Even when Kevin Hensley talks about enrolling in the Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Supply Chain Management online program at UNC Pembroke, he is thinking about cars.
"After a few years of real-world experience in my field, I found myself wanting a new challenge and a deeper understanding of business," he said. "I also come from a family of well-educated people. I am the last one to get an advanced degree. I said, 'I need to kick it in gear.'"
Hensley, a divisional procurement manager for Sonic Automotive in Charlotte, is on track to graduate and become the next advanced degree holder in his family this year.
"My wife, Latisha, works in education and has always encouraged me to go back to school," he said. "My daughter, Kayla, is a freshman biology major at UNC Charlotte. I want to show her that I can go back to school even after being in the professional world for a while. I learn a lot from her."
The fully online format, supply chain management concentration and affordable tuition were the driving forces that steered Hensley toward earning an MBA at UNCP.
"I like the flexibility and not having a specific class at a specific time of the week," he said. "With the online option, I have a certain amount of time to get the work done, and I can schedule my day and incorporate getting it done."
Although Hensley had been out of school for 18 years before enrolling in the master's degree program, he quickly got the hang of online learning.
"Everything you do now is pretty much online," he said. "It was a little different than classes at a brick-and-mortar school, but the transition was very smooth. Everything was laid out in great detail with what the expectations are and how to accomplish everything online."
Turning on a Dime
Hensley grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business from Morehouse College in 2001. After working in the banking industry for a few years, he landed a job as a buyer at CarMax.
"I was buying cars and became very intrigued by the whole supply chain function, with logistics, transportation and re-ordering and things of that nature," he said. "I wanted to learn more. Then, I had an opportunity to come over to Sonic and get in the purchasing department, which allowed me to get that deeper dive into understanding supply chain."
Initially, Hensley started at Sonic Automotive as an inventory specialist in 2011. He was promoted to his current role three years later.
"Working for Sonic, you learn to enjoy looking at cars," he said.
Of the five courses Hensley has taken so far in the online MBA program, he has enjoyed the accounting course the most.
"The professor, Dr. Dena Breece, was extremely accessible, which is great when you are doing a program remotely," he said. "She was very structured. The class was definitely interesting, too.
"Now that I have been working for 15 years, the information is more relatable versus when you are 18 years old with no work experience. I have a deeper understanding of what my company is putting out to Wall Street with the financials."
With so much going on in Hensley's life, he is happy that earning a master's degree online is manageable with the right approach.
"You have to know why you're getting this degree — what is the purpose?" he said. "Also, understand that it's a commitment, and it is very time consuming. The majority of people in the online program are probably doing it because they work full time, so your classmates are having the same struggles that you're having because they also have full-time jobs and extracurricular activities."
Hensley, who enjoys fishing and is a youth sports coach in his spare time, already knows he made a good decision by returning to higher education and paving the way for even more success down the road.
"I have absolutely gotten good value out of the program," he said. "I want to see what type of doors open up to me to progress my career with the MBA and maybe become a vice president or a director. I have my fingers crossed that this degree will help me reach my goals."
As Hensley nears the halfway point of the online MBA program, he and his family are looking forward to the day that he will cross the finish line and walk the graduation stage in Pembroke.
"They are excited about it," he said. "I will absolutely attend graduation. I am probably going to need about 100 tickets."
Learn more about the UNC Pembroke online MBA program with a Concentration in Supply Chain Management.
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