As Emily Schira was about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Radford University during the pandemic, she had two options — enroll in graduate school or launch her career.
“One of the marketing professors who retired last year, Dr. James Lollar, encouraged me to apply to the online MBA with a Concentration in Business Analytics program,” she said. “He thought I’d be a great fit.
“Not having a business background, I was a little apprehensive. Dr. Lollar said, ‘You have the skills and the work ethic. You’ll do great.’ I have loved every second of it.”
Schira is on track to graduate from the master’s degree program in May 2023, three years after completing her undergraduate degree.
“The MBA program has taught me so much,” she said. “I will feel more confident applying for jobs when I graduate in May — especially having the analytics skills and knowing they are in demand.”
The online format is especially beneficial for Schira, who is also in her second year as a graduate teaching assistant with the Davis College of Business and Economics at Radford.
“It’s been great,” she said. “With the graduate assistant job, it’s demanding because I am working with the undergrad students. It’s nice to come home, and if I want to take a break before I have class, I have that flexibility in my schedule. It gives me plenty of time if I have questions.”
Schira is from Lynchburg, Virginia, and she immediately fell in love with Radford University when she enrolled in the bachelor’s degree program in 2017.
“I love the community,” she said. “When you come here, there is something about the people. They are so caring and kind. Everyone says, ‘Hi.’ Everyone smiles. Everyone is willing to help you succeed.
“I looked at other graduate schools, but I knew in my heart there was nowhere else I’d rather be than Radford. I will have spent six years here when I finish next year.”
While working with students at orientation as a sophomore, Schira discovered her passion for marketing and public relations.
“I loved speaking in front of people,” she said. “I thought I wanted to do the same thing for a job, so marketing made sense. I am looking into PR, marketing and analytics. The MBA broadened my skill set, so I am kind of open.
“Analytics is a big part of business. I can be competitive against other applicants. Dr. Angela Stanton saw my work ethic and encouraged me to do business analytics. She has been one of my biggest supporters throughout the program. I excelled in the program and found a passion in it.”
So far, Business Analytics Foundations is Schira’s favorite course in the online MBA with a Concentration in Business Analytics program curriculum.
“Not having experience in business analytics, Dr. Stanton broke it down in a way that was easy to understand,” she said. “It was a good foundation for what was expected in the other classes.
“I am taking Financial Analytics: Applications for Data Analysis and Portfolio Construction. We’re using fast coding. Without the foundations class, I would have struggled.”
During her time at Radford, Schira has enjoyed much support from her family and friends. She plans to walk in the commencement ceremony next year.
“They are so excited and encouraging,” she said. “None of my family has ever gotten a master’s degree. My sister has three little boys, so I am trying to be a good role model for them and show that they can pursue their dreams with higher education if that’s what they want to do.”
Schira believes that the master’s degree program is laying a solid foundation for her career with a diverse higher education background.
“I have real-life application skills, not just knowledge-based skills,” she said. “I was nervous, but Radford is great about helping me. I can reach out for extra resources to help me study.
“When I took accounting and finance, which can be intimidating, the school helped me find extra resources and took the time to talk to me and answer my questions. I got As in both of those classes.
“I was proud of that, and I was thankful that they believed in me and encouraged me to get caught up with other students who do accounting for a living.”
In her free time, Schira enjoys reading, running and spending time with her rescue cat, Zeus, who she has had throughout the online MBA program. She said that work ethic and open communication are the keys to success for an online student.
“You have to be open-minded and willing to put in the work,” she said. “Also, be willing to talk to your professors and get to know them. When they get to know you, you have a better working relationship when it comes to references, help and questions.”
Schira knows she made the right decision to stay in school. She doesn’t expect to have to look for her first job out of college for very long.
“I 100% believe that the MBA in Business Analytics will help open career opportunities for me,” she said. “This is the best decision I have ever made.”