2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Stephen Stanwood, Santa Clara University (Leavey)

Stephen Stanwood

Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business

“Problem-solving trademark lawyer and brand-builder fascinated by technology, startups, innovation, and the future of art.”

Age: 33

Hometown: Campbell, CA

Fun fact about yourself: As a teenager, I went on a six-week bike trip from Savannah, GA to Los Angeles, CA.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Chicago (BA, Public Policy); Santa Clara Law (JD)

Where are you currently working? Trademark Examiner, United States Patent & Trademark Office

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Getting my current job. It’s such a unique opportunity to work alongside tremendously smart, public-service minded people who are really dedicated to doing good work on behalf of individuals and businesses across the country.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I started out as a JD/MBA student at Santa Clara but concluded I didn’t have the bandwidth to finish the MBA while doing my JD. So once I did have enough time, returning to Santa Clara for that MBA was an easy choice!

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The diversity of backgrounds. People come to Santa Clara from such a wide range of industries, countries, and life experiences, and working on teams that combine all those elements has been really enriching.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Just how much I feel like I got to know my classmates, despite never meeting some of them in-person. Video calls and chats can go a long way.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Hands down, I prefer online instruction. I’m a self-motivated person and have no problem learning and getting things done on my own schedule, so this new ability to do so has been quite the improvement.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Set boundaries. Carve out the times during the day when you work best, and get your work done then.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Weirdly, more short-term in-person educational opportunities. I went on two of Santa Clara’s week-long Global Business Perspectives trips. Being able to spend a few days in-person with groups of my classmates really deepened my online program experience.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I’m a trademark lawyer, so I work with brands, logos, and slogans all day long. Getting an MBA and studying marketing has deepened my understanding of how companies think about their brands and improved my ability to align with their goals.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? Yes. I started my job at the trademark office around the same time I started my MBA and have steadily risen through the government pay scale (“GS”) ranks since then.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? The flexibility. Being able to do my day job, work towards this degree, and stop every night at 6 p.m. to have dinner with my wife has just been a total revelation.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: 10-15, but definitely more at crunch time!

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to establish myself as a subject-matter expert in trademark law and put that expertise to use on behalf of organizations moving us towards a better future.


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