Learning Together

Sharon Simmons ‘22 found a community of learners in her MBA program
Portrait of Sharon Simmons '22

I like to be that person who tries to see everything as an opportunity. I loved the experience, everything about the program worked for me.

Sharon Simmons is a believer in lifelong learning. The healthcare consultant had already completed two master’s degrees and was between jobs when she decided to pursue an MBA degree.

She tested the waters with a marketing class at Columbia University and enjoyed the experience. Since she was between jobs, she decided to make the best use of the time she had been given. “I decided I am not going to be that person who just sits around and complains about everything,” she said. “I like to be that person who tries to see everything as an opportunity. I tested the waters and loved it, but I didn’t want to put myself in a position of starting a program that was unaffordable.”

So Simmons decided to do some research.

“On a whim, I went online and looked to see what kind of MBA programs were out there,” she recalled. She found Fitchburg State’s program and filled out an online form in search of information. A very positive customer service experience followed. “The representative was phenomenal, above and beyond anything I had ever imagined. She had me, and I am a hard sell.”

Simmons was intrigued by Fitchburg State’s course offerings, its accelerated pace and asynchronous format. She started the program in 2021.

“I really loved this program,” she said. “I got a tremendous amount out of it. I loved the experience, everything about the program worked for me. The professors were extremely accessible.”

That’s not to say it was an easy journey. Simmons navigated personal health crises in the course of her studies, as well as losing loved ones and changing jobs, with the global pandemic also casting a shadow over the experience.

Simmons was not shy about reaching out to faculty members for help. “If a professor offers themselves up, I’m there,” she said. “I took advantage of everything I could take advantage of.”

She also collaborated closely with her classmates, organizing study sessions and discussions around some of the more challenging coursework. “It was a great group,” she said. “People realized what we needed to do and were willing to help one another.”

The human experiences have proved as valuable as any course material, Simmons said.

“I probably learned more about strategy, in a very tactical way, with the application in a university setting and self-organizing,” she said. “By applying it in a very different setting, I proved to myself that I got it. My level of self-confidence took off in a different direction and has pushed me forward.”

This story first appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of Contact magazine.