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Alumna Sarah Hillyer Returns to Southern Oregon Via Online MBA Program

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After a decade of working in administrative healthcare roles, Sarah Hillyer figured it was time to get down to business.

“As I took on more and more leadership, I recognized the need to balance the business knowledge along with my clinical background and knowledge to make me well-rounded and have a better seat at the table to be able to speak both languages,” she said.

So, Hillyer enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration program at Southern Oregon University (SOU). She is on track to graduate in May 2022.

“Another reason that I wanted to earn an MBA was I knew other nursing executives who were taking a similar path, and I saw their vision and where they were going,” she said.

Hillyer is director of women’s, children’s and respiratory services at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, Oregon.

With the online format, she can work school in around her busy schedule. She and her husband, Tanner, have two children — Shelby (13) and Tucker (10).

“The online format was probably the only way going back to school would work for me,” she said. “My husband works out of town. We also travel around to our daughter’s softball games.

“I am able to take homework to practices with me and fit it into my life better. The flexibility of doing the degree online is great.”

No Place Like Home

Hillyer grew up in Medford, where she has lived her whole life. She graduated from SOU with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 2005.

“I thought I was going to be a nurse from a young age,” she said. “After high school, it all fell into place naturally. In the last 10 years, I have progressed from a supervisor level to a director level in my career.”

After researching online MBA programs across the country, Hillyer found the best one for her waiting at her alma mater. She enrolled at SOU in the fall of 2019.

“I looked at every program I could find online, but this one felt right,” she said. “Southern Oregon was familiar to me. It was also easy to navigate the admissions process. The classes are consistent. I know what to expect and what’s expected of me because of that consistency.”

So far, BA 584: Process Improvement and MBA 575: Advanced Organizational Behavior are her two favorite courses in the online MBA in Healthcare Administration curriculum.

“Both of those are very applicable to my daily work at the hospital,” she said. “Every single class I have taken in the MBA program has applied directly to my job.”

Raider For Life

By earning a master’s degree, Hillyer has made the most of the extra time the pandemic left her with. She plans to walk the graduation stage in the commencement ceremony — this time with her family present to cheer her on.

“I would love to be able to do that again,” she said. “It would mean a lot to me. I am trying to set an example for my kids.

“My family and friends thought I was a little crazy for going back to school, but they have been supportive of me since I enrolled.”

Once Hillyer completes the online MBA in Healthcare Administration program, she will see where the degree takes her career. She is already the first person in her immediate family to pursue an advanced degree.

“I don’t know that I have a specific career goal in mind, but I feel like getting my MBA will keep the door open if an opportunity comes up in the future,” she said. “Being the first one in my family to earn a master’s degree is a big deal.”

Hillyer believes that taking on the responsibility of earning a degree is the key to success in an online format.

“You have to be ready to engage fully in the program,” she said. “It’s important to wait until the time is right for you. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.”

Learn more about Southern Oregon University’s online MBA in Healthcare Administration program.

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