A change in educational direction hit all of the right notes for Michael Cohen.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music, the Washington, D.C., area native enrolled in the online MBA in General Business program at Longwood University.

“I wanted to take control of my life and get to a place where I was happy by improving my life,” Cohen said. “With the changes in the job market and the emphasis on education, I knew that I needed to get a master’s degree. I wanted a degree that was not in the same field as my undergraduate.”

Cohen works full time as a loan specialist, trainer and team lead for the U.S. Small Business Administration. He is helping firms acquire COVID-19 economic relief.

“I wanted to do something to be more marketable with the master’s degree,” he said. “The MBA seemed interesting. I had no business or finance background, but I have always pushed myself and been willing to step outside my comfort zone.”

The affordable tuition, flexibility of the fully online format and word of mouth motivated Cohen to enroll at Longwood University in January 2021. He also wanted a school within driving distance of his home in northern Virginia.

“I know about Longwood University’s reputation,” he said. “A lot of my friends from high school went there for their undergrad. I knew graduate school would be different, but they told me how much they enjoyed being at Longwood.

“I thought about trying a hybrid program, but then I would have had to deal with scheduling conflicts. I am glad that this is an asynchronous program. I can work on it during my lunch hour, or hop on at 11 p.m. and do school work — it doesn’t matter. It’s extremely manageable.”

In Perfect Harmony

After developing a strong love of music as a teenager, Cohen set out to become a high school music teacher. Before he enrolled in the online MBA program, he still did some substitute teaching at Prince William County Public Schools.

“My high school choir director inspired me,” he said. “Pre-COVID-19, I was working with kids in the music classroom a lot.”

Cohen started school at Christopher Newport University. He transferred to a junior college after one semester before finishing his degree at George Mason University in 2018. He started at the U.S. Small Business Administration as a contractor in early 2020.

Managerial Accounting, taught by Dr. Rebecca Wetmiller, gave Cohen a chance to expand his knowledge base soon after enrolling in the online MBA program.

“That course allowed me to see things from a different perspective,” he said. “When I took it, I was looking at a lot of external shareholder documents for businesses. That course is about internal documents, so it allowed me to cross-connect what I was learning at work into the coursework.”

Cohen also appreciated Dr. Wetmiller’s understanding when a family crisis loomed ahead of a deadline.

“My mom was in the emergency room a couple of weeks ago after falling and fracturing her humerus, which was the same day I had my last assignment due for the course,” he said.

Within moments of emailing Dr. Wetmiller, he got her reply: “Don’t worry about it. Get it to me by the end of the weekend. I hope your mom feels better.”

“I like knowing that the professors understand real-life situations,” Cohen said. “Her being understanding and always being available for office hours and questions was great.”

Pitch Perfect

Cohen is on track to complete the online MBA program in August 2022, so he has plenty of time to contemplate which career direction to take after college.

“I am still up in the air with my future plans — I could be doing education or business,” he said. “I would love for my current position to turn into a permanent position. The MBA program is going to open a lot of doors to so many possibilities.”

Based on his experience so far, Cohen knows he has a strong support system in place with the Longwood University faculty.

“At Longwood, the professors care about you. There is compassion. They are there to support you. You are not just a number to them — you’re a person and a name,” he said.

Especially because Cohen is learning about business for the first time in an educational setting, asking questions has been the key to his success and important for any online MBA student.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” he said. “I know that firsthand. The first week of the accounting course, not having any finance or business background, I was learning like a deer in the headlights.

“Every week of the course, I attended the teacher’s Zoom office hour. By the time I left that hour, I understood the material.”

Cohen has also benefited from learning about the real-world business experience of his classmates via discussion boards.

“We have different backgrounds and learn from each other,” he said. “In fact, I learn a lot from them, as well as the faculty. It’s then a matter of being able to know how to take away from that experience and use it as your own.”

Learn more about Longwood University’s online MBA program.