2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Rebecca Radney, University of Illinois (Gies)

Rebecca Radney

University of Illinois, Gies College of Business

“I am a driven, self-motivated leader who has a big heart and truly cares about people.”

Age: 33


Born and raised in Atlanta, GA

Been in Dallas, TX for the last 7 years

Fun fact about yourself: I am a jigsaw puzzle master. I’m not even sure why, but I love jigsaw puzzles, no matter how many pieces, and I can complete them in a very short amount of time.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Master of Business Administration

Georgia Southern University, Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing

Where are you currently working?  AT&T, Director of Brand Training

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? There are two aspects of my career about which I’m extremely proud. First, it is the breadth of my career has allowed me to grow in ways I never could have anticipated. I’ve been able to work in different areas like Mobility Sales, Human Resources, Global Marketing, and Branding, which allows me to continue to learn new things every day.

Second, I’m extremely passionate about helping people advance in their careers and connect the dots within AT&T. It’s a huge company and sometimes it can be tough to navigate. I love helping people build their networks and even find that next job opportunity.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Since I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I have always wanted to pursue an MBA, but the timing never felt right. When I first moved to Dallas, I decided it was time to start researching different on-campus MBA programs but never found the right one for me. There was always something that didn’t meet the criteria I had in mind. During a conversation with one of my bosses, I mentioned I was debating pursuing an MBA but was uncertain about the timing. His exact words were, “If you keep waiting for the right time, you will never do it.”

So I went back to looking for the right program. At the time, I happened to be completing a Coursera course and the iMBA program popped up. I started doing a little bit more research around cost, program requirements and having conversations with enrolled students. It almost seemed too good to be true. I chose this program due to the reputation of the university and the program, along with the cost and the available areas of concentration. I was a little worried about it being online and not on campus. However, it was the best decision I ever made.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite aspect of an online MBA program lies in the ability to do it anywhere in the world. For the most part, people have said your life gets put on hold when you start your MBA. Not with the iMBA program. Since its 100% online, as a student, you have the ability to still maintain your everyday routine and pursue an MBA. Whether you travel for work or get relocated, it doesn’t matter. It truly allows for flexibility.

When you tell people you are doing an online MBA, they get weary about the quality of the degree. However, when you say it’s from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, their reaction is a little different. The university and Gies Business iMBA have a great reputation, and it’s well known all over the world. Outside of its reputation and the high quality of the program, the cost is a huge differentiator. It’s hard to find an MBA program, online or on-campus, that is cost-effective. Knowing I was going to be getting a great education at a reasonable price was a no-brainer.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The learning experience did not suffer one bit. I was worried about not building a network, losing the in-classroom experience, and not being able to excel in an online environment. However, I was completely wrong. The Gies Business iMBA program has done a fantastic job figuring out the online learning model and making it easier to learn online than in a classroom environment.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? It’s similar…but different. With the online experience, you still have live lectures, midterms, and finals, assignments, group projects, office hours, etc. It’s just done all online instead of in a classroom. I’ve enjoyed the online experience more than the live classroom one. I’m 11 years post-undergraduate degree, and the type of responsibilities I have now versus then is a lot different. Back then, I could spend as much time as I wanted on campus studying, going to class, and doing research in the library. Now I am working full time and have other obligations outside of work. The in-classroom model wouldn’t have worked for my current lifestyle.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? I have two pieces of advice: one about thriving in the program and one for your own personal well-being. First, if you are like me and were 11 years removed from school, your first semester will be your hardest. It was quite a shock when I had to figure out how to write an essay or take a final again. So just know, your first semester will most likely be your hardest since you are just trying to figure everything out, and that’s ok. It gets easier, I promise.

Also, something I learned very early on was it’s ok to take a day off from school. If you live a hectic lifestyle and decide to add the iMBA to the mix, you can burn out. Don’t feel guilty for taking time to yourself for a needed break. School is not going anywhere, and it will be there tomorrow.

What would you change about an online MBA Program?  I work in the world of online training, and one of the main challenges for my team is constantly keeping the content up to date knowing there’s always cost and time associated with it. Similar to an online iMBA program, it is essential to keep the content relevant and up to date. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when there are 18 classes.

Another change I would recommend which would be optional for students, would be an on-campus or virtual kickoff for each new cohort. It’s a great way to meet your classmates and get to know them.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? My online education has helped me in my current job and career in many ways. First, it has made me a better leader and employee. It has opened my eyes to the bigger picture of my job and how we have an impact on the bottom line. Also, since this program is 100% online, it has made me much more effective when working with others, especially with remote team members.

On a personal level, it’s made me figure out my work-life balance. On certain days of the week, I have to leave work at a decent time in order to attend live lectures.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I have a couple of long-term professional goals. I love managing large teams and dealing with people, so I want to continue to grow into bigger leadership roles. Also, I’ve always been super passionate about cyberbullying and would love to create a nonprofit organization to support those who are dealing with it. Now that I have a few free minutes post-MBA, I plan to eventually get my real estate license just to have it. I love real estate, so why not continue learning and get my license? It just won’t be a full-time gig.

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

Connect With Our Online MBA Partners

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.