2021 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Jessica Rustad, University of Nebraska

Jessica Rustad

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“I’m a results-driven marketer who likes technology and is always trying to learn new things.”

Age: 37

Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve been a Rotarian since 2010. Currently, I serve as both a Board Member and Communications Director for Downtown Lincoln Rotary Club #14—the fourteenth Rotary Club established in the world.

Undergraduate School and Degree

  1. Bachelor of Journalism | University of Nebraska-Lincoln (received May 7, 2005)
  2. Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing | University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s MBA@Nebraska Program (received May 7, 2021)

Where are you currently working? Vice President of Communications and Marketing | Farmers Mutual of Nebraska

Farmers Mutual of Nebraska is one of the most successful and well-respected property and casualty insurance companies in the Midwest.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement I’m most proud of in my professional career was my promotion to Vice President of Communications and Marketing at Farmers Mutual of Nebraska in February 2021. This professional milestone stands out to me because I’ve worked very hard to acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be a valuable leader and contributor towards the organization’s success now and well into the future.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose MBA@Nebraska because it was my undergrad alma mater and it’s also a top-ranked program. The flexibility provided by MBA@Nebraska was very important to me as a business professional juggling a lot of different responsibilities, including working full-time, being a community volunteer, and helping run our family business.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part of being in the MBA@Nebraska program was the live class discussions held via Zoom and the weekly discussion boards. Sharing and learning from each other’s professional experiences provided me with a fresh perspective on how to approach common challenges that we all face in the business world.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The most surprising thing about an online learning environment was that it did not feel like you were online. Each class moved at a fairly rapid but manageable pace over an eight-week time span. Through in-depth coursework—both individual and group, plus weekly announcements, lectures, case studies and class discussions — an online education encouraged a lot of human interaction.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? My online MBA educational experience mirrored my in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate quite a bit. In a certain way, I felt like I actually made stronger connections with the faculty and my fellow peers in the online program because there were so many opportunities for sharing, discussing, and analyzing real-world life experiences, case studies, and current events.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? The best piece of advice I could offer to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program is to be the master of pre-planning your weekly schedule. If you’re highly organized, self-motivated, and driven to get the most out of the resources put before you, you’ll excel in obtaining an online MBA.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a few select opportunities to meet other fellow MBA students at evening receptions held by the Dean of the Business College. It was a great opportunity early on in my MBA journey to connect with faculty and my fellow peers. I would love to see opportunities such as this return when the time is right to do so.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? My online MBA education not only helped me become an executive-level leader, it has provided me with the insight, critical thinking skills, and ability to take a holistic-view approach to the work I do and challenges that may arise so that I may better serve all stakeholders.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on Online MBA: When taking two classes simultaneously, I spent approximately 25-30 hours per week on my studies.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate, long-term professional goal is to further hone my skills as an executive leader and continue to climb the professional ranks. One day, I’d love to serve on a for-profit board. Throughout my studies and my professional endeavors, I’ve had the chance to meet, engage, and learn from extremely talented individuals from across the globe and among varying industries. I revel in the opportunity to be surrounded by this elite group of MBA@Nebraska alumni and to have the chance to continue to learn from one another as we continue to grow in our professions.


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