2021 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Jamie Gray, Indiana University (Kelley)

Jamie Gray

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

“Optimistic challenge-seeker and lifelong learner focused on helping developing others and herself.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Bloomington, Illinois

Fun fact about yourself: I taught myself how to unicycle, including several tricks, over the course of a summer during my undergraduate career.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Millikin University, BS in Accounting and BS in Information Systems

Where are you currently working? State Farm, Finance Manager

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My transition into my first formal leadership role after working full-time for just over two years remains one of my most memorable achievements in my professional career. This role marked my official entry into formal leadership, aligning with my passions of helping others and being involved in strategic decisions. I am thankful for my leadership’s trust in me and how this position challenged me to grow and further develop my leadership style. Serving as a supervisor affirmed my desire to lead and created a stepping-stone for me in my subsequent career progression, enabling me to continue my leadership journey.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose the Kelley Direct online program for its proven track record of challenging and valuable coursework, top notch faculty and staff, diverse and talented students, and flexibility. My first experience in the program, via the Kelley Connect Week, affirmed that I had made the right decision, and it only continued to get better from there. I am grateful for my Kelley experience and the opportunity to take advantage of all the program has to offer.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite memories in the Kelley program are centered around the people I was able to connect with and learn from in and outside of the classroom. Unrestricted by location, the online program provided a vast number of opportunities to share experiences with, learn from, and build long lasting relationships with faculty, staff, and peers all centered around personal growth and development. Understanding the powerful impact of these connections, the Kelley program enables networking opportunities, such as Kelley Connect Week and team-based projects, to help students gain the most out of the experience. The diverse professional and personal experiences of my classmates made the dialogue and learning that much richer and more insightful. I look forward to these relationships continuing into the future.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? In the online environment, I was surprised at the level of engagement from my peers and professors, exceeding my initial high expectations. Despite the virtual format, busy schedules and other factors, there was a ubiquitous focus on diving into each course and on collaborating with one another. These diverse perspectives created even more transferrable learnings, which I could then apply in real time to my work. Unlike a few of my previous group experiences as an undergraduate student, I was impressed at how dedicated my peers were during team projects and how much of an impact this had on our overall learning experience.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student?  I am very thankful for both memorable experiences online and in the classroom. I was impressed by how Kelley Direct supported an engaging learning experience, similar to in-person, while also presenting a high degree of flexibility to accommodate the various schedules of each student. I associate this with the Kelley Direct professors and staff. They were intentional on utilizing valuable in-person learning methodologies in the virtual setting. For example, live class sessions and breakout working groups enabled productive dialogue similar to us all being in the same location. Recorded sessions to view at a later time and platforms to support 24/7 connections with peers and professors provided the flexibility to navigate my evolving weekly schedule.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Kelley Direct provides an impressively robust program that all students should take advantage of on a continuous basis even after graduation. I would offer a suggestion of further building upon the established networking opportunities for current graduate students to engage with traditional undergraduate students and alumni. These mentoring relationships can serve as an avenue to share educational and career guidance from a diverse student population.

How has your online education helped you in your current job?I can truly say each course was relevant to my role and career to some degree. The technical learnings helped me sharpen my aptitude when ideating on new analysis or exploring new analytical processes and technology with my team members, peers, and leadership. Other courses, such as those strategy-based, enabled me to utilize a more holistic approach in long-term decision-making. My learnings from the Kelley Direct program have ultimately supported my pursuit of the promotion into my current leadership position, evolving my leadership style as I continue my personal development journey.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  My long-term professional goal is to continue the progression in my leadership journey where I can help support the development of others around me and actively engage in higher level strategic conversations.


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