2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: GiGi Ross, Lehigh University

GiGi Ross

Lehigh University Flex MBA Program

“Creative and innovative thinker with a talent for developing collaborative, data-driven solutions to complex challenges.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Colts Neck, NJ

Fun fact about yourself: I played NCAA DIII soccer in college and am an avid women’s soccer fan – I’ve been to the last 3 Women’s World Cups.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Smith College, BA in Economics

Where are you currently working? Northrop Grumman, Global Business Strategy & Planning Manager

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In early 2020, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a local non-profit on a consulting project, which was a really unique and rewarding experience. I worked with a team of three other volunteers supporting a small dance company and academy that was looking for a sustainability analysis study – analyzing their strengths, risks, and growth areas for both the long-term and short-term. I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with the Founder and the Board of Directors. It was incredible to witness their passion for the organization and to hear their journey to get to where they were. We ultimately delivered a strategic plan to enable them to expand their operations, increase revenue and enrollment, and re-invent their staffing model. This put them on a new path to ensure the organization’s success and longevity.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I was looking for the best-value program with a strong academic reputation, challenging curriculum, concentration in Business Analytics, and live synchronous class options. Lehigh’s FLEX MBA checked all of these boxes and has a very strong alumni network, so it was the program for me.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The flexibility of the program was key for me. Being able to balance working full time, planning a wedding, and traveling – all while getting an MBA – wouldn’t have been possible without the online program.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Beyond the material being different and much more practical, the actual class style was very similar. I attended classes live (through Zoom), was able to participate in class, ask questions, deliver presentations, and collaborate with classmates on in-class assignments as well as group projects outside of class. The online format afforded much more flexibility than my undergrad experience – I was able to login to class from home, the office, or while on work travel in another country. Also, having the library of recorded lecturers to return to when studying for exams or when I needed to reference material presented in class was invaluable.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? While I enjoyed the program overall, I think there is room for improvement in terms of the way some classes are structured. Specifically, there should be more opportunities for interactive and engaging activities during class time, as opposed to lectures being the sole focus. Lectures can be useful in conveying important information, but hands-on experiences, group discussions, simulations, and other interactive learning opportunities can enhance the learning process and make it more enjoyable for everyone involved – especially in a virtual environment. By incorporating a variety of teaching methods, the in-class online experience can become even more effective and engaging for students while offering additional networking opportunities.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? From a curriculum perspective, it has given me tools and knowledge that I can apply to a broad range of business challenges. It made me more confident in my approach and contributions at work, as I was able to utilize frameworks and analytical techniques that brought a different perspective to the team. In terms of the online format, it really enhanced my communication and leadership skills in that type of environment. Working in a global role, I need to adjust my communication and working styles to work effectively with colleagues from different backgrounds. Building relationships and successfully delivering countless projects with my groupmates virtually throughout my online MBA experience directly translated into my ability to excel in the same manner at work.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? Yes – I was promoted from an analyst to a manager while in the program.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I originally considered a full-time residential program, but ultimately went with the online program because of the flexibility, cost savings, and ability to continue working while studying. I also wanted to put what I was studying into practice immediately – I was able to learn a concept in class and apply it to my job the next day.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: Class was usually once a week for 3-3.5 hours, though it varied depending on the number of course credits and the course’s scheduling format. Outside of class, I’d spend about 4-7 hours per week on assignments and group meetings per course.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term aspirations are geared toward executive-level leadership within a growth-oriented and technology-driven company, where I would be responsible for global business management. I’m interested in roles that enable me to shape the direction of the company, establish strategic initiatives, and oversee new market development. Additionally, I have a strong desire to mentor and inspire other members of the organization.


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