Hamilton Ibbeken is not throwing away her shot.

“As I expanded into my career, I realized a management position is the path I am trying to take,” she said. “I had the technical background, but it is extremely technical. I needed more business exposure to make a career path in management.”

Ibbeken changed the narrative by completing the online Master of Business Administration program at Longwood University in August 2021.

“The affordability was huge for me,” she said. “My company pays for tuition, but it only gives you a certain amount of money. I needed that box checked because I could not afford to go to grad school on my own.”

To take advantage of the tuition reimbursement, Ibbeken maintained her full-time position as an associate manufacturing engineer at Northrop Grumman, in her hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had her considering online programs. Longwood fit the bill due to the flexibility of its program.

“I could meet deadlines and do it at my own pace,” Ibekken said.

Once she adjusted to the Canvas platform in the online MBA program, she had no issues completing the degree in the minimum required 10 months.

“The online classes were straightforward. There was no confusion. If you needed help, you could email your academic advisor or professor. On top of that, I enjoyed Longwood’s system where they call you regularly. It was reassuring to know they were checking on you,” she said, noting that the outreach helped offset the isolation she experienced during the pandemic.

What Did She Miss?

After thriving in math and physics in high school, Ibbeken graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering science from the University of Virginia in 2019.

“Because I am from Charlottesville, I knew UVA pretty well,” she said. “I wanted to take my extracurricular activities from high school and apply them to my undergrad. It was challenging at times, but I stuck with it and am happy I can have a career.

“Once I got my job at Northrop Grumman, I realized I should work, get that experience under my belt and see what degree would benefit my career goals best. The MBA was my go-to.”

Because she does not have a business background, Ibbeken enjoyed each course in the online MBA curriculum.

“Now, I understand why management asks the questions that they do, why they do certain things and why I have to constantly present my data,” she said. “From the outside, a lot of times you don’t understand why you need to give management that information.

Progressing through the program opened Ibbeken’s eyes to the workings of the business world.

“Everybody has to know about certain things, like ethical and supply chain issues,” she said. “I get it now.”

Ibbeken also enjoyed the perspectives of her online classmates on discussion boards and in group projects throughout her time in the program.

“I liked the classes that included interaction with other people,” she said. “Especially in the management-based classes, I could interact with other students and voice my opinion, which they could comment on. That was great.”

Blow Us All Away

Ibbeken had plenty of support from her family and friends as she made her quick return to higher education.

“My mother, Gray Ogden, was beside herself,” she said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to go to school again and pursue any other degrees. When I told her I was going to do it, she was ecstatic. She hasn’t stopped telling people I got an MBA.”

Now that Ibbeken has that master’s degree under her belt, she plans to build toward advancing in her career.

“Having the MBA will help open doors for me,” she said. “I have already expressed my goals to management in my company. They have recognized my degree and are working to help me achieve those future career goals.”

Ibbeken said that doing some prep work before starting the online MBA program is a good idea.

“Definitely take the time to figure out how all of the software works, especially if you are not familiar with the platforms that colleges have been using,” she said.

“Without that knowledge, sometimes submitting projects and papers and doing group meetings can be difficult. Make yourself aware of what you need to complete a course before it starts. That is going to be helpful.”

The experience of earning an online MBA was so positive for Ibbeken that she is now “recruiting” for Longwood.

“A couple of people at my company have reached out about the program,” she said. “I advertised it to a lot of people because it’s flexible and the degree is attainable. Two of my co-workers are going to enroll.”

Learn more about Longwood’s online MBA program.