Grad Stories: Winter '18
In three years, Amber Brackey earned two graduate degrees from the St. Ambrose University College of Business and gained a deeper level of professional knowledge that is recognized and appreciated.
One year ago, Brackey was awarded a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. On Dec. 14, she participated in the College of Business' 2018 Winter Commencement Hooding Ceremony for earning a Master of Organizational Leadership (MOL) degree.
"I think I am perceived as being ambitious and most people don't think this is the end for me," she said, referring to higher education. "Now that I have more academia under my belt, I am going to work to grow my career every opportunity I have and to grow it where I am now. I want to have a bigger impact on the workforce here."
Brackey started a career with the Kent Corporation family of companies eight years ago, working in sales and human resources throughout her time. Two years ago, she was asked to be the sales operations coordinator at one of Kent's largest subsidiaries, Grain Processing Corporation, in Muscatine, Iowa.
"I am one of those people who love learning," she said, adding her interest in professional growth and human capital was sparked as an undergraduate studying human resources. Her position with Kent gave her the opportunity to support the continued development of its employees, and at the same time, Brackey knew she wanted to build on her education, too.
"I knew an MBA was the next tier from a business standpoint. No matter what role you are in or want to play, it is important to have that business savvy," she said.
Brackey enrolled in SAU's MBA program and began taking courses in the fall of 2015.
"The MBA catalog is focused on that higher-level strategic data," she said, describing the courses as more quantitative. The program took her undergraduate education to a higher level and did so within a professional framework.
When it was time to choose electives, "my natural inclination was to look at engagement and human capital courses," she said, adding many of those courses were provided by MOL faculty. "I knew, just two courses in, that I wanted to earn both of these degrees."
Brackey describes the MOL courses as more qualitative. "I believe St. Ambrose University is on the cusp of this up and coming degree program. I foresee more people shifting into it," she said.
"When you are a human resources professional or doing work within the psychology of business and industry, the MOL is more the type of graduate business degree you want to pair with an undergraduate degree," she said.
Brackey said both programs were beneficial to her growth and career. "After each class, I felt much more professional growth, and it made an impact in my personal life, too," she said. "Even my colleagues recognized the growth in me. It was a very good investment and very rewarding overall," she said.
The MBA and MOL programs require some of the same foundational courses and students have the option to choose electives from either program. That meant, after earning her MBA, Brackey needed only to complete seven more courses to earn her MOL. Even her employer recognized the benefit of these degrees.
"I have a great employer and they've been very encouraging and supportive in my pursuit of higher education," she said.
Course-by-course and class-by-class, Brackey could immediately apply what she was learning into her career. "You can make a proactive application of the material," Brackey said. "Working full-time and going to school full-time is a blessing from that standpoint because you are getting more out of your education. Although I certainly couldn't have done it with the support of my friends and family."
Graduate education must be something a working professional really wants to achieve, "otherwise, it will be a vertical, uphill battle," Brackey said. Classes, research, reading and writing papers consumed her free-time, and she continued to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters. "I was ambitious about it, and it was my focus and my goal, so it drove me through.
"Going down that path, you have to want it, and dually, don't talk yourself out of it," she said. Yes, it is a big commitment, "but not everyone has to go at it at an accelerated pace."
Brackey uses the skills and information she gained every day.
"Now, through all of my interactions I have this running dialogue going through my head and I am constantly pulling information from my graduate degrees into action, even more so than my undergraduate degree. It is more specific, challenging, and you weave it into your life more than just memorizing facts and figures," Brackey said.
"It is running through me constantly. I don't regret the time, dedication and money I put into my graduate degrees," she said. "This was the right choice for me."
"After each class, I felt much more professional growth, and it made an impact in my personal life, too."
Amber Brackey, '17 MBA, '18 MOL