Student Story

Caitlin Laney

Professional MABA

Caitlin Laney

"The University of Arkansas was an undoubted choice for both my undergraduate degree in supply chain management and my Master of Applied Business Analytics because I love “The Natural State,” and the Sam M. Walton College of Business is a premier program that opens so many doors for graduates."


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Twenty-five students studying online at the University of Arkansas received the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for the 2021-2022 academic year. Below is an interview in question-and-answer format with one of the winners of the scholarship that describes the daily life of a student studying online, as well as providing information on how to be successful. This interview is one of a series focusing on knowledge you can use to advance your education and your career, too.

Q: Please give us some background information: where you live, your occupation and primary job duties, family.

A: I am a Fayetteville, Arkansas, native and have always wanted to be a Razorback. The University of Arkansas was an undoubted choice for both my undergraduate degree in supply chain management and my Master of Applied Business Analytics because I love “The Natural State,” and the Sam M. Walton College of Business is a premier program that opens so many doors for graduates. I am currently a part-time data analyst at The Sustainability Consortium, a nonprofit focused on making the consumer goods industry more sustainable. It entails cleaning and analyzing retailer data on environmental practices and sustainability scoring information and capturing that in easily interpretable visuals for the internal team and the outside retailers using the THESIS platform, TSC’s performance assessment system that helps retailers, manufacturers and suppliers benchmark their sustainability efforts. This is based upon several science-based key performance indicators that track and measure performance that prompts sustainable action and growth in the world of business. I have accepted an analyst job with Rand Group (a consulting firm based out of Houston, Texas) following graduation from my program, and I am very excited to apply my skills and the concepts I have learned in the classroom to begin a new journey.

Q: How do you feel about receiving the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship Award? How will receiving it help you achieve your educational and professional goals?

A: I was so honored to receive the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship Award. It showed me that the University of Arkansas truly sees students who are contributing a lot to both campus and the community, through working hard to reach personal, academic and career goals. It makes me realize that the University of Arkansas is proud to have such diverse, dedicated students who will make great strides in shaping the future of the world and driving positive change through their higher education. This scholarship helped me pay to continue my degree program when I was struggling financially because of the impact of COVID-19, and my degree has already created many amazing opportunities that I would not have experienced otherwise.

Q: What is your degree and when will it be awarded?

A: My degree is a Master of Applied Business Analytics, and it will be awarded this May. I am so excited to graduate this spring semester and begin a new adventure following graduation.

Q: What are your plans after you receive your degree?

A: I hope to stay in consulting for a few years to gain some experience working on projects that span many different fields because I think it will challenge me and allow me to gain new skills that I never dreamed possible. I also like the idea of helping clients perform better and achieve their goals through increasing efficiency, revenue and prompting new design and innovation.

Q: Where do you foresee your career going in the future?

A: Consulting is the first step in my career, but I ultimately want to move into project management or corporate social responsibility so I can oversee business projects and continue to merge my business skills with my passion for sustainability.

Q: What inspired you to pursue an graduate degree?

A: I graduated into a global pandemic and reflected on the one thing that drives every company and industry worldwide: data. Data has becoming increasingly large in volume and variety and plays such crucial roles in different fields. No matter what you choose to pursue – logistics, health care, engineering, etc. – it is vital that people capture and understand how to interpret and easily translate data to keep global supply chains working. Data is needed to predict and fulfill consumer demand, whether that is food on a grocery store shelf, electronics, vehicles in a car dealership or critical medical supplies.

Q: What made you decide to choose an online rather than in-person degree program?

A: I went into this program immediately following the four-year Bachelor of Science in Supply Chain Management program at the University of Arkansas. I wanted a change of pace and something that allowed more flexibility in terms of scheduling and completing required coursework and knew that it would help me in the transition to more online learning and communication beyond the classroom, as a lot of companies are offering remote or hybrid positions because of COVID-19. Navigating technology and getting comfortable with how to learn, teach and work collaboratively online is a crucial skill.

Q: How does studying online work with your professional life and family needs?

A: There is greater balance with online and hybrid style learning. If you are someone seeking more flexibility and autonomy in learning, an online degree program will be a great fit for you. I am someone who sets high goals and I keep myself accountable of milestones and deadlines, so I never doubted my ability to manage online work. It allows me to work, pursue a degree and stay connected with friends and family all at once. If the time sacrifice and commitment of in-person learning seems daunting, exploring online work is definitely the way to go.

Q: What is it like to be an online student on a daily basis?

A: Being an online student requires accountability. Though the schedule isn’t as rigid as in-person learning, if you don’t keep up with assignments you could find yourself falling behind. It also requires a lot of virtual communication with peers and professors. If you effectively use the resources provided to you such as online office hours, Microsoft Teams and even asking for clarification and feedback via email, you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable with solving problems and working collaboratively in a virtual environment.

Q: What strategies and tools do you use to stay in touch with your professors and classmates? Do you use any non-university tools to communicate with your peers like social media or apps?

A: My main form of communication with professors and classmates is Microsoft Teams, but I also email professors frequently. If you are struggling with something and are a more visual learner, arranging a virtual meeting and using the share screen function is invaluable. For more long-term group projects, I sometimes communicate outside of university tools through SMS.

Q: Did you complete a project, portfolio, thesis, or dissertation? How would you describe the experience to prospective students? What do you wish you had known about it before you started it?

A: I am currently in an applied practicum course. It requires demonstration of knowledge of all the different statistical models, techniques, and technical analyses that I have learned in prior courses. I think it’s important to have projects such as these to apply conceptual concepts to real-world business problems/examples and utilize the tools you have acquired in your toolkit beyond just taking an exam or answering questions. You prove to yourself how much you understand and can troubleshoot and continue to grow and expand your knowledge when you hit any roadblocks. I almost think of this class as an internship where I am helping a business owner better understand their business and solve their strategic problems. My advice would be to ask a lot of questions and go into any project, portfolio, dissertation, etc. eager to cement and apply what you have learned in the classroom and stay eager to learn new things and push out of your comfort zone. The goal is to help you grow your skills and add more value to whatever position you are or want to be in.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who might be considering studying online?

A: The best advice I could give to people interested in studying online is to ask a lot of questions and hold yourself accountable for important deadlines. Be engaged! Get to know your peers and instructors because they are important professional resources, and they are here to help you grow and want to see you succeed. If you don’t make time to go beyond just completing your assignments, you might feel isolated or as though you are not gaining everything that you should be from your degree program. Participate in virtual events, reach out for help if you are confused about anything, plan meetings with peers if you are working on a project together and utilize all the online supplemental resources that the University of Arkansas offers such as the Business Communications Lab.