ve learned in this MBA program with my professional experience and then parlay that into skills I can offer,” she said. “I want to contribute to the world.”
More recently she has been remotely providing strategic consulting for a consumer cooperative in the Philippines.
Savoring Each Byte
Wells went from thinking of the MBA as a career checkmark and feather in her cap to immersing herself in the experience of being a learner. Her advice to others entering the program is to do the same.
“My mindset now is that you should be able to enjoy it like a meal. If you’re going to rush through your education, you’re just not going to get much out of it. The measured pace that I took in this program was very intentional so I could devote myself to each given course,” she said.
Wells liked her MBA courses so much that she wished some of them were twice as long. One that stood out for her and had immediate practical applications was Business Analytics with Dr. Patricia Styer.
Through exposure to Tableau software, she learned how to harness data visualizations for better communication of issues and status.
“This course gave me the language I needed to be a better consumer of data itself, to challenge information insights including that which my team might present to me.”
Wells has two sons, ages 18 and 21, who supported her decision to further her education. Her younger son finished high school just two weeks before her Zoom graduation from the online MBA program in June 2020.
“Everybody was very supportive,” she said. “My kids liked the fact that I was being challenged in the same way that they were with deadlines for their papers or college applications. We would talk about subjects at the dinner table like the process of determining statistical significance or the challenges of APA referencing.”
She modeled excellent organizational and time management skills for her children, demonstrating how to use Monday mornings to plan ahead, thereby ensuring she met the expectations of instructors in any given week. She balanced work and family by slotting in time to attend school events like cross-country meets or track-and-field competitions — no matter the demands of the class.
“At SOU, it’s a straight line between the learning objectives or what they’re expecting you to learn and what you actually will learn if you follow the syllabus.”
Wells plans to take her newly enhanced knowledge, apply it to her job, family and volunteer opportunities, and then share it with the world. Oh, and maybe make time for a few hobbies.
“I run. I like to ice-skate. I’ve been doing a lot of hiking. Mount Hood is right next to us and I can get there in an hour.”
Learn more about the SOU online MBA program with a Concentration in Business Analytics.