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Marilyn Stoa Balances Science Knowledge With MBA

After being turned down for a marketing position at her company due to a lack of business experience, the science-minded Marilyn Stoa took the setback as motivation to get further education on the subject.

Growing up in Iran and India before coming to the United States for college, Stoa has a unique perspective on how the economic system works. As much as the geographical move opened her eyes when she was young, the journey into the realm of business was profoundly enlightening as well.

“It’s just a new world for me,” she said. “To think the thing that made me go back to look for this degree all had to do with a rejection. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Her mission led her to the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Marketing program at Southern Oregon University (SOU). Of all the programs she researched, SOU had the best ratings and was also the most affordable, sealing her choice for further education.

Making Business Decisions

With one class remaining, Stoa has already seen her proficiency with all things business expand her abilities where she works. For the past two years, her knowledge of how businesses function has evolved considerably.

Before entering the program, she had little to contribute to conversations about pricing, profit or revenue. While she may have had a general understanding of the terms, she did not see how they fit together or why they were important.

“I had no idea how deficient I was specifically in the business area,” Stoa said. “Today, I feel completely upgraded, and I get the concepts. I’m not shy of discussions revolving around business and the company’s strategic plans.”

She’s been able to continue her work developing products from the engineering side while working through the MBA. Stoa learned early on in her experience that taking two courses was too much to manage alongside her work responsibilities and her life with three kids who are 14, 12 and 11 years of age.

“I used to check out of life and go into this trance and not come out until the seven weeks were done,” she said. “It was all I could do to meet all the deliverables. I finally realized I could take one course at a time and that would be more reasonable. When I dropped it down to one, I was able to get a whole lot more from the classes because I wasn’t just checking boxes.”

Striking a Balance

Stoa’s previous academic experiences included an undergraduate degree from Seattle Pacific University, where she studied biochemistry and physics. Her master’s degree in bioengineering at the University of Washington shaped her into a scientific thinker. The MBA from SOU has rounded out her knowledge and provided her with additional tools to bring to work.

She points to courses like BA 550: Using GIS in Business, taught by Dr. Joan McBee, and BA 541: Marketing Channels Management and Pricing Strategy, taught by Dr. John Kaegi, as showcasing the depth and intricacies found in the world of business and marketing. She also noted that Dr. Curt Bacon was the “perfect teacher” as he unveiled the world of finance to her in relatable ways.

“Coming from a background of engineering, biochemistry, and all things science, for the first time in my life, I gained exposure to the income statement and finance wasn’t so scary anymore,” she said.

She noted with excitement how much she valued lessons from several courses including MBA 514: Strategic Operations Management taught by Dr. René Ordoñez and MBA 515: Information Systems taught by Dr. Daniel Clark. She particularly enjoyed MBA 521: Legal and Ethical Issues in Business and Management taught by Dr. Peter Angstadt.

“I participate in a lot of cross-functional meetings and project support on different scrum teams. Marketing became attractive to me because I could face the customer more,” she said. “And it’s just a very different perspective having the information from the classes, including even something like organizational behavior.”

Discoveries Abound

Insights gained in SOU’s online MBA program have been vital to big financial decisions Stoa and her husband have made, like purchasing a house and starting a business. The coursework may have even inspired them to develop a company to help those in the Department of Corrections, a segment of society they hold dear.

“It is about grace and it is a service we offer,” Stoa said. “We have a softness in our heart for releasing prisoners who have paid their debt to society and want to live a new and changed life.”

Progressing through the online MBA program called for a balancing act from Stoa who devotes evenings to coursework. Her family has been gracious about her sacrificing time with them to complete her courses and develop into a more fully rounded thinker.

Hopefully, they will be able to return to their love of travel after the pandemic. Stoa will also have more time to read the self-improvement books she enjoys as she continues her personal development after wrapping up her MBA.

Learn more about Southern Oregon University’s online MBA program with a Concentration in Marketing

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