2019 Best Online MBAs: Terri Jarboe Farri, University of Maryland (Smith)

Terri Jarboe Farri, CPA, MBA

Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland

“Driven and fearless. Continuously challenging myself and others to achieve their goals.”

Age: 51

Hometown: La Plata, Maryland

Fun fact about yourself:  A few years ago, I was a guest on The Dr. Oz show. The topic was “stress,” and I was invited because of my busy and stressful lifestyle as a female business owner with a family. I rode a bike, played ping pong, and ate meals prepared with butternut squash with Dr. Oz. I guess I thought I could push my stress level a little higher and enrolled in the MBA program shortly after.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BS in Accounting; University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business

Where are you currently working? Buyer’s Title, Inc. as President and CEO

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’ve faced and overcome a series of difficult challenges to my industry and company during the past 18 years in the real estate settlement field. My grand opening with invited guests and planned festivities was delayed by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Just one year later, I had to rebuild the business after the worst tornado in Maryland history destroyed my first office, in La Plata. Upon relaunching, everyone seemingly was opening a title company as the housing market was going crazy and the financial market was doing great in the early-to-mid-2000s. However, my company was one of a small percentage of title companies in my region that survived when the housing bubble burst in 2008 and continued to ooze for a few years. Through this period, we did not lay off a single employee. Currently, I have three offices and 10 employees and am proud that I never gave up on my dream.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? My undergraduate experience here had affirmed for me that Maryland Smith was a strong and reputable business school. It gave me confidence in the MBA program. It was a matter of how I would pursue this degree. And the online route was most viable – given my busy schedule from owning a business, a wife, mother of two children, and being active in leadership roles in several community organizations.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The flexibility and commuting-time saved through the online program allowed for me to squeeze enough time into reaching a long-held goal without having to sacrifice my business and family obligations.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The live sessions can be surprisingly as interactive as an in-person experience. I was also surprised by the program offering a cultural, global studies component that facilitated travel to Japan and Singapore in January. In Singapore, I was part of a class consulting team that helped The New Savvy, a financial wellness firm for women, grow into a new market by serving clients regardless of gender. I especially identified with this female-started company. I also experienced Japan’s business culture as we visited and studied several organizations there, including the Chamber of Commerce.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? The online experience can limit your interpersonal relationships and connection with other students. Although the program has many classes that have groups and teams, it isn’t quite the same. However, I am a people person and I made extra efforts to engage with classmates as much as possible via email, social media, and Google Hangouts.

What would you change about an online MBA Program?  The little connections that are made with small talk in a classroom experience don’t happen with an online program. I would like to see more networking opportunities among the students.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? If I had earned an MBA right after my undergraduate degree 25 years ago, it would have been a completely different experience. When I started my business, the technology leading up to my 2001 entry into the real estate settlement field made for an industry that was more manual relative to the online, data-driven industry it is today. I’m glad to have waited to pursue my MBA, allowing me to really embrace the technology surrounding my industry so that I can better ensure my company stays relevant. Moving forward, I can combine this with my “real life” lessons and experiences facilitating better decisions to help me take a good solid company and make it a great sustainable company.

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Yes. Although it was an intense and grueling couple of years, my MBA experience has given me so much confidence in my abilities. It’s made me into a true facilitator of change for my company.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to ensure my company can sustain and thrive beyond my lifetime. In the meantime, I want to grow and evolve the business. For example, I plan to geographically expand our Maryland-Virginia market to other regions. I will continue to challenge myself and others in the company to stay fearless.


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