2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Brianna Hughes, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Brianna Hughes

University of Minnesota Twin Cities – Carlson School of Management

“Relationship-oriented problem solver who brings tenacity and a cup of coffee to every challenge.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Waseca, MN

Fun fact about yourself: I have three kids and one on the way due in August! I’m also a US Army veteran and currently still serving as a Field Artillery Officer in the National Guard.

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. Bachelor’s in American Legal Studies

Where are you currently working? Just started a new role as a Consultant at Slalom Consulting.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The times I’ve felt most proud of how I show up as a professional are when I’ve been recognized for being a good teammate. Small gestures from colleagues and subordinates demonstrating the trust and confidence they have in me as a leader and teammate have been the most gratifying experiences of my professional career.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I knew that I wanted to find a job in Minnesota after graduation, and there is no school with a better network in the Twin Cities than Carlson. I left active duty military service to pursue my MBA and transition to a new career, but my husband was still stationed in upstate New York for the next year-and-a-half finishing his own military service. I did not want to separate our family to attend business school, so I decided attending as a full-time student was not an option. By selecting the online program, I was able to still get a Carlson MBA while keeping my family together. When we finally left New York and moved to Minnesota, I was able to transition seamlessly into my new role at Slalom thanks to the network I’d gained at Carlson.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part was being able to learn alongside students from the full-time and part-time programs. I was in project groups with students from a wide range of professional backgrounds and the incredible diversity of experience added so much value to my own learning.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Because of COVID, my online learning environment took many forms. I had classes held live over Zoom, some that were entirely asynchronous, and even a project conducted in collaboration with an international business school. I was worried going in that I would feel somewhat isolated as an online student, but my learning experience was highly integrated into the broader Carlson MBA community.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? For me, the two experiences could not be more different. I attended a military academy for undergraduate, which means I was immersed 24/7 in a regimented military environment and I had practically no autonomy. In contrast, completing Carlson’s online MBA program gave me the freedom to have a rigorous academic experience while simultaneously living an incredibly full life outside of school. The years spent at West Point and in the Army equipped me with the discipline and grit necessary to make the most of a flexible program like Carlson’s where I was very much in control of my own experience.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Begin with the end in mind. I went into the program knowing that I was using it as a vehicle for accomplishing a major career transition. As a career-switcher, I knew that I would have to take initiative and put in extra effort to establish the network and support I needed to achieve my goals. To be successful as an online MBA student, you have to know yourself and know your objectives for being in the program. You will not have the same guided lock-step experience as the full-time students, you have to make the experience work for you and your goals.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The Carlson MBA gave me the network and tools to land the job I have now. I was able to participate fully in their on-campus recruiting process, I received top-notch career coaching throughout the program, and I was well prepared with the business acumen my new employer expects of an MBA. Bottom line is I would not have landed this phenomenal role without the Carlson School.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: My average weekly hours varied greatly by semester because I was very intentional when designing my course schedule and credit load. I completed the program in 5 semesters. During one of those semesters, I had a newborn and during another, my family of 5 moved across the country. Because of the flexibility the OMBA offers, I was able to keep those semesters lighter and go heavier during other semesters.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Purpose and people are what drive my professional ambitions. My ultimate goal is to work alongside a team of great people doing purposeful work that makes a tangible positive impact on the community I live and work in.



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