2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Sara Schwartz, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Sara Schwartz

Arizona State University, W. P. Carey School of Business

“I’m a soon-to-be mother, fitness enthusiast, and team player who enjoys being challenged.”

Age: 35

Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Fun fact about yourself: When I am surrounded by close friends, I can usually be coaxed into doing my secret dance move party trick, the worm. There may even be a video of me doing the worm in my wedding dress.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Nevada-Las Vegas, BS in Real Estate and Urban Economics

Where are you currently working? Special Projects Manager at Odyssey Real Estate Capital

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of the eight years I spent serving my country in the U.S. Navy. After the Navy, I was unsure what I wanted to do professionally. While coaching at a local gym, I made a strong personal connection with one of the members. Although I had no prior experience, he offered me a job with his commercial real estate company. Six years later, I am most proud of both my personal and professional development. He saw my potential, which ultimately gave me the confidence to change my undergraduate major, pursue higher education, and foster a passion for being a successful woman in this male-dominated field.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I was first drawn to ASU by their highly-ranked online MBA program as well as being in the Top 5 for Best Online Program for Veterans according to U.S. News. I ultimately chose ASU because the program structure seemed to suit my learning style best. With the wide variety of courses offered coupled with a team-based learning environment, I knew it would be a great fit. Plus, my mother is a proud Sun Devil!

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The flexibility to structure my learning around my schedule was amazing, but my favorite part of this program was an offline opportunity to take a week-long business and public policy course in Washington D.C. I was able to meet several MBA students, not only from ASU but from several other programs across the country. We heard directly from a lobbyist, members of special advocacy groups and policymakers, and members of Congress. It was truly an eye-opening and special experience that I will never forget.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The most surprising thing I found in the online learning environment was how much I was able to absorb from my courses. The five-week course structure on occasion made me feel like I was drinking from a fire hose. As I reflect on the past two years, there is at least one concept, case study, lecture, or online discussion from every one of my courses that I feel confident I will be able to reflect on as I continue my professional career.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Although I enjoyed the in-the-classroom experience in my undergraduate program, I found the students in my online graduate program to be more engaged and passionate about the subject matter. It has been refreshing to learn alongside working professionals who bring different experiences and perspectives to the conversation.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Stay organized, read the entire syllabus before the class starts, and read through assignments in full as they are released. My method of organization included writing down assignment due dates on my calendar, which forced me to look at my workload daily. Reading the syllabus before the class starts gave me an idea of what to expect in the coming weeks and allowed me to identify personal obligations that may need to be worked around. Lastly, reading through the assignments before I dug into course content, I was able to pinpoint key terms and concepts that I would need to bookmark for graded assignments and projects.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Looking back on the past two years, I wish I would have spent more time and energy on making meaningful connections with students outside of my immediate group. Through my role on the Student Advisory Board, I feel I could have done more to not only bring people into my circle but bring people together in general.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? My online education has given me the confidence to be a strategic contributor in my office. With a wider perspective of knowledge, I feel I have been able to address issues in different ways factoring in many of the topics we have covered in the program.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? I haven’t received a compensational or title promotion, but I have been given the opportunity to work on larger development projects outside of my normal duties and have been allowed to invest in company projects.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I wanted to pursue a full-time residential program, but life had other plans for me. As I was applying to MBA programs, I was also getting married to an attorney pursuing a career change into academia. We were living and working in Las Vegas when he got a job offer to teach at George Washington University in Washington D.C. Shortly after the program started, we moved to Virginia for his career and I have been traveling back and forth to Las Vegas for mine. The flexibility of the online program allowed me to stay on track.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: 20-25

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? This is a great question and one I have been contemplating for a while. Working for the company I am currently employed with has helped me identify aspects of an organization that are most important to me. For example, I value work-life balance, positive social interaction, mutual respect between both employees and management, and an opportunity for growth. In addition to those aspects, I am interested in the opportunity to run a commercial development project from start to finish with my current team or make a transition to a larger company that could provide the opportunity for a wider range of responsibilities. Whether with my current employer or with another company, my ultimate goal is to continue the transition into a leadership role.


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