"I knew that I wanted a higher education, and I knew I was interested in analytics. Looking at the description for this degree, it matched what I was looking for and interested in. I think it is extremely accessible and very beneficial to people who are looking for that education who are not within the direct vicinity of a university."
After starting the Professional Master of Applied Business Analytics program, Colton Hinrichs has already received a job promotion and is in line for another when he graduates this spring.
Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Hinrichs moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2011. While he currently lives in Harrison, Arkansas, he is in the process of selling his house and moving back to NWA.
Hinrichs has been working his way up at FedEx Freight. He currently works as a business intelligence analyst, but when he first started the program, he was a transportation planner.
“The position that I'm in now is a direct result of being in this program,” Hinrichs said. “The transportation planners are essentially just a fancy title for dispatcher. I was able to get the promotion to business intelligence analyst after having a year of the master’s program completed.”
For work, he uses data engineering and visualization, as well as Python, SQL, and Power BI, which are directly in line with everything that he’s learned during the first year in the M.A.B.A. program. Upon completing his degree, he already has another promotion lined up.
“I've talked with my manager about being promoted to the next level,” Hinrichs said. “I’m on level one right now, so my manager said essentially when I get my degree, I’m qualified to be a level two. That's really my plan, just moving up within the company and being able to continue progressing. Being a professional student while receiving this education has really helped me to progress within the company and within my skill set in general.”
And thinking more long term, Hinrichs hopes to be in a higher management position where he can help teach others.
“What I'm doing right now is data science, which is great, and I love it,” he said. “But being in a higher position, I will be able to help educate the people doing this as well. I want an education-type role within the company. It's already kind of what I've been doing. I've been helping to teach some of my co-workers who didn't have any experience using Power BI, as well as Azure Databricks that we're using now. We didn't learn about Databricks in class, but just having the knowledge and experience from what we've done in class and being able to expand on it for the systems that we're using at work and being able to educate other people within the department is very rewarding.”
Until a friend pointed out the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship, Hinrichs was not aware that it was an option that he could even apply for. But as he was reading through it and reading what the scholarship was about, he realized it's for exactly someone like him.
“Nobody else in my family had further education,” he said. “I was a remote student working full time. It was essentially exactly a scholarship for what I am.”
In addition to the scholarship, Hinrichs is eligible for tuition reimbursement from his company.
“You pay for classes up front and then when you finish the class with at least an A or a B they reimburse up to $5,000 a year,” Hinrichs said.
Personal drive and the desire to continue moving forward and progressing led Hinrichs to pursue a graduate degree.
“I knew that I wanted a higher education, and I knew I was interested in analytics,” Hinrichs said. “Looking at the description for this degree, it matched what I was looking for and interested in.”
Hinrichs learned about the program through a Google search of University of Arkansas master’s programs. While he wasn't specifically looking for online programs, and probably would have done it in person if he was local, he appreciates the online format.
“I think it is extremely accessible and very beneficial to people who are looking for that education who are not within the direct vicinity of a university,” he said.
For Hinrichs, studying online works well with his professional goals.
“It works a lot better than having to be in class, especially because I am an hour and a half away from campus,” Hinrichs said. “Being able to structure my education the way I want to, really in terms of the scheduling and timing of it works out significantly better for me. Sometimes I work 10- or 12-hour days, so being able to say I want to study or do my classwork only on the weekend or at 5:00 o'clock in the morning because that's when I have time is very helpful. Having the ability to do it whenever or wherever I want even is a good structure for education in general, I think. Being able to study and do things at my own pace, at my own time really is very beneficial.”
In terms of the day-to-day experiences as an online student, Hinrichs appreciates the structure. Dr. Elizabeth Keiffer has been the professor for several of his classes, and she sets up a Teams group so students can stay connected with the entire class throughout the semester.
“She has a great format for the way she's doing everything,” he said.
For the program’s practicum, ISYS 599V, a two-semester course, it's the cumulation of everything learned.
“I think it's really cool,” Hinrichs said of his practicum project. “I'm taking data from the FAA. I'm looking at all the airports in the United States. I'm able to filter it down and look at only public airports that are publicly owned and I'm able to calculate the distance using a great-circle calculation between every single airport and then run an algorithm against that to show me the most efficient path to go from one location to another. You could select any airport in the United States and any destination, and it'll give you that result in less than a minute and put it in a Power BI report on a map. I love all the data engineering and the data architecture in the visualization of your findings after you've done everything to it. It is the culmination of everything we've done in the courses. I'm excited about it. I think it's really interesting.”
Hinrichs recommends this degree program and has even encouraged his co-worker’s wife to begin next spring. For others considering studying online, Hinrichs recommends one thing in particular: balance.
“Studying online is great,” Hinrichs said. “Because of the self-paced nature of it, have a plan, have a schedule. You need to make time for it, especially if you're working. Make time for your work, make time for your class, and make time for yourself. It's all about having a good balance of all that.”