Convenience, value, and quality of an online program are one thing. But sometimes it inspires you to go on to do even more afterward.
Like the case of Shannon and Josh Pukl (both MBA 2020), who had such a rewarding experience pursuing their graduate degrees in the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business that they went on to develop their own online program for professionals in their field.
The Pukls, who now live about an hour northwest of Chicago, had completed their PharmD degrees at Duquesne University in Pennsylvania. But they realized that, in spite of all their pharmaceutical training, they were sorely lacking in business knowledge.
“As a pharmacy manager you might be in charge of a $10 million annual budget, but you’ve only had one credit hour of leadership or management training in all of your doctoral program,” Josh, 34, said. This motivated the duo to look for yet another academic degree, one that they could earn while still working, and which would provide them with the business acumen they sorely lacked.
How they found WT is the kind of testimonial that winds up in the brochure. “I had done some research, and it looked like it was one of the best online MBAs. I looked through different reviews, including US News & World Report and Princeton, and the value behind it as well. It was the best for us,” he continued.
While Josh is quick to acknowledge finally getting to take an Accounting course at WT, both wax poetic about how their personal lives were enhanced by our MBA. “Initially we thought it would help us in our corporate roles. We were district managers. The shocking part was it became more beneficial in our personal lives,” Shannon, 32, added.
It was in the course of completing their studies, which took two years juggling career and classes, that they discovered there was a need for an online certificate program for PharmDs who may not have the time to complete an entire MBA. Although both were full-time pharmacists while enrolled, Shannon has since stepped down from her position so that she can dedicate herself to being a full-time entrepreneur. Josh is now district manager over a Walmart pharmacy and vision center, a position that Shannon formerly held as well.
“After having some close friend conversations we realized there was a huge opportunity for leadership, organizational management, and development in that pharmacy space,” Josh continued. “We were able to instantly use what we learned form our MBA program to be able to interject it into our pharmacy leaders and help them be a better manager.”
The result is a completely online health care leadership certificate program that has been accredited through their alma mater. “A lot of that content came from our experience, but also the formal knowledge we got at WT,” Josh beamed.
It did not take them long to create something unique. “There is really only one other program that is comparable to it, but it requires attendance at two actual seminars in a two-year period. Our program is the first that is fully online,” Josh related.
Already they have had success in attracting interest. “We were really focusing on the healthcare professionals who have a Continuing Education background, but we’ve had a lot of interest from MPAs to MHAs as well,” Shannon clarified. “We want to build it out beyond pharmacy,” Josh continued. “We are partnering back with our alums to see what it looks like to get into other medicinal disciplines. That way we can have a broader reach.”
The Pukls were quick studies of all the techniques that make the WT Online MBA program so accessible to everyone, and adapted elements of it for their own program. “We saw all the value that you could get out of it, and we did model some parts of it, and applied it back,” he went on. “We have voice-over recordings of Powerpoint presentations, and of course the discussion boards.” They can be found at SJ Holdings Group, Inc., on LinkedIn.
In addition to her new role as full-time entrepreneur, Shannon has also started a lifestyle blog (YourBreastLife.com) in which she shares her journey as a breast cancer survivor. Now seven years post-diagnosis, she felt the need to reach out to others facing the same battle.
“I had breast cancer at 25, and by going through all this, I had a deeper appreciation for life after breast cancer. When you get that diagnosis it is hard to see through the forest for the trees,” she said with deep concern. “My passion is helping other young survivors know there is life after their diagnosis.”
Back at WT, the Pukls found their online MBA to be very different from what they experienced in their residential PharmD program, but they enjoyed the online aspect and the flexibility to be able to work around career obligations. “You still get a lot of relationships through that with discussion boards and group projects,” she said. “You get to interact with others, so you have that sense of community within the school, but you have a lot of freedom to do the work on your own as well.”
The pair has fond memories of favorite courses in the program. For Shannon, it was Dr. Yarbrough’s Organizational Leadership course. “I have taken so much from this into our program,” she boasted. As for Josh, his favorite was a Finance course with a prof who is no longer at WT. “I remember the final exam took me 5 1/2 hours, and when I took my board exam for pharmacy school it took me only 3 1/2 hours!” he laughed. “It was tough, but I learned so much. It gave me the confidence to start our business.”
And after all is said and done, that is the purpose of the MBA program. It’s about building confidence, the kind it takes to take chances, to go where no one has gone before. Convenience, value, and quality of a program are one thing. But when it inspires you to take the next step?