Earning a graduate degree at Northwest Missouri State University is a double bonus for Kelly Towne.
Towne is enrolled in the university's Master of Business Administration in human resource management online program. She has a 4.0 grade-point average and is on track to become the first person in her family to earn a master's degree when she graduates later this year.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and speech communication from Northwest in 2001.
"I should have done a master's degree program years ago, but it never quite worked out," Towne said. "I got married, had a kiddo and changed jobs. Finally, I settled in a place that I knew was where I wanted to be but needed to get a little more education to enhance what I'm doing."
Towne not only has a full-time job as a Parent Educator for FAMILY, Inc., in Council Bluffs, Iowa, she also recently made her side gig a full-fledged business.
"I am a wedding officiant," she said. "I was ordained in 2004. I've performed a little over 80 weddings since 2007. The MBA is hugely helpful with my own business, Your Wedding Your Way, which I started last year. The accounting classes have taught me to really put pen to paper of what I'm doing with my business and what my time is worth."
The online format was the primary reason Towne enrolled in graduate school. She saw the online MBA in HR management program at Northwest advertised on Facebook.
"Online works great for me," she said. "We live in a rural community, so I am a half hour from the nearest college. I knew that a round-trip drive of an hour-and-a-half or two hours to sit in a class was not going to happen. I needed something I could do between baseball games or at one in the morning. The flexibility was huge."
The online MBA in HR management program is especially applicable to Towne's full-time job at FAMILY, Inc. She worked for nearly six years as a family life educator before leaving to gain experience with another local non-profit and rejoined the company in 2014.
"I like HR because it's a little bit of everything," she said. "Especially in a small nonprofit like ours, an HR role is completely different than a corporate HR role where there are 10 people in the department. Our HR person is involved in everything. I didn't want to focus too much on one thing or another because any position that would open for me there is going to be involved in everything."
Returning to Northwest makes earning a master's degree extra special for Towne. So far, MGMT 54620: Advanced Human Resource Management and FIN 53608: Employment Law are her two favorite courses.
"When I started that first course, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is so much information. I'm never going to get this done,'" she said. "I left those classes saying, 'I know this stuff.' Both courses were really interesting."
Most of the information in the online MBA in HR management curriculum is applicable to Towne's full-time job, which includes plenty of interaction with parents.
"I'm always saying, 'I learned this and this in class' or 'let's do this,'" she said. "We're looking at ways to engage our clients. We work with families who have children ranging in ages from prenatal to school entry. We're trying to get them engaged and keep them engaged."
With more than half of the master's program completed, Towne looks forward to building on her Northwest education and having it continue to pay dividends.
"Someone in class said, 'Isn't that why we're in this program, to make more money?'" she said. "But I realized that I truly love what I do and hope to be able to use my degrees to make a greater impact for the families our agency serves. I'm the only bilingual staff member at our agency, and I want to grow and enhance our work with the Hispanic community and all families."
Towne continues to have plenty of help at home while she balances two jobs and a graduate degree program.
"My husband, Daniel, is very supportive," she said. "When I told my mom I was accepted into grad school, she said, 'Why are you going to spend that much money to go back?' I said, 'Because I want to. I enjoy learning.' My son, Perrin, is 9 years old, and he thinks it's really funny that I have homework and he usually doesn't."
Being able to illustrate the importance of higher education to her son is yet another bonus of completing the master's degree program.
"I love it," she said. "That's one of the things we talked about in a class last semester. We were talking about how a lot of us are older, have kids and a full-time job and didn't just get our undergraduate degrees. I spent 16 years working and then went back to work on my master's degree.
"We were discussing how good of an example it is for our kids to show them – 'hey, mom has to study, too.' My son says, 'If you need me to, I'll go get you a drink of water. Then, I'm going downstairs to play Minecraft with dad. We'll stay out of your hair.' It's awesome."
In a matter of months, Towne will walk the graduation stage in Maryville for the second time. This time, she is excited that her son will be there to help her celebrate.
"It's been a fantastic experience," she said. "I would tell anybody considering an online MBA at Northwest to make sure you have the ability to make time to do it. But do it."Learn more about Northwest's online MBA in HR Management program.
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