“For me it’s the value of the networking. I think these connections that I’m building with all of these people are invaluable because, you never know when you’re going to run into these people again, or if I do want a career change in the future. I have plenty of people I can reach out with and honestly say they would advocate for me.”
Invaluable Connections and Global Opportunity
Living in Northwest Arkansas was not in the plans for Hattie Shelton: Come to school, complete an MBA, return to Texas. However, her plans took an unexpected turn when her initial MBA application was not immediately accepted. She was advised to gain more work experience before reapplying. This led Shelton to embark on a career in the local commercial real estate industry.
When the time came to reapply for the MBA program, she couldn't justify leaving her growing career behind to return to school. That’s when she found the Executive Master of Business Administration Program offered in a hybrid format by the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.
“And since having work experience, I thought, well, how can I go back to school full time when I'm making, you know, getting a paycheck?” Shelton said. “I can't see myself doing that, so that's when I applied for the executive program because it is a way to continue working full time while getting my degree from a reputable program.”
The hybrid program has connected Shelton with a diverse community of learners, partners, and friends. They primarily work on assignments online and meet in person one Saturday a month for an intensive session, which often turns into a social outing to bond with students who travel from out of town.
“I really do feel like my network has grown,” Shelton said. “I’m one of the younger ones in the program, yet, you know, I’m hanging out with professionals with much more experience and we’re like best friends. It’s great, everyone is extremely supportive and I still feel like I’m building relationships even though it’s considered an online program.”
As a requirement of the EMBA's course of studies, Shelton spent two weeks abroad with their Global Immersion Program. The program aimed to facilitate the introduction of a product to the United States or from the United States to a selected country. For this trip, Shelton and her classmates had the option to travel to Japan or Chile. She opted for Japan and, along with her group, explored breweries and food venues with the goal of introducing a sparkling sake to the United States.
“We strategically planned that,” Shelton said. “We made it more of a social project, which was very unique because we got to immerse ourselves in the culture and really just be intermingled with the working class. I mean, HARD working class. We got to really dine a lot with the chefs, and that was fun... they’re so personable.”
The project served as a bonding experience for the cohort, allowing students to spend two weeks together immersed in Japanese culture, cuisine, and entrepreneurial experiences.
Besides the extensive network of classmates she's connected with, Shelton has had the unique experience of her husband, Jakob, going through the program with her. This arrangement has been invaluable, as it enables them to maintain similar schedules, study together, and provide mutual support. As far as they know, they are the only married duo to go through the program together. At least, so far.
This program has been Shelton's first experience studying online, made possible by the W. E. Manning Memorial Scholarship available to U of A students studying online. She was one of 27 scholarship recipients for the 2023-24 school year. Despite this new learning environment, she has thoroughly enjoyed the program and considers the education and experiences she has gained to be invaluable.
“I have recommended it to so many people,” Shelton said. “I mean mainly for me it’s the value of the networking. I think these connections that I’m building with all of these people are invaluable because you never know when you’re going to run into these people again, or if I do want a career change in the future. I have plenty of people I can reach out to and honestly say they would advocate for me.”