2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Jill Bookman, University of Michigan (Ross)

Jill Bookman

Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

“Honest and loyal, lively and adventurous, highly principled, ambitious and a solution-based thinker.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Golden, Colorado

Fun fact about yourself: I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro – it was the most mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Illinois Wesleyan University, BA

Where are you currently working? Simply Good Foods, Associate Brand Manager – Atkins Brand

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When employed by Niman Ranch (They are a provider of natural, sustainable, and humanely raised meats), I led a team to build the Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation, which included its legal incorporation as a 501(c)3 non-profit. This Foundation awards scholarships to the kids of Niman farmer/rancher producers to assist them in their pursuit of higher education. Armed with college degrees, the goals of these future farmers are to return to their family business and strengthen their farming operations. With the formal incorporation of The Foundation as a 501(c)3, we were able to more successfully market this educational program, and as a result, corporate donations increased by 50% in year 1. It was fulfilling work and an honor to help establish this Foundation that nurtures and supports the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan because of its exceptional academic reputation; many Michigan MBA graduates are successful leaders in business and industry. Since this online program mirrors their full-time program, which focuses on business principles and fundamentals and leadership via the action-based learning style, I was excited to enter the online program.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? It was surprising how easy it was to develop relationships and network with my peers in the online education world. The program is designed to strongly facilitate this interaction – a strong advantage of Michigan Ross planning and administration. In-person teams and networking have always been an attribute of an MBA program, and I was concerned that this level of interaction would not be available. Not true! My online program fostered group projects and required us to attend in-person, on-campus residencies (intense classes over several days), allowing in-person interactions, relationships, and friendships.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I found the online experience much more engaging than my in-class experience as an undergrad. The live classes or synchronous sessions were interactive and engaging – very much a discussion between the professors and students – compared to a lecture environment; this format led to fruitful discussions with intense interaction, including questioning, commentary, and opportunities to test and defend theories/positions. Then, while I could complete asynchronous assignments at my own pace, the professors still created engaging modules where I’d have to watch videos and answer questions, among other activities. Additionally, nearly all my classes involved some group work, so I regularly engaged with my classmates. This learning/educational plan was diverse, intense, and rewarding – and much more engaging than my undergraduate experiences.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? An area of opportunity is additional support for online students looking to make a career change. Some online MBA students use this education to advance their career paths within their current job or corporate workplace. Others enter the MBA program to meet the requirements, support career changes, and help facilitate a move to a new employer. Successful online programs will recognize these different goals and formulate advisory programs and internships to meet students’ needs.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? It has helped me better focus on the bigger picture at work, especially regarding the strategy behind solutions and decisions. It has also helped me become a more solid team player. This education has sharpened my lens overall – to ask better questions and to develop solutions with a keener business focus.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? Yes, immediately upon completion of my MBA, I achieved my recent professional goal of switching career paths from Category Management (Danone) to Brand Management (Simply Good Foods).

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program?  Two factors influenced my decision. First, my career path was successfully advancing; thus, leaving my job for 2 years to attend a full-time program was concerning. Equally important was my need to continue to reside in the Denver area for personal reasons. Attending Michigan’s online program afforded me the privilege of keeping my job, staying in Denver, and attending a top-tier university.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: The average is between 20 and 25 hours per week, depending on the class and the number of classes taken.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Leadership – longer term, I aspire to be the President of a mission-based company. But I also have an immediate and ongoing goal of actively mentoring and being a role model to young women entering the workforce. My professional life to date has flourished due to these influences, so I want to pay it forward.



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