2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Terrica Gupton, University of Illinois (Gies)

Terrica Gupton

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign – Gies College of Business iMBA

“A loving, dedicated wife and mother who doubles as an energetic, ambitious, direct, inclusive, and results-oriented leader.”

Age: 37

Hometown: Metairie, Louisiana

Fun fact about yourself: I LOVE novels and movies in the romance genre – sappy stories with predictable endings that allow one to escape from life and bring warm and fuzzy feelings. No tear-jerkers though!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Louisiana State University, B.S. International Trade and Finance (Geaux Tigers!!)

Where are you currently working? Executive Director, Sales Compensation, Comcast

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It was completing a rotational program where I relocated four times in two years and then subsequently lived in New York City for almost five years. I knew 0-5 people max in each city and rebuilt a network each time. While I succeeded most times, I also stumbled a bit. That seven-year leg of my professional journey cemented several facets of who I am including my faith, tenacity, resilience, and high-achieving mentality.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I wanted a competitive and affordable program that could be completed within a reasonable time frame and would yield a substantial return. Gies easily outranked the other four programs I’d considered, and further rewarded my choice by selecting me as a Forté Fellow. This amazing opportunity afforded me access to a network of women leaders in business and provided the equivalent of a full scholarship to complete my MBA.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The flexibility! Having the ability to complete assignments and digest foundational materials on my own time through the Coursera platform was invaluable.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Never feeling as if the content or the experience was substandard. We had enough breakout rooms, group projects, office hours, and interactions during live lectures to still feel like an in-person classroom. There was always opportunity for passionate debates, questions of curiosity, and real examples shared by classmates in relevant professions which helped enhance the online learning environment. 

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? As experienced graduate students now, the primary difference was the background and context with which the students approached the material. Secondly, having attended a large university where my freshman calculus class had almost 1,000 students enrolled, I’d venture to say the professors facilitating my online experience ensured the sessions were more engaging despite the large audience.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Be disciplined and approach time as a commodity – bartering and trading time between all commitments to accomplish your goals. It was important to me that pursing my MBA didn’t force me to pause my life for 2+ years, especially following the isolation experienced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant trading time: working full time, five days a week but utilizing lunch breaks to study. It meant giving dedicated attention to my family after work, but logging back on to complete quizzes, peer-reviews, and case studies. It meant traveling to a family gathering or vacation but working on assignments in the airport or on the plane. Time was not elusive, but I did have to manage it effectively.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? This feedback is broader and could be applied to any MBA program. My online MBA required 72 credit hours, including electives. This is 60% of the hours needed to complete my undergraduate degree. In general, and especially for individuals who majored in business in undergraduate programs, the degree requirement can be reduced for efficiency and to eliminate redundancy.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I’ve applied several concepts learned in my online education to my current full-time position – including, but not limited to, efficiency frameworks leveraged by Toyota to increase productivity and meet objectives; understanding and applying value proposition as a strategic advantage in a non-product capacity; and considering diversity through the lens of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension Theory as the basis for inclusion and understanding.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? Yes, though I do not believe it was the direct result of program participation as discussions were already in progress upon enrollment.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I began pursuing an MBA following the initial lockdown phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did my schedule not allow for a residential program, but I also didn’t feel comfortable attending in person at the time.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: It varied, depending on the courseload. Easily 15-20 hours when more advanced quantitative courses were involved, otherwise, 10-15.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Continued progression as an executive in an interesting and growth-oriented industry achieved in parallel with my personal goals as an individual, friend, mother, and wife.


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