Thirty-seven years after Anne Hagen graduated with a bachelor’s degree, she returned to higher education as a student. Then, she became chief executive officer of the Masonic Home of Virginia.
“I was at the juncture in my career where my boss, who was the CEO, was looking at a different opportunity for himself,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what the future held for me.”
In May 2019, Hagen graduated from the online Master of Business Administration program at Longwood University while working as a chief financial officer for the organization.
“I went into the MBA program thinking I might want to teach after I finish doing what I am doing, but I found it gave me more confidence in my current job and, in turn, made me a better candidate for my boss’s job when it opened,” she said. “Against all odds, I got the job.
“The MBA showed I wasn’t afraid to learn, and that I hadn’t plateaued or given up. Sometimes that’s the impression that people have of someone who has been in a career for a long time.”
Deciding where to enroll was a no-brainer for Hagen. Her sister, Cindy Roberts, and two of her sons, John Hart Jr. (32) and Joseph Connor (24), are Longwood graduates. Hagen and her husband, John, have two other sons and college graduates, Patrick O’Neill (29) and Michael Chesley (27).
“I was very impressed with Longwood and what I had seen about the program online,” she said. “The people in the different departments were approachable and encouraging.
“I decided to take a chance and start the process. I thought, ‘If these two years go as quickly as other times in my life, it will be done before I know it.’ Luckily, it went very well.”
New Way to Fly
Hagen grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Virginia Tech University in 1980. She then became a Certified Public Accountant.
“The CPA was pretty much the equivalent to an MBA in those days,” she said.
“In the back of my mind, I always thought an MBA would be cool to have. I got married, had four boys and steadily progressed in my career. I was busy as a bee and didn’t have time to do much else.”
In 2009, Hagen landed a position as chief financial officer at Masonic Home of Virginia and in 2015 was promoted to vice president. She had never taken an online course before enrolling at Longwood.
“I was surprised how well it went,” she said. “Every time I started a class, I was nervous about how I would do. As soon as I got going, it fell into place.”
For many of the classroom examples, she found herself sharing her perspective based on her years of work experience.
“For the first time in my career, I was able to write anything freely without being politically correct,” she said.
MANG 564: Leadership, Group Dynamics, and Team Building was Hagen’s favorite course in the online MBA curriculum.
“The coursework asked you to do research with people on their perspective of you in the leadership capacity,” she said. “Then, you accorded that into a project. There were a lot of good classes, but that one was especially good for me.”
Hagen just celebrated the one-year anniversary of her promotion to CEO. She is still benefiting from the information that she learned in the online MBA program — especially from ISCS 570: Information Technology. Because the course was so relevant, her boss at the time paid for it.
Completing the course also helped her overcome the feeling of being upstaged by her younger colleagues despite her IT expertise.
“When I took the IT class, it gave me the boost that I needed,” she said.
“It made me understand that I do know the information, but I could refer to that course. They were all applicable, but that was one of the most valuable courses to me.”
After graduating from college 40 years earlier, Hagen walked a commencement stage again at Longwood University.
“I went back and did the cap and gown and the whole bit,” she said. “My family and friends were all excited for me.”
Hagen, who enjoys cooking, reading and spending time on the water, also got plenty of support from her MBA classmates.
“I bonded with two other women, as well as a bunch of the guys,” she said. “It was a great group to work with on projects.
“I was adopted by a 20-something on the first day of the program. We were buddies the whole time. We bonded and made a great team, and we all celebrated together at graduation. It gave me opportunities with other folks I otherwise would not have had.”
Although Hagen had some apprehensions about grad school after a long hiatus, she loved the experience and is now the fourth Longwood graduate in her family.
“If you are thinking about it, I would highly recommend you reach out to Longwood,” she said. “They can encourage you and help you navigate. If you’re a lifelong learner, it’s one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your career.”
Learn more about Longwood University’s online MBA in General Business.