Marjorie Hope is living up to her last name by returning to college.
"I watched my mom, Ginger Kelly, go through law school later in life with four children," she said. "That was part of the intrinsic belief that I could do it. That foundation showed me I could definitely get an MBA.
"I also went through a tough divorce and separation. I always wanted to go back and get my master's degree, so it was the right time to do it."
Hope is on track to complete the online Master of Business Administration program at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in August 2022. After that, she plans to take two additional courses.
"I had just come out of that marriage at the end of 2020," she said. "Everybody told me, 'You're crazy. Don't go back to school now. You've got too much going on.' I am so glad that I started when I did."
With a full-time career as a recruiter for Carrabba's Italian Grill in Chadbourn, North Carolina, and two children, Kendall (9) and Levi (6), Hope requires the flexibility of earning a degree asynchronously.
"The online format is very manageable," she said. "I buckle down in the seven weeks for each course. During that time, I focus. When I get a break, I take it to reorganize my life and spend extra time with the children. It helps."
After researching online MBA programs, Hope found the ideal one a mere 36 miles away.
"UNC Pembroke was so affordable," she said. "It's also close and accessible. Plus, I have family members who have graduated from there. It checked all of the boxes."
Getting Down to Business
Hope was born and raised in North Carolina, but she spent a dozen years living with her mother in Rhode Island before returning to the Tar Heel State.
"I have always worked in the restaurant industry," she said. "I started bussing tables when I was 15 years old to make extra cash.
"In 2000, I answered an ad for Outback Steakhouse. I grew my career with them. I worked my way up through operations and managing restaurants. Six years ago, I joined the human resources department at Carrabba's."
While working on the training team at Outback, under the Bloomin' Brands umbrella, Hope graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Liberty University in 2015. She enrolled at UNC Pembroke five years later.
"I have a great career, but I knew that even with all of the experience in the world, you sometimes have to have that degree to be the differentiator when it comes to getting the next promotion or help move the business forward," she said.
So far, Hope has learned a lot in the online MBA program that has applied to her career. She is especially enjoying the Marketing Planning Strategy course.
"I am working with a team to build the success of a business," she said. "I excel at that collaboration with others. I like seeing something to the finish line and seeing the risk-taking lead to positive business results. The business intelligence we have as a team is my favorite."
Hope, a graduate assistant at UNC Pembroke, is also doing a special project with marketing professor Dr. Suzanne Altobello.
"I am doing research about consumer behavior," she said. "That's super fun because I don't do marketing at my job. I am in recruiting, human resources, operations and training. It's expanded my understanding of business in the marketing department."
She found unexpected insights in some of the courses, leading to out-of-the-box thinking for the role she currently holds.
"The Information Systems Technology course has me thinking about technology for my company and how we can take profitability and streamlining to the next step as we move into a 5G world," she said.
Brand New Degree
Hope plans to celebrate the big accomplishment of graduating from the program by walking in the commencement ceremony on campus.
"I 100% plan to be there," she said. "I did not walk for graduation for my undergraduate degree. My children will see me walk."
Hope's motivation for earning an MBA includes the goal of teaching college courses and sharing her real-world experience with students.
"The graduate assistantship program helps support my potential future career in teaching college," she said. "I love my job, but I would like to teach courses adjunct at my local community college or at UNC Pembroke.
"The MBA enables me to take that on," she said. "I might also pursue a Ph.D. I have taught adult education for many years. I am interested in people learning by drawing on their experience."
Now that Hope is in the home stretch, she knows that the decision to return to college was wise.
"I took it on because now is the best time," she said. "There's never a good time to start a master's degree, but I want to continue to make money and put my children through college. Education has always been important to me.
"I am fortunate to have had a lot of experience as a business professional. Getting my MBA was an extension of the business acumen I had from working at Bloomin' Brands."
Hope believes that anybody considering the online MBA program at UNC Pembroke should also take that leap.
"You are absolutely capable," she said. "Don't be afraid to look and find resources for any gaps that might be limiting you, whether it's tutoring, your academic adviser or your college community resource group. There are resources to help you with your weak points.
"A little bit of tutoring goes a long way, and you know more than you think you do. Don't let limiting beliefs stop you from entering the program and finishing strong."
And never lose hope.
Learn more about UNC Pembroke's online MBA program.
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