Lerner Graduate Student Stories: Lauren Sullivan

Lauren Sullivan is currently an assistant corporate secretary with the American Red Cross and is pursuing an MBA in finance and international business from Lerner. She is expected to graduate this spring. As part of the Outstanding Lifelong Lerner series, Sullivan shared why she chose Lerner’s MBA program and how she balances her career with her studies.

Lerner: Why did you go back to pursue your graduate degree? Why did you choose the Lerner College for your studies?

Sullivan: As I progressed in my career, I was increasingly collaborating with the finance and investment departments and I could feel a gap in my knowledge of financial statements, accounting, and investments in particular. I chose Lerner College because the MBA program seemed rigorous, provided the educational opportunities and coursework I was seeking with a concentration in finance, but was balanced with the flexibility of being able to continue to work full time and raise a young family.

Lerner: What did you learn through this opportunity that you wouldn’t have learned anywhere else?

Sullivan: How much I love UD! In all seriousness, my unique learning was about how engaged the professors were with online students and that you really can build a rapport virtually, even when there’s not a pre-existing relationship. All other programs I looked at had an in-person component of a weekend per semester, and the virtual nature of this program really made me put myself out there more to forge relationships when I couldn’t interact in person. I learned a lot from that process and I would have had a different experience anywhere else.

Lerner: Please share an example of a course or concept that you were able to apply directly to your life and/or career.

Sullivan: I was immediately able to apply concepts from accounting about how to read financial statements, from analytics about how to read charts with upper and lower control limits and what constitutes being out of control, and from the finance classes about how to calculate NPV and IRR and the pros and cons of each, as well as the use of derivatives to hedge real-world risks.

Lerner: Describe an important connection you have made through your graduate program (personal, professional, peers, mentors, professors, etc.)

Sullivan: I made a really strong connection with a group of peers who I met through the very first class. We enjoyed interacting and banded together as a group in the next class. We worked so well together that we then aligned our schedules to try to take as many classes as possible together, despite the different concentrations of the group. The best part is that we have developed true friendships out of it and often joke that the next step is to all start a company together. I also have to mention the incredible connection I made with a mentor through the Lerner College Mentoring Program. She has become a vital part of my network and the person I turn to when faced with really big challenges or decisions at work.

Lerner: If you were to describe your classmates in one word, what would that be and why?

Sullivan: Talented

Lerner: How do you balance your career with your studies?

Sullivan: The asynchronous nature of the program makes it easier to fit school into my life. Depending on the class, I could fit the work in at night or on the weekends and I had control to be able to change it from week to week. If I’m going away for the weekend, I can finish the work during the week and if I have a really busy week at work, I can catch up on the weekend. The flexibility of the program is a key part of my success.

Lerner: Fill in this sentence: “My graduate program helped me become…”

Sullivan: More knowledgeable and skilled about business administration in general and finance and investments in particular. It’s given me the knowledge and the confidence to talk about these topics with C-suite executives.

Lerner: What was the most impactful hands-on project or case competition that you were able to participate in?

Sullivan: The group project in managing organizations, people and teams was really impactful because it showed in a very real way the importance of taking time to set the ground rules for how a team will work together at the very start. I’ve since used this concept and it’s helped to get everyone on the same page from day one and understand how to work together.

Lerner: What are your plans or next steps for the future?

Sullivan: I am very fortunate that I will be getting a promotion in the summer to Chief of Staff and Corporate Secretary for the American Red Cross.

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