2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Sarah Wingfield, Indiana University (Kelley)

Sarah Wingfield

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Kelley Direct Online MBA Program

“Strategic partner who finds joy in making sense of the complex and enabling team success.”

Age: 41

Hometown: Originally Arlington Heights, Illinois; Currently Carmel, Indiana

Fun fact about yourself: I got to go on stage with Bon Jovi

Undergraduate School and Degree: Wake Forest University, B.A. in History

Where are you currently working? Indiana University School of Medicine, Chief of Staff

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Serving as the project management lead on an initiative that explored financial support between two institutions. I joined late in the design process and had to quickly come up to speed on the project topic, the different institution priorities, and the politics around the project. Ultimately, I built strong positive relationships with members of both teams and was able to deliver a solution that is still in place today. My success on that project and the personal connections I made opened the door to numerous professional advancement opportunities.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? The first aspect of the program that attracted me was the flexibility to take classes remotely. Between work and family travel, I wanted to have the ability to complete my MBA without being limited by having to be physically present on any given day or time. The second thing that excited me about the program was the variety of majors to choose from. The variety of classes and opportunities Kelley Direct provided with their major in strategy and leadership was very appealing to me and made the MBA program seem more relevant to my work.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part of the online MBA was having access to world-class faculty from the comfort of my home. My professors had the perfect blend of technical expertise and real-world experience to provide meaningful examples of the concepts we were learning. They were also incredibly generous with their time; as I worked to apply concepts I was learning to my job in real time, they were always available to meet, discuss the subject, and provide suggestions or insights to move forward. I have never connected with faculty in that way before. I was grateful both to have access to their expertise, but also to be treated like a peer and have their support working through challenging professional subjects.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was really surprised at how the mix of asynchronous and live learning was very effective. The pre-reads and asynchronous videos appealed to my traditional learning style, but I enjoyed the fact that class time was not spent in lecture, but rather in really digging into the content, applying it, discussing with peers, and cementing my understanding of concepts. The time spent in class was not busy work, but rather intentionally designed to engage me and provide opportunities for connection. Ultimately, I’ve decided that I much prefer learning in this modality than the traditional in-person environment.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I went to a small liberal arts college, which I was drawn to because of the small class size. I wanted to know my peers and professors – not be a face in the crowd. I was a bit worried that I might become just a face in the Zoom checkerboard, but the professors utilized multiple different tools to create a very intimate learning environment. Breakout rooms, discussion boards, and small groups all provided chances to connect in class. The fact that we were placed in cohorts early in the program with our core classes allowed me to start to recognize the same faces in classes not just during the core blocks, but during elective classes too.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Find your tribe. Be intentional about creating community and welcoming others into it. You’ll start to see the same faces in certain classes; reach out, form connections and stay in touch, as those individuals will make the MBA journey much more enjoyable.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? There is honestly very little I would change about the online MBA experience. Kelley Direct provided an ideal mix of in-person connection opportunities with online flexibility. Perhaps the only thing I wish would change is the perception that an online MBA is not as rigorous as in-person learning. This was an incredibly challenging program and the fact that I earned it remotely does not and should not diminish its value.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? So many of the skills I have learned through coursework have been immediately applicable in my current role. We are launching a new strategic plan and I had just completed two strategic planning classes; I was able to provide much better and more nuanced guidance about our approach to the new plan based on what I had just learned. But even foundational courses like business law and accounting have given me a better appreciation for the nuances related to senior level leadership and the wide variety of topics on which you need to be knowledgeable.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? No

Did you earn a raise during the online MBA program? Yes

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: Around 20 hours

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I don’t have a specific role that I aspire towards, but rather the impact I can make. Whether as the recognized leader or someone who works behind the scenes to enable success, my goal is to find meaning in joy in my work and create opportunities for those I work with to discover the same.




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