Blake Neal enjoyed living in Waco and attending Baylor University for his undergraduate degree. Upon completion, he decided to stay with Baylor, but for an MBA online.
He enrolled in the online MBA program in March 2016 and graduated in December 2017.
"It was such a great experience," Neal said. "I wish I could have gone back and taken more of my undergrad online because in the MBA program I was able to go about my lessons and coursework at my own pace with fewer distractions whenever was convenient for me with my full time work schedule. Being able to work only part-time while getting my undergrad was a burden to me financially."
A few months after he earned his MBA, Neal landed the job of his dreams. "I don't think I would have had the opportunity to do what I'm doing now had I not completed my MBA," he said. "So it was an all around wonderful experience for me."
Getting to this point involved a long road and a lot of discipline.
Before landing at Baylor, Neal had tried to complete his bachelor's degree at a couple of different universities under varying circumstances including moving back home to help with his family's construction business in the Houston area.
After Neal completed his bachelor's degree, he considered attending law school and/or pursuing an MBA. He went online to see what piqued his interest.
"I did an unhealthy amount of research," Neal said laughingly. "I knew I wanted to get an advanced degree, but realistically I didn't think I stood a chance because, at the time, I knew so many people in the Baylor law program who most likely would not have been able to complete their Juris Doctorates while working full time.
"I knew pursuing a law degree was unrealistic because there was not an online option available for me at Baylor, but once I found out about the online MBA program I got excited and thought, 'I can do this.' Sure, there were probably other options available out there, but having taken courses at five other universities previously, I felt it was 'Baylor or else' because I believe Baylor to be a cut above the rest."
Upon his discovery of the Baylor online MBA Program, Neal knew pursuing this degree while working full time would not be a walk in the park.
"Doing the online program opened the door for me to work full time and complete the MBA, which was incredibly difficult, but definitely worth it," Neal said. "Being able to provide for myself while pursuing my education was a huge weight off of my shoulders."
Though Neal liked going to class as an undergrad, he took to the online format of the MBA program for the time and drive it afforded him to work on lessons in his free time. He also found his professors to be supportive.
"They were always open and available for me -- video conference, email, phone conference, whatever works for the student," Neal said. "It didn't matter if it was a weekend, early in the morning, or late at night. They were always pretty quick to respond and willing and ready to help out."
His location helped, too. "I was fortunate enough to be living in Waco while enrolled in the online MBA program, so I met up with my professors in person multiple times, having lunch with them, seeing them on campus, things like that," he said. "It was pretty special for me to be able to both be close to my beloved Baylor and remain a part of it from a distance. An advanced degree being offered online truly changed my life."
Neal found work in the Waco area and was happy, to an extent. "I had been working at a corporate bank in Waco," he said. "I wasn't making six figures, but it was such a great experience. My CEO was a Baylor MBA grad, which was incredible. His daughter, different people at the bank -- they were also Baylor alumni."
But the lure of a new career opportunity landed him in Nashville. After moving for that job, he ended up taking another once he was in the Volunteer state. He now works from home as a consultant and relationship manager for a financial institution.
"I know my MBA contributed heavily to me landing this job," Neal said. "Not only is it a dream job, but multiple other team members internally also have MBAs just like me. I have the freedom to work anywhere in the world while making the money I always dreamed of making."
The program helped Neal gain knowledge of immediate relevance to his career, even if parts of it proved challenging.
"Some of the classes were extremely difficult," he said. "Regardless of how difficult or easy each individual class might have been for me, all of them in some way or another proved to be valuable."
"My personal favorite was Managing Information Technology in the Business Enterprise course [MIS 5450] because of the importance of IT and the move for all industries to be more technologically capable. The Managing for Higher Performance [MGT 5410] was extremely helpful as well. Strategic Communication [BUS 5490] was huge, too. All contributing to the success I am experiencing in the professional business world today."
Overall, many of the courses had a positive end result. "The good thing about being in the program is it was so well-rounded," he said.
Neal has spent time at other universities, including University of Toronto, Georgetown University in Washington D.C., University of Houston, Texas A&M-Blinn, and West Texas A&M, though he's a Baylor Bear through and through.
"I had been to several different universities before and during my time at Baylor, and for me personally the education I received at Baylor was far superior in comparison," Neal said. "It's just a better education. It's an incredible education. In fact, there is not a single course I regret taking during my time at Baylor. Once a Bear, always a Bear."
A First in His Family
Earning an MBA is a source of pride for Neal – and his family.
"I'm the first person in my family to get a college education in the first place," he said. "I have five brothers, who are all, in their own way, undoubtedly smarter than me. My older brother did not get his first B until his junior year in high school. But he as well as two other brothers did not finish high school traditionally because working was more important, especially in my family and in the Houston area. And I have an MBA."
Though his mother and father were both concerned about their son obtaining an MBA while working a full-time job, they supported his decisions.
"I got a lot of support from a lot of people who were happy for me, and I continue to get a positive reaction from a lot of people when they hear I have an MBA," Neal said. "It is one of my proudest achievements."
One year after graduation, Neal reflects on what he believes is beneficial advice.
"Finding a routine is so important," he said. "I think students need to evaluate their family and work life loads, and try to make it a point to do whatever works for them, based on their own individual circumstances. Establishing a routine above all else is paramount."
Though Neal had concerns about the financial commitment for the online MBA, he recognized the value of investing in his career and building a foundation for the rest of his life. Finishing the program meant a "huge sigh of relief" and a sense of accomplishment.
"It's hard to explain the immediate feeling after having completed my MBA," he said. "Now everyone's proud of me. I'm proud of myself. I feel like I've bettered myself by doing it."
In addition to a sense of accomplishment, there are those expanding career opportunities.
"The workforce is scary in the first place, and it was difficult being picky and seeking out my dream job. But I think it would have been significantly more difficult to find the job I wanted without the MBA, without those three letters after my name.
"The Baylor online MBA program was definitely worth the investment. I would absolutely do it all over again -- a hundred times out of a hundred."
Learn more about the Baylor online MBA program.
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