August 14, 2021 was memorable for Katie Lewis.

The Wilmington, Delaware, native celebrated her birthday on the same day she completed the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Longwood University.

“I wanted to grow as an individual and gain the skills to get into leadership or executive positions,” she said. “It was something that came about pretty recently. In September 2019, a friend of mine suggested it. I applied and started classes four months later.”

Lewis is a single mother to two children — Grace Dunkum (16) and Gavin Dunkum (14). She also works full time as a financial administrator at Helton House in Rice, Virginia.

“The online program allowed me to work on school on my own time,” she said. “I was able to do homework at night or in the mornings. It also got me through the pandemic when everything shut down. I capitalized on all of that extra time.”

The online MBA program also led Lewis to gain extended bonding time with her family most every weeknight during the school year.

“For my kids to see everything I was doing in the MBA program was great,” she said. “I was working on it at night, as well. They were at home doing homework, and I was at home doing homework.”

Although Lewis had not been a student for more than 20 years, she had no problem adjusting to a new way of studying as a first-time online learner.

“The women in my family go back to college later in life,” she said. “My mother went back when she was 40. My grandmother went back to nursing school when she was in her 40s. I am a third-generation returning student. That seems to be the common path.”

Change of Course

Lewis grew up in central Virginia, where she planned on a career in video production. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and media studies from Mary Baldwin University in 1998.

“After college, I worked for production companies in northern Virginia and Washington, DC,” she said. “When I moved back to central Virginia, I kind of gave it up, but I still have it deep down in there.”

After landing her current position at Helton House, Lewis discovered an untapped passion for business and ran with it.

“My background was communications, but the company needed a financial administrator and help with project management,” she said. “I took the company from being in the red, transformed it and made it work. I realized then that I like numbers and the financial side of the business.”

MANG 564: Leadership, Group Dynamics, and Team Building, taught by Dr. Haley Woznyj, was Lewis’ favorite course in the online MBA program.

“It helped me expand my mind and my creative side, as well as hone my leadership skills,” she said. “I have used a lot of things that I learned in the program. It helped me with my current job and will help with getting another job.”

Lewis completed the program in 19 months while making sure she didn’t miss out on any of her children’s sporting activities.

“I took my computer to baseball practice to work on class sometimes,” she said. “It is very manageable. Longwood has a great program that I highly recommend. It’s one of the best things I have ever done in my adult life.”

Icing on the Cake

Although Lewis enjoys her current role, she has her sights set on running the show with an MBA to complement her real-world experience.

“I have always wanted to be head of a business or my own business,” she said. “Years ago, I ran a small T-shirt business, which was fun. I’d like to do something entrepreneurial, but I also wouldn’t mind working for a company and helping them achieve their business goals.”

Lewis had plenty of support from her family while she returned to school after a long hiatus. Her friends rallied around her, too.

“One of my friends talked me into getting the degree,” she said. “I am fairly adaptable, but I hadn’t been in school since 1998. This program has helped reignite my passion for learning.”

Now that Lewis has simultaneously celebrated a birthday and a major accomplishment, she is convinced that earning a degree online is doable for most anybody.

“If you don’t think you can do it, you can,” she said. “If I could do it with all I had going on with the pandemic and kids at home, anybody can do it. You dig deep and pull through. The next thing you know, you are at the end.”

Learn more about Longwood University’s online MBA program.