2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Taylor Stratton, University of Illinois (Gies)

Taylor Stratton

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign – Gies College of Business iMBA

“Extroverted, Kind, Energetic, Resilient, Determined, Passionate, Courageous, Honest, Grateful, Friendly, Supportive, Nerdy, Joyful, Tough, Aspirational.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO

Fun fact about yourself: I grew up on a working ranch in Southern Colorado and my mom and I are currently rejuvenating the ranching business with a small herd of horses that we will be breeding and showing soon!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Colorado Boulder, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Studies, Geography (triple major)

Where are you currently working? The University of Colorado Boulder – Department of Intercollegiate Athletics – Program Manager/Head Coach Ralphie Live Mascot Program

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my involvement in locating, training and debuting Ralphie VI to a perfect inaugural season. Ralphie is CU Boulder’s live buffalo mascot which I took over managing on April 1, 2020. In addition to dealing with a global pandemic, I lead a team of 15-18 collegiate athletes, a new assistant coach, and several buffalo. Ralphie V retired in November 2019 and the responsibility of locating and training her replacement fell on my shoulders. I successfully leveraged my network to find an orphan buffalo calf that I brought to Colorado and, together with my team, trained for her debut. Ralphie VI made her debut run as the youngest Ralphie with the shortest timeframe for training. I’m beyond proud of what the athletes, the assistant coach, and I were able to accomplish in such a short time. Run Ralphie Run!!

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? For me the decision came down to finding a reputable program that offered the most flexibility for an affordable cost. UIUC’s iMBA hits all of those metrics perfectly!

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part was the ability to keep progressing in my professional career while also pursuing an MBA. My undergraduate experience focused completely on natural sciences, so I loved learning about business and having a chance to apply some of my statistical background to new problems.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was most surprised by the friendships and relationships that I was able to build with both my peers and the faculty.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I loved my undergraduate experience and enjoyed a ton of unique opportunities such as being a Varsity Letterman at a D1 school and studying abroad. I really did my best to get involved and get the most out of my time as an undergrad. I approached my online degree with the same goals, but significantly less time available to accomplish them. I was overwhelmed by juggling a full-time job, a part-time job, maintaining personal relationships, and school. I found some balance and was still able to make time to participate in the degrees Student Council during my final year of the program. What it really came down to for me is the realization that my undergraduate degree was an experience in transitioning to adulthood, while my online degree is a means to an end goal. Both experiences were exactly what I needed at a specific time in my life, and I look forward to seeing the doors that a graduate degree will open for me.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Take advantage of the resources that are available to you and advocate for yourself. Online programs often have significantly higher enrollment numbers than in-person options. Attend office hours and put in the effort to get extra help if you need it to be successful in the program.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Many online MBA programs have students in them that coast through doing the bare minimum. This can be so frustrating when they end up in your groups and receive equal credit without equal contribution. Social loafing will be a problem anytime there is group work, but I’ve noticed it is significantly more prevalent in the online MBA Program than it is in workplace or undergraduate situations.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The flexibility of an online MBA has allowed me the opportunity to continue to advance in my career while also pursuing an education that will open more doors for me in the future.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? I’m up for a promotion this summer and did transition to a new job during my time in the iMBA.

Did you earn a raise during the online MBA program? No.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: More than I want to remember, probably 10-20

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I don’t have a specific goal other than continuing to advance into positions where I’m challenged, but still have the time to travel and pursue my passions outside of work.



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