2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Riley Samaniego, University of Texas at Dallas (Jindal)

Riley Samaniego

The University of Texas at Dallas, Jindal School of Management

“A curious, ambitious, supportive, and charismatic women striving for continuous learning and honest, impactful leadership.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: I have supported the delivery of 11 newborns in the Philippines!

Backup: My favorite activity is Scuba Diving!

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Texas at Austin; Biochemistry

Where are you currently working? Advanced Micro Devices as a Financial Analyst

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the volunteer work I have done in support of and alongside my professional career. Most specifically, I moved to the Philippines in 2018 to support health and environmental education in rural areas of the country. During my stay, I was selected to attend a rare opportunity at Peace Corps Philippines, Program Design and Management Training. During this training, I collaborated with local Filipino officials to develop a Program Framework for a youth-led health education program to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in NCD prevalent areas of Cavite, Philippines. My program design framework was implemented after my departure and impacted 5 municipalities, and approximately 5,000 young people in Cavite. It was from this experience in program management and strategy design that I decided to explore MBA opportunities and a career transition when I returned to the US.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose UTD’s online MBA program because it offered incredible flexibility while ranking as a top MBA program. I am a “what if” person when it comes to opportunities. What if I want to add this certificate? I want to take more or less hours? Add a major?… At UTD, I felt like anything was possible. I had the flexibility and encouragement to discover a variety of courses and explore the many different concentrations, certificate programs, and double majors UTD has to offer. The flexibility allowed me to satisfy my degree requirements yet create a plan that was unique to me.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? It was the ability to access school any time, any place! During my online MBA program, I travelled domestically and internationally many times, and I could always continue my learning from any place or time zone. The accessibility has made it possible for me to continue my personal growth while taking on big life changes, including getting married during my second MBA semester!

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The most surprising thing about an online learning environment was the sense of community. I have been so impressed by the collaborative environment in my online classes that has led to study groups and friendships. Additionally, the network at UTD has helped me connect with alumni, companies, and mentors that have made an impact on me and my goals.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student?I appreciated my online education experience more than my in-the classroom experience for two reasons: my professors and the supportive environment. In my online courses, I was still able to build strong relationships with my professors that added value to my educational experience. The support of my professors allowed me to dive deeper into course learning and to connect concepts to real-world examples. Additionally, the professors, staff, and classmates in my online experience have made for a supportive and empowering environment. My undergraduate in-class experience could become overly competitive at times, but I have felt nothing but encouragement in my online MBA.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? It feels silly to say, but I would reduce the number of exams. Don’t get me wrong, classes still need some exams; however, I found I learned the most in classes that focused more on projects, papers, or collaborations with classmates than exams in the online format.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Gaining a strong foundation in multiple functional areas has been one of the most rewarding parts of my online MBA. Since I transitioned into a finance career, the basic and advanced concepts of accounting, finance, and statistics have, of course, helped me tremendously. However, viewing businesses as entire ecosystems has taught me the benefit of approaching my role with a multi-functional mindset.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? (What was the change? I actually started my MBA program working in the non-profit sector with the goal to transition my career after school. As I learned more class-by-class, I felt motivated and empowered to reach for my career goals sooner. I transitioned into my ‘dream’ finance role during my second year, and I feel so grateful for the support my school and program gave me during such a big change! I am also currently training to take on a greater role after graduation.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I call myself a “serial learner,” so I wanted to learn as much as possible to advance my career and my education together. I knew I would find my education most rewarding if I could use the new skills, I learned in my professional role every day.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: ~25 hours per week

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  When I look ahead at my career, I aim to be a key player in organizational strategy. I am excited by the opportunity I see in uniting financial strategy with people, organizational structure, and social impact to connect products to mission.


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