2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Celina Rosita Tousignant, Syracuse University (Whitman)

Celina Rosita Tousignant

Syracuse University, Whitman School of Management

“A bright, efficient, and reliable team player dedicated to excellence, lifelong learning, and continuous improvement.”

Age: 32

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Fun fact about yourself: When I was eight, I won first place in a local Farmers Market peach-cooking competition hosted and judged by Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse). I created sweet empanadas inspired by the combination of my mother’s Uruguayan heritage and my father’s pie crust recipe.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Syracuse University (2019), Master of Business Administration

Beta Gamma Sigma (4.0 GPA)

Syracuse University (2009), Triple Bachelor of Arts:

Majors: Psychology, Magazine Journalism, Spanish Language – Literature, & Culture

Summa Cum Laude

Renée Crown University Honors Program

Where are you currently working? Mission Lane (Financial Services Company), Senior Program Manager

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In the fall of 2018 (while enrolled in the MBA@SU program), I was selected to be the project manager for the acquisition of my current company and support the foundation of the new entity from legalities to facilities (and all responsibilities in between). At the time, I had only been with the company four weeks in a very focused position on the product team; I suddenly found myself completely enmeshed with executives, legal counsel, investors, department heads, and myriad others who were integral to “the deal.” For months, I successfully juggled ever-changing and compounding needs at work with my coursework (and, of course, the deal itself closed during finals because “when it rains, it pours”). This rewarding experience provided me with a challenging yet fascinating view across all facets of our financial services business, as well as insights into the world of mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, the CEO had selected me for this endeavor partly because of my MBA program, knowing I had both the knowledge to understand the various components of the work to be done as well as a desire to learn more about business.

I am not only proud of my ability to thrive at work and at school during a very challenging period but am also proud of my accomplishments in developing our startup and contributing so much to the foundation of the business. My processes, values, and strategies are still being used throughout the company today, and this work rooted me as a key contributor to the organization.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? There were two key factors in my selection of the MBA@SU program:

First, as an alumna of the Syracuse undergraduate program, I had cherished memories of my time as an “Orange” and of the academic programs available across my three majors. While I joke that I selected Syracuse to re-use the sweatshirts from my undergrad days, I felt a very strong affinity for the university and the thought of returning for my graduate coursework felt like “coming back home.”

Second, the structure of the MBA@SU program best fits my learning style and preference for coursework and engagement. As opposed to other programs that are far more “free-range,” I appreciated the way MBA@SU classes were live synchronous weekly sessions, supplemented with asynchronous lectures, readings, coursework, and more. I knew that this digital learning environment would allow me to connect with professors, peers, and curriculum in a way that best supported my learning.

An additional factor that influenced my decision was the program’s residency requirement. In seeing the option for domestic and international residencies, I knew I could enjoy interesting travel opportunities through MBA@SU while establishing relationships and connecting to the coursework in unique ways.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? I love that the MBA@SU program did not prevent or obstruct me from moving my personal or professional life forward. On the contrary, the ability to do digital coursework after work or on the weekends allowed me to enjoy a nearly-normal life (punctuated with exam periods and “don’t bother me I have a paper due” weekends). I was able to take vacations—logging in from Tokyo, London, Miami, and Montevideo—and have the flexibility to balance coursework with my career as either one demanded greater attention.

Additionally, I would be remiss to not mention how great it was to be able to join classes from the comfort of my own home. Adding an MBA program to a full-time career is hard enough, so the simple pleasure of being a student on my sofa was an added bonus I sincerely appreciated.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Before joining the MBA@SU program, I would not have guessed that the engaging dialogue that forms in an in-person academic setting would translate so well to an online learning environment. However, I was thrilled to see the “magic” of a regular classroom was very much alive in the digital setting. Further, I was surprised by the diversity of location, career, background, age, education, etc. among my peers. The online format allows for a wider variety of students to attend, which I believe creates an even richer experience for us all.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? While I believe it is hard to compare an undergraduate experience you have as a teenager to an online graduate program taken in near-middle-age, I would say my biggest noted difference is in the scope of school as “identity.” As an average undergrad, my full-time life revolved around being a student, going to class, living in dorms, studying in the library, and socializing with my classmates. This forced perspective created a unique focus and environment in the classroom, one where we were all swimming in academia, living in hypotheticals and theories. The online experience is incredibly different insofar that our academic studies are one of many responsibilities in our lives, and we are drawing from real-life experiences for discussions. While the passion to learn is similar, the mental state and inputs are worlds apart.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Be ready for your life to change; it’s likely been a while since you were in school, and you will need to get back into your “groove” for how to manage your time, study, take tests, write papers, do research, and coordinate group projects. It won’t be an easy change, so be gentle with yourself as you find the best way for you to succeed.

Use the resources available to you, reach out to your professors, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There are teams of professionals in your MBA program who want to help you do your best; meet them, speak with them, and enjoy the relationships you forge along the way.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? As a silly answer, if there were a genie granting wishes, I would ask for a zapper to shock anyone multitasking or slacking off in class. We’re on camera, I see you texting, and it’s driving me crazy!

On a more serious note, I can’t really think of anything I would change from the MBA@SU experience (other than the price tag). Thankfully, I had a very positive experience (and did well, earning a 4.0 GPA) and was able to use the tools and resources available to make the program work for me. The video classes, the learning platform, the in-person residencies, and the supplemental learning materials were all wonderful components in a well-rounded program. I know there are always changes that can be made, but I trust in the MBA@SU management to continuously improve, respond to students’ shifting needs, and provide quality programs for students like me.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I believe my education has helped me in many ways, some more obvious than others. In my current job, I was selected for a career-changing project (managing our company’s acquisition) because of my status as an MBA student at the time. That project alone allowed me to cement my position as an invaluable contributor across the organization. Additionally, my online education has provided me with a broader understanding of all business areas—even those in which I lack interest (sorry, accounting)—which has made me a more strategic, empathetic, and collaborative thinker. In a more indirect way, my online education has helped me better manage my time in and out of the workplace and has reignited my passion for learning.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? While I don’t have a specific role in mind, I would like to become a leader who can influence improvements across internal business operations and processes, drive engagement at all levels of an organization, and inspire colleagues to do their best work. I focus more on the ways I can help those around me and the ways I can drive value for my business, rather than on a singular title or narrow path. I believe having a professional goal that influences who I am rather than what I do will help me enjoy the journey, remain flexible and resilient, and stay open to new, interesting opportunities along the way.

Don’t Miss: The Entire Honor Roll of the Best & Brightest Online MBA Grads of 2020

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