2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Lauren Woodside Alegre, University of Washington (Foster)

Lauren Woodside Alegre

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“Compassionate, life-long learner and teacher, humanitarian, collaborative, quick mind, creative solution finder, encourager of others.”

Age: 44

Hometown: Lima, Peru and Kent, WA

Fun fact about yourself: Recently moved back to the US after 16 years living in Lima, Peru

Undergraduate School and Degree: Pacific Lutheran University – BA Biology and International Relations; University of Washington – Masters in Teaching (Science)

Where are you currently working? +Compassion International, Principal Product Manager

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of the projects I have supported that have served hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people facing disaster or crisis, offering opportunities that recognize their dignity and strengthen their resilience capacities.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? As a working mom, living overseas, I was looking for online learning opportunities from reputable schools, but I also wanted a chance to learn from and network with others. The Foster Hybrid MBA program combined the opportunity for cohort and intentional team learning and also the flexibility I needed to juggle work, family life and school.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? I came to the MBA program with no prior formal education in business. The courses have been wonderful, but by far my favorite part of the program has been working with and learning from my HMBA team. They are each amazing individuals with broad experience from marketing, data science, health care, operations, military, accounting and entrepreneurial backgrounds, and I have learned as much from them as I have from the course work.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I’ve participated in several academic programs and courses online, most of these experiences have been self-paced individual learning. What surprised me most about the Foster HMBA is how the program is designed to be flexible but still requires collaborative learning and engagement. The courses are designed to maximize interaction with fellow students.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? As an undergraduate sitting in a classroom, I was always an active learner, asking questions to deepen my understanding of the topic at hand. My experience online has been essentially the same. The major difference is that I have to have more initiative to seek out answers from professors or fellow students on my own time since the number of live class hours is significantly less than in-the-classroom learning. Being an activity learner, I think is essential for success in an online program.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Time management and planning are key. Setting clear times for course work, family, and work is essential. If embarking on an online MBA as a parent with a family, then it is also important to plan how to manage life, school, and work and seek out support from family and work if possible.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Sometimes, the courses seem to fly by too quickly, and I am the kind of learner that needs to sit and ruminate about new ideas to really incorporate them into my thinking. I appreciate that Foster’s HMBA program is only two years, but I wish I had more time to spend on some of the courses. Foster does allow graduates to retake courses or take electives for free after graduation, so that is something that I plan to do, especially for the courses that I would have liked to spend more time thinking about.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? After working in the Education and then the Relief and Development sector for over 20 years, the business acumen I have gained through the Foster HMBA program has opened my eyes to a new way of seeing and working to solve problems in the non-profit sector. My education helped me make a shift recently from program design to a more marketing focused role, where I am eager to learn and contribute to this more external facing side of the non-profit organization.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? During the program I made a switch from designing relief/ development projects to focusing on processes to ensure that those projects are well-funded through marketing efforts.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? As a working mom, living overseas, picking up my entire family to study full time really wasn’t an option I could consider,  As a result, an online MBA program just made sense for me at this stage of life.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: 20-30 hours per week.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I hope to continue to grow in leadership roles within the non-profit sector or in ESG roles within the for-profit sector. Having extensive experience in the design of social impact projects, I’m eager to grow my experience on the business side (strategy, finance, revenue development) of organizations committed to working towards sustainable change in the systems, communities and lives of the most vulnerable around the world.


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