2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Christa Musgrove, Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)

Christa Musgrove

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

“Energetic, direct, loyal, and insatiably curious. I love to read, learn, and connect with people.”

Age: 38

Hometown: Houston, TX

Fun fact about yourself: I love travelling with my husband and two sons (ages 8 & 6)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Auburn University, Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, 2007

Where are you currently working? Chevron, Staff Advisor – Office of the Chairman, Chevron Strategy & Sustainability

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2014, our team faced a first-in-kind challenge beyond the capabilities of existing equipment and methods. I led a multi-national, cross-functional team through the problem analysis, solutioning, and decision-making steps. I am proud of the perseverance and leadership it took to overcome technical and innovation challenges to discover a new way to recover subsea hydrocarbon fluids. As a result, I received a patent in 2019 as part of a team at Chevron. This gave me the confidence to aspire to do difficult things and really sparked an interest in leadership for me.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? When I began looking at business schools, I lived in Midland, Texas, a medium-sized city in West Texas known for its role in domestic energy. Midland is over four hours drive from metropolitan cities such as Dallas or Austin. The Tepper program attracted me through its hybrid format, competitive cohort, and rigorous coursework. As part of the Part Time Online Hybrid Program, students attend classes on campus for a long weekend every eight weeks in addition to synchronous and asynchronous coursework in-between. The mix of in-person and online interactions offered stronger relationships with my cohort, faculty, and program staff which allowed me access to a top program from a remote location. Also, I wanted to pursue a program that offered the same rigor and learning as a full-time MBA. I am established in my career and have a family and friends who are dear to me. To make the personal sacrifices necessary to complete an MBA, I wanted to make the most of my time in the program by taking coursework that would be valuable to my current and future career goals.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? I have always loved learning and connecting ideas, so I have really enjoyed being back in school. My favorite part of being in an online MBA program is the opportunity to work with and learn from an incredibly diverse and talented cohort of students from so many different industries. When we would be discussing leadership principles or corporate strategies, I would learn as much from my peers as I did from the academic material.  I could then apply my learnings on the job the next day to test and implement theory.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to connect with other students. There have been some amazing technological advances for education that were not common when I was an undergraduate (Zoom, Discord, Canvas). Programs are built around the online delivery medium, and synchronous class time is valuable and used for the most interactive parts of learning, from case studies to challenging ethical theories.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student?
When I completed my undergraduate degree in engineering, most learning and coursework was completed independently, and better performance meant better job prospects. In the MBA program, much of the work is completed in groups which allows for more collaboration and less competition, similar to the business environment in which we work every day.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? I am married to my husband of 13 years and have two sons, age 6 and 8. I work in a challenging, rewarding job. I am active in my church and enjoy reading, puzzles, and cooking. Every student has a full life before beginning an MBA program.

Before you start the program, take some time to reflect on the most important things in your life. Talk with your loved ones and define your top 3-4 priorities. These are the ones you make time for and will lose sleep for, then commit to letting go of the lesser activities.

For me, I prioritized being a good mom, wife, and employee while managing the MBA program which meant other items simply did not happen. The online MBA program only lasts for a short time; other activities can be resumed after the program is over.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? One thing I would change about the online program is the interface with the full-time students and faculty. Because Tepper offers synchronous classes to part time MBA students in the evenings – separate from the full-time classes which are offered during the day – the course selection is more limited, and many courses were unavailable to part time students. Because the part-time classes are segregated from the full-time classes, there is a missed opportunity to vastly expand the network and strengthen inter-cohort connections between the students which pay dividends both now and in the future.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Both the technical and the interpersonal skills I have learned throughout the MBA program have enabled me to be a better employee and manager. The enhanced business acumen has given me a greater appreciation for how value is created and claimed within my company and helped me better understand how markets operate. The executive coaching and leadership workshops at Tepper have helped me to mature into a more effective and empathetic leader.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? I was promoted to my supervisor (and mentor)’s position during the program. I became an Operations Superintendent, responsible for the operations of five oil and gas fields in West Texas. I then transitioned into a Strategy and Sustainability Staff Advisor role which gave me greater exposure to the entire value chain, corporate strategy, and leadership alignment.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I began my MBA to increase business acumen, learn about strategy and grow as a leader. I saw it as a means to build new skill sets and hone existing ones with the intention to prepare me for roles in management in the future. I really enjoy working for my employer and wanted to keep working while pursuing my MBA. The online program has enabled me to test different learning in real-time applications while working.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: 15

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I aspire to be a business leader and serve on the Board of Directors for a publicly traded company.


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