Online, Graduate Students Thrive, Find Balance

By Jessica Turner ’17
5/31/2019 5:00:00 AM

Michael Griffin ’06 
B.S. in Organizational Management

As the director of Fort Smith Regional Airport, Griffin is responsible for administrative, technical and planning duties for the daily operation and long-range development of the airport. The knowledge and experience he gained through JBU gave him the leadership and business skills to advance to his current position. Balancing a fulltime job and caring for his family meant he had to be very intentional about managing his time. Griffin attributes the support and encouragement from his classmates, many of whom were also parents and employed
full- time, as critical to his success.

Chuck Dietrich ’18 
M.B.A. in International Business

As part of a continuous improvement team focused on innovation, Dietrich is accustomed to hearing ideas that challenge his way of thinking. “I thought I knew everything I needed to know to be successful at my job,” said Dietrich. “But completing my MBA while maintaining my responsibilities [at home and at work] challenged me to think creatively,  [and…] it taught me the value of restructuring my work.” He credits his experiences at JBU with helping him find innovative solutions on the job, an essential part of what he does as a director of elevation execution at J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. Dietrich’s instructors, peers and the full support of his family played an essential role in his studies.

Paige Heffron ’18 
M.S. in School Counseling, Marriage & Family Therapy

Heffron, as a school counselor at Springdale High School with a caseload of around 400 students, believes her education and training from JBU were crucial to preparing her for tackling the challenges of school counseling head-on. “Learning from a Christian perspective—and having professors and classmates who prayed for me—equipped me spiritually to serve as a school counselor,” said Heffron. With internships, classes and her position as a graduate assistant, the support the JBU community provided was vital to her success. Even more significant was the encouragement she received from her husband, who was also earning his graduate degree from JBU at the time. “It was challenging, but I had an end goal in mind, and the Lord constantly reminded me to cast my cares upon him.”

Kristy Nguyen ’18 
B.S. in Organizational Leadership

As a natural-born leader who enjoys working with people, Nguyen attributes her time at JBU to equipping her for her role as a project manager and LMS administrator at Aegis Therapies. While at JBU, Nguyen learned the importance of budgeting her time and practicing self-discipline. “I had high goals set for myself when I was finishing my degree,” said Nguyen. “I had spoken with my family ahead of time, preparing them for the reality that I would need to dedicate a lot of time to my studies.” To balance her time, Nguyen developed a cutoff time each night for homework and one homework-free day per week to spend quality time with her family.

Tabitha McFadden ’05
M.S. in Leadership & Ethics

Named to NWA Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” list, McFadden has become a champion for leadership development in her community as vice president of people operations at RevUnit, a product studio in Bentonville. While earning her master’s degree from JBU, McFadden worked at Milestone Leadership. Although balancing school and work wasn’t always easy, McFadden said the impact JBU had on her life was well worth the effort. “I really consider JBU to have been a launch pad for my growth and development,” said McFadden. “I learned so much about operating in leadership from a place of humility and integrity… . Some of those early experiences have shaped my perspectives and helped me to develop into the person I am today.”

Juan Osorio ’17 
M.B.A. in International Business

Osorio began his MBA right out of college. Working fulltime and going to classes at night, Osorio was determined to dive deep into the complex areas of international business. “The MBA program pushed me to the next level,” said Osorio. “I learned to collaborate with different levels of professionals, how to take a step back, make sound decisions and understand the impact of those decisions… . Most importantly, it provided me with the confidence and ability to overcome challenges I will encounter in my career.” Osorio is a proactive, strategic problem-solver, who develops business continuity and crisis management plans as an enterprise business continuity manager for Walmart in the U.S., Mexico and Central America.

Keri Ledbetter ’15 
B.S in Organizational Management

First-generation college graduate Keri Ledbetter was a single mother of two while earning her bachelor’s degree. Ledbetter persevered through late nights of homework and early morning shifts on the factory floor. “I never dreamed I would earn my bachelor’s,” said Ledbetter. “Working hard, staying focused, taking it one semester at a time and being intentional about trying to balance everything was imperative. I knew I had to create a better life for my children and myself through education.” Ledbetter is now owner of Values First, a for-profit, online store that donates a portion of every sale to empowering women to have a strong sense of values and self-worth.

Lina Ballard ’20
M.Ed. in School Counseling

Ballard discovered a passion for education when she began translating from Spanish at a local school in the U.S. She earned a teaching degree and taught for three years until God led her to school counseling. “While I was a teacher, I realized I was most concerned with the well-being of the children and their families,” said Ballard. “God kept telling me I needed to become a school counselor… that he would give me the strength I needed to follow his will.” Married with three young children, Ballard works to keep her family a priority and is very intentional about scheduling her day. Ballard is currently working on her internship and expects to graduate in May 2020.

Angelica Yang ’19
M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

After graduating in May, Yang plans to pursue her licensure as a counselor so she can serve families affected by addiction, a struggle Yang says is not easy to overcome. “It’s a systematic issue, and I want to help families who are struggling with that,” she said. Yang’s time at JBU has impacted not only her professional life, but her family as well, as she has learned to be more empathetic and understanding toward her four teenagers. As the first person to earn a bachelor’s degree in her family—and now a master’s—Yang hopes she has shown her children the importance of getting an education.

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