2021 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Christian Reece, Auburn University (Harbert)

Christian Reece

Auburn University, Raymond J. Harbert College of Business Online MBA Program

“I am a driven, passionate leader committed to service to my community through consensus building and strategic relationships.”

Age: 36

Hometown: Grand Junction, Colorado

Fun fact about yourself:I was born and raised in the Air Force and named after the Night Ranger song “Sister Christian”

Undergraduate School and Degree: Colorado Mesa University; Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, Minor in Chemistry

Where are you currently working? Club 20, Executive Director

Non-partisan political advocacy coalition tasked with elevating the voice of western Colorado on issues at the state and federal levels.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Colorado’s state constitution was previously one of the top three easiest constitutions to amend in the country. I co-lead an effort to raise the bar on constitutional initiatives from a simple majority vote of 50% plus one to a supermajority of 55% voter approval. The measure also required that signatures be collected for citizen-initiated measures from Colorado’s 35 state senate districts, preventing the gathering of signatures solely from the Denver-metro area.

Additionally, I am currently working to change how US Congressional Districts are drawn in Colorado to ensure that the rural voice is not drowned out by Denver and Boulder.

These activities are both aimed at elevating the voice of rural Colorado and advocating on behalf of small business community who are the catalyst for Colorado’s economic success.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose Auburn after months of comparing school rankings, tuition rates, program flexibility and quality, and, of course, sports team performance. Auburn has an extremely flexible online MBA program that does not differ from the on-campus experience. I felt comfortable knowing that I would be attending one of the top institutions in the country and wouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage on my house to do it!

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? From the moment I stepped foot on campus for orientation to my final capstone project, every member of the Auburn team regularly emphasized how we are all part of the Auburn family. I never expected that I would find my closet full of Auburn gear and hear myself yelling “War Eagle” in the middle of Denver International Airport at a fellow member of the family. I thought, since I was an online student, that there wouldn’t be a strong connection to campus and to the fellow students and instructors but was completely wrong. I’ve even got my husband yelling “War Eagle” at strangers!

The efforts to connect students, faculty, and alumni at Auburn are incredible and becoming a member of the alumni network upon graduation will open more connections than I could have ever created in the course of my career. This program envelopes students, gives them a sense of pride and ownership, and leave a mark that won’t soon be forgotten.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Having been out of school for more than ten years, I was extremely concerned about how an online MBA program would fit in to my schedule, working 50-60 hours per week and still having time to spend with family. The flexibility of the Auburn Online MBA Program was amazing! The coursework had practical applications to the current business climate and the instructors understood the balance and constraints presented by online students and were always willing to work with students to accommodate busy work schedules. I never felt like a student, but rather a peer learning from another peer.

Though I spent approximately 30 hours per week working on my program, the pace of the program allows students to break the curriculum down into 1–2-hour chunks so they can chip away at the material during the week and still have some time to live life on the weekends. After the first month, working on my MBA daily just became part of my normal routine.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Because Auburn has been a leader in distance education since the 1980’s, their classrooms are equipped with multiple cameras, audio throughout the room, and an interactive technology platform that allows students to watch lectures and interact live, or watch later at their convenience. I never felt like I was missing out on the in-classroom experience and my instructors were always attentive and responsive when needed.

Being able to watch and listen to lectures while I’m driving, camping, or enjoying a glass of wine made the experience more enjoyable and allowed the program to fit in to my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? The three most important things I learned during my time at Auburn were to block out time for lectures and coursework, reach out to professors at the first sign that you might be falling behind, and actively network with on campus and online students via LinkedIn and other platforms.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would have enjoyed more frequent virtual networking opportunities with my cohort and professors. Before the pandemic, this would have seemed like a chore. Now that we all have our minds framed around connecting virtually, I think monthly or quarterly networking opportunities will help build connections and expand professional networks, resulting in job placement for many online students.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The most immediate impact of my education has been a change in how I view the workplace, team members, and the current business climate in general. There is an interconnectedness between the happenings at the corporate business level and the small business level and understanding those impacts has allowed me to manage my organization more proactively rather than reactively.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 30-40

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Whether it is through political advocacy, public policy, or in the private business sector, I want to be able to look back on my career knowing that I made a difference. I don’t want to just work through this life until I get to retirement but intend to meaningfully contribute to the future.


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