“I love the fact that I’m able to work in the team environment and collaborate on projects with different classmates. Even though you start with a cohort of individuals all at the same time, sometimes when you’re in a class, the people who are on your team may be few classes ahead. So, there’s a wealth of knowledge among them, and I’ve been able to pick their brains and ask them about some upcoming assignments and projects.”
Executive MBA Online, Class of 2018
Area Sales Director at Royal Canin, US, Inc. (a MARS subsidiary)
An EMBA for the Jet-Set Professional
Victoria Burke has done it all: risen as a leader in the veterinary industry, supervised multiple professional teams, and worked cross-functionally with national account managers. But as an area sales director for Royal Canin USA, she desired to study the business landscape to enrich her current role — which is a major component of the Washington State Executive MBA.
“The reason I initially joined the program is because I wanted that outside perspective, and to research other companies,” Burke said.
An Education for High-Performers
Burke knew that pursuing a graduate degree would be a sacrifice considering her hectic schedule: she regularly worked over 50 hours a week, as well as traveled across the country for her professional role, so an on-campus program was out of the question.
“I wanted to find a program that was strictly online,” she said. “I also wanted a program that was not just brand new, but had a longstanding history, great accreditation, and high accolades in academia.”
As Burke researched, she found Washington State University’s online Executive Master of Business Administration program. The degree fit all of the attributes she was searching for — especially the flexible, 100% online structure — so she could study on her own terms, even when jet-setting around the U.S.Burke requested information and, after an informative phone session with an enrollment advisor, applied to the program and was soon accepted. She was now a Cougar EMBA student.
Managing Work, Life, and the Executive MBA
Burke was initially intimidated by the time management required to complete her graduate studies. She worked, traveled, and was also a mother and wife.
“The first time I saw the paperwork that said the EMBA was a 20-hour weekly commitment, I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to sleep for the next 18 months,” Burke admitted. “Then I reassessed my situation — I was on airplanes most of my week, where I had Wi-Fi connectivity. Also, every textbook was available in a digital format.”
Burke would shuffle between three to ten textbooks at a time on her iPad, make notes, or study after everyone had fallen asleep or work over the weekends when she was home.
“I was able to make the 20 hours work for me,” she said. “I found it very manageable.”
Coursework That Influences Workplace Efficiency
Burke noticed a trend early on during her WSU EMBA experience: the coursework directly tied into her professional role, such as how to improve cross-functional work with her company’s national accounts, marketing, finance, and e-commerce teams to developing enhanced supply-chain management.
“My second class was on supply chains,” Burke said. “This course encouraged me to have a completely different conversation with our demands planners about constrained versus unconstrained capacity and the planning forecast.”
Burke researched Pier 1, Boeing, and Nordstrom through the EMBA, which she says really enriched her experience.
She was also able to learn from her cohort, especially during her capstone. “We all brought fantastic pieces from our experiences and our knowledge base to be able to work on the capstone project,” she said.
A Practical Education for Modern Leaders
Burke developed more than executive-level business expertise; she formed bonds over once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, like the international business trip to China and Seattle-based leadership conference for EMBA students.
“I love the fact that I’m able to work in the team environment and collaborate on projects with different classmates,” said Burke. “Even though you start with a cohort of individuals all at the same time, sometimes when you’re in a class, the people who are on your team may be few classes ahead. So, there’s a wealth of knowledge among them, and I’ve been able to pick their brains and ask them about some upcoming assignments and projects.”
Burke also credits the professors, section leaders, and academic advisors for their guidance, which has shaped her own expertise and leadership to this day.
“My section leaders come from all parts of the industry, including pharmaceuticals and consulting, like myself. All the professors I’ve had have really been exceptional,” she said. “Many are WSU alumni and at the Ph.D. level, with lots of practical experience, which, to me, was needed. I needed something that I could apply right away.”