Busy professionals are earning MBAs through WWU's Weekend MBA program

By Jocelyn Robinson
For The Bellingham Business Journal

A master’s degree in business may seem like an odd education for a nurse, but for Amanda Crain it was a perfect fit.

Crain, the director of nursing services at the Puget Sound Kidney Centers, is in her final quarter of earning an MBA from Western Washington University’s Weekend MBA program.

Crain earned an associate’s degree in nursing in 2003 and immediately went to work at the Puget Sound Kidney Center. She started as a floor nurse, moved into a direct care manager position a few years later and eventually became director of nursing services. She went back to school and earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

A potential job promotion opened up at the Puget Sound Kidney Centers, but Crain faced an obstacle — she didn’t have an MBA. Health care has become extremely regulated. Combined with benchmarks on quality the centers must meet, the business side of nursing has become more complicated.

“It’s really gotten us to think about the cost of care and trying to be efficient but still give good care,” Crain said. “It’s challenging.”

Crain enrolled in WWU’s Weekend MBA program, which is offered through the University Center on Everett Community College’s campus. The curriculum offered in Everett mirrors WWU’s evening MBA program in Bellingham. Both are two-year programs aimed at working adults.

Kati Johnson, the associate director of WWU’s MBA program, said the part-time program attracts students from a variety of backgrounds.

“They’re all working professionals that are embedded in their organizations,” Johnson said. “They’re already in a mid-management type role and are looking to take that next step.”

In today’s job market, many people may want to get their MBA but aren’t willing to leave their jobs to return to school full-time, said Johnson.

“But for folks who are working and wanting to take steps to advance in their industries, a part-time program can be a really nice fit,” she said. “We’re offering something you really can’t get in that area unless you’re willing to commute into Seattle.”

The first year is strong on the fundamentals of business — classes in accounting, finance, statistics and economics.

“Once you have those foundations built, then you will work at looking at those from a managerial perspective and putting all the pieces together,” Johnson said.

Crain appreciated the management aspect of the program.

“I really was expecting all these finance and business classes and I was very surprised and glad to see so much emphasis on good leadership and good stewardship,” Crain said. “I think that’s what I enjoyed the most.”

Only two courses are offered each semester; classes in Everett are held in eight-hour blocks every other Friday and Saturday.

“It’s the only way I think I could have done that,” said Crain, who is married with two young children.

Anything more than two classes would probably be impossible to manage, since most students are juggling full-time jobs and school, assistant professor Burak Dolar said.

An MBA can be beneficial to people in a variety of industries, said Dolar, who teaches accounting.

“As long as you’re in a decision-making position in a company, you have to understand the basics of business,” Dolor said. “You might have the brightest idea as a marketing person, but if those ideas don’t make financial sense, they’re not going to take you seriously.”

For Crain, getting her degree in Everett was a familiar experience: She earned her associate’s at Everett Community College and her bachelor’s through the University of Washington at EvCC.

“I’ve gotten three different degrees from three different colleges in one place that’s 15 minutes from my house,” she said. “It’s been amazing.”

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