“There's only so much you can learn in the classroom,” says Jessica Shankland, MBA '10, MS-marketing ‘10. She should know—she's spent the last several years in the classroom, first earning her undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University, then coming to the University of Cincinnati for an MBA and even picking up a master's in marketing along the way.
Shankland is part of a growing trend of recent graduates pursuing an MBA before gaining professional work experience. When she began the MBA program, she immediately noticed that many of her classmates had a different perspective on the lessons being taught. “My input in class was a lot more ideals-based, whereas most of the input that my peers had was from experience,” she says. “It was a little intimidating, but in the end, it was almost advantageous—I learned a lot from my peers that had more experience.”
Fortunately, the UC College of Business's focus on experiential learning provided Shankland with plenty of real-world experience of her own. Throughout the program, Shankland completed many hands-on projects, including a capstone with marketing expert Jim Stengel. She says the capstone taught her valuable lessons about time management, organization and managing relationships with coworkers.
The MBA program capstone also led Shankland to her true passion—marketing. Although she had originally come to UC just for an MBA, she enjoyed the marketing experience she gained through the capstone so much that she decided to pursue a master's in marketing as well. “What better way to learn even more about the industry and gain more experience than completing the MS degree?” she says.
The resulting combination of cross-disciplinary core business knowledge and deep marketing expertise quickly earned Shankland a job with marketing agency TRIS3CT in Chicago, where she manages projects for brands such as Sharpie, PaperMate, EXPO and uni-ball. “The woman that I interviewed with had gotten an MBA herself,” Shankland recalls. “She pointed out that the MBA really is a valuable asset to an individual, and the fact that I had also gotten a master's in marketing really impressed her.”
The foundational business knowledge Shankland gained through the MBA and the deep dive expertise of the MS-marketing degree guides her work every day—helping her keep an eye on the profitability of her projects and developing successful marketing campaigns for clients for example. But the most valuable part of the MBA and MS programs, she says, was the real-world experience that gave her a competitive edge in a field of increasingly younger MBA graduates.