Although Nicole Powell lives in the Washington, D.C., metro area and spends the majority of her life globetrotting for work, Texas will always be close to her heart.
It's no surprise that the San Antonio native graduated from the Master of Business Administration online program at Baylor University in August 2019.
"Baylor has an amazing reputation — especially its business school," Powell said. "There were a couple of online programs I had looked at, but at the end of the day, Baylor had the best offerings. Plus, it's a Texas school. It's home. That's what was really great about it."
Powell, who is the director of business development for Statistics & Data Corporation, has steadily carved a niche in the corporate world. She wanted to increase her acumen and lay the foundation for her future by earning a graduate-level degree.
"I was at the point in my career where it was highly suggested that it was time to get my MBA moving forward," she said. "When I look at my career trajectory and where I want to go, such as vice president and other C-level positions, the MBA really becomes an added value."
In addition to school and a hectic work schedule, a busy family life keeps Powell on her toes. She and her husband, Matthew, have two children, Caden (11) and Luca (4), so the online format was her only option for earning an MBA.
"A traditional executive MBA would not have worked with my schedule," she said. "I travel about 75% of the time. There were times when I was waking up at 2 a.m. because I was in Europe and my whole team was in Texas, but you have to get that group project done.
"The flexibility of the MBA program was absolutely amazing. It really lends itself to having to proactively manage your time, having that checklist and being ready to get it done and move forward."
One of the coolest moments of the Baylor experience for Powell came when she was on a work trip to Sitges, Spain, while one of her classmates, Daniel Trejo-Serrano, was working in nearby Barcelona. She made the 45-mile trip to meet him, so they could work on a group project together.
"Two Baylor MBA candidates sitting there at a table in Barcelona was a fabulous experience," she said. "If we hadn't been able to meet, there would have been so much back and forth online for that project. It helped us get an 'A' in that class."
Powell enrolled at Baylor six months before relocating to the Washington, D.C., area. She has worked in business development since 2004 and at one time owned and operated a wine company in the Dallas area.
"All of the information in the program was applicable," she said. "There was not a single class I took I was not able to implement in some form or fashion to my day-to-day job."
However, ECO 5415 Economics for Managers was far and away her favorite course in the program.
"I was ready to go get my Ph.D. in economics after I took that course," she said. "My husband said, 'No. No more school for a while.' It was interesting to me.
"I work with numbers on a daily basis. We focus on data and numbers, but really taking the economic view and looking at the numbers and the market and global health of everything was intriguing. I absolutely loved it."
In fact, Powell's infatuation with numbers shaped her career after she graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and minor in business from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2004.
"As they say, accurate numbers don't lie," she said. "That combined with my natural love of leadership and management makes it work together. It's a very synergistic relationship."
Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose
Although Powell was not able to make it home to attend graduation, she celebrated her big accomplishment by spending a week on a beach with her family.
"They were very supportive," she said. "There's no way I could have gotten through the entire program without my husband's support, watching the kids on the weekends and understanding that even though I have been gone all week, when I am back home, I have to focus on everything that is due for school."
Powell, who is the first person in her immediate family to earn a master's degree, also liked setting a good example for Caden by serving as a higher-education role model.
"It really is a neat thing — especially when he comes in and says, 'Okay, Mommy, you just took your quiz. How did you do?' 'I got a 95!' 'Yes!'" she said.
Another aspect of the flexibility of the online MBA program that Powell enjoyed was the ability to complete it at her own pace. She took one course at a time to make sure she could fit the homework into her daily routine.
"I would tell anybody considering this program that it's going to take a lot of time," she said. "But If they want to finish in 12 months, they can. You have to have a good support system.
"You have to be able to have the time and the flexibility to make the program work best for you. At the same time, it's okay to do it in two years. I did 22 months because I had to balance work, my family and school. I wanted to put my best foot forward."
Now that Powell has an MBA, she is glad she made the decision to return to school and, at least online, to Texas.
"It's not just a time commitment when you're walking into this," she said. "I don't have a company that helps pay for any additional schooling or an MBA program. This is something my family and I had to enter into understanding that this was an investment into our future. It was worth it."
Learn more about the Baylor online MBA program.
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