2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Sarah J. Fell, University of Massachusetts Amherst (Isenberg)

Sarah J. Fell

University of Massachusetts Amherst, Isenberg School of Management

“Neurodiverse champion of underdogs. Avid reader, dedicated leader, mentor. Clifton: Input, Command, Self-Assurance, Activator, Learner.”

Age: 44

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I coach predominantly women on salary negotiation.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Arkansas State University, Bachelor of Science in Education (BSE), Early Childhood Education

Where are you currently working? Great West Casualty Company, Head of Talent Acquisition

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my last role, I built the Talent Acquisition function from the ground up. I led my team to staff hard-to-fill roles in places like the Middle East, Africa, South America, and Europe, all supporting the US warfighter.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose Isenberg’s online MBA program because it was the most highly ranked program in the US by Financial Times and Poets and Quants.  I wanted to test myself against the best, and this program attracts a multitude of highly educated participants, like doctors, finance professionals, and attorneys. I’ve always believed that you should surround yourself with smart people to improve yourself.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part of being in an online program was the flexibility it offered while working full time. I was able to do a little each day, and then really dig in on the weekends. My professors were also teaching the same material as the on-campus program, so I felt the quality of my education was on par with the best on-campus business schools.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The surprising element was that COVID hit two months after I started. It reinforced my decision to engage in an online program, because I saw friends and colleagues who were in on-campus programs struggle with a new online format in their schools that was not fully optimized. UMass was fully prepared for the pandemic, and it was a seamless transition for the traditional students. COVID lockdowns also gave me more time and focus for my studies, in an ironic twist.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I much preferred my online experience to my on-campus experience of my undergraduate years. From an academic standpoint. I played college rugby during my undergrad, so there was more camaraderie being on campus, but the quality of my education and the lessons derived were more substantial in my graduate program.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Make lists, keep an up-to-date calendar, and engage with your professors. In a traditional campus experience, you would (or should) go to office hours, and it is no different in an online program.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would create more opportunities for online students to participate virtually in on-campus events.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I leveled up to my current role at a larger, more established company. Having an MBA is opened doors that were previously closed to me. Even in my last role, I was able to make practical application of the lessons I learned, and I believe it made me a much better employee and leader.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? I was able to get hired into a more competitive role with better pay and benefits at a different company after graduation. I also got promoted during my program.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I needed to support myself and my loved ones, and didn’t want to quit a great job.

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

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goal is to grow within my organization until I achieve a senior executive role, like CHRO or Chief Talent Officer.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.