2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Leland Nislow, University of Maryland (Smith)

Leland Nislow

University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Bold, risk-taking problem-solver focused on igniting change and driving innovation throughout the journey.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Seattle, WA (by way of Baltimore, MD)

Fun fact about yourself: Over the past 8 years, I have lived in 8 different places! (Baltimore MD, College Park MD, Denver CO, Atlanta GA, Vallendar Germany, Dallas TX, San Jose CA, and Seattle WA)

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Major: Supply Chain Management. Minor: Spanish

Where are you currently working? Amazon, Senior Program Manager, Startup Procurement

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of navigating an ambiguous stretch of career change to make it to where I am today as I wrap up the MBA program. The past few years have been full of intense and meaningful professional growth and I couldn’t be more excited about my new role at Amazon and the opportunities ahead. I’ve been pushed and tested in new and challenging ways and I’m thankful for the grit and determination I’ve leaned on throughout.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? As a UMD undergraduate alum, the decision of where to pursue my MBA was an easy one. My key criteria when evaluating programs were curriculum, faculty, flexibility, and network – and Maryland had it all. Plus, having already experienced first-hand the opportunities that accompany a Smith School degree, I was eager to add a second one to my repertoire.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The consistently high quality and depth of the synchronous online sessions. Before I started the program, I was somewhat skeptical about the ability to create a robust learning environment outside of the traditional classroom. After two years of online learning, I can confidently say that this environment offers ample opportunity for rich interactions for those willing to jump in.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Most of my undergraduate classes followed the familiar traditional lecture format – one professor at the front of the room facing dozens of students, the dozens of students all facing the same direction. The online environment breaks this mold and can spark a deeper and more diverse learning experience. Professors and students enter the online classroom via the same platform and more voices and viewpoints are shared and heard as a result. 

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Get your entire team on board before you even start. Pursuing an online MBA program as a working professional is grueling at times and the total support of your inner circle is the key to keeping it moving when doubts start to surface. Special shoutout to my amazing wife Nataly and our entire supportive family.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would seek out and implement innovative ways to foster deeper connections across cohorts. A few freeform ideas: change discussion boards to video format, create online MBA clubs with leadership opportunities, offer exchange lectures with professors and students from other online MBA programs, and institute more informal networking opportunities. Any changes to leverage the power of the community platform in the name of collaboration would only enhance the experience.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? As I alluded to, working effectively online (i.e. remotely) has never been a more critical job function than it is today as companies across all industries deliberate over the path forward. Pursuing and excelling in a high caliber online MBA program requires internal discipline and motivation as well as an ability to take decisive action quickly. These qualities, among many others cultivated through online education, form a strong foundation for successes in all facets of professional life.   

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To serve and lead people, teams, and organizations in a continuous quest to challenge the status quo and change the world for the better – all the while maintaining a focus on the human element and societal impact of doing business.

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

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