Achieving a Master’s Degree: A Personal Reflection

By Ellie Walburg on August 21, 2019

Author's Note: This post is written by guest contributor and PGS alumnus Paul Kloska (M.B.A. '18).

My master's program officially began at Cornerstone University in April 2017.

But it really started way before then.

In fact, it started as soon as I entered the workforce in 2015. I said that I would give myself a year, two at the most, before I began to prepare and start graduate school. I wanted an M.B.A. to open more doors for my career and set myself up for success for my future. Cornerstone's Professional & Graduate Studies (PGS) program seemed like the right fit for me professionally.

So I took a leap of faith and enrolled.

At first, it was a struggle working forty plus hours a week with schoolwork. It was tough to keep that work-life—or work-school—balance. Furthermore, as soon as I started the program, I received a promotion at work. Balancing trying to learn my new role while continuing my education was a challenge, but I was setting myself up for the future. It was a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain. I just had to "keep my nose to the grindstone" as my grandpa would say and remember every day what I was trying to accomplish.

In class, I learned a lot about how a business is run and what it takes to be a successful business partner. For example, in one class, I was able to develop a business plan using various analyses such as market, competitor and situation analysis. In another class, I developed my marketing skills using "blue ocean strategy," which is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and opening new market space. Our team had to develop our own blue ocean strategy for that class.

In addition to a variety of course topics, another big part of the program was working with others from varying business backgrounds and using their knowledge to help achieve success, regardless of industry or concentration.

As a student in the finance concentration, I was really intrigued by how I could practically develop my finance skills. I learned about activity-based costing versus traditional costing. I did a company analysis of Under Armour and analyzed their financials to determine their future forecast. I conducted a foreign risk analysis of doing business in China. All of the information I learned in these classes prepared me for the future in which I plan on leading a business someday.

Overall in my program, though, my proudest accomplishment was being able to represent Cornerstone in the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) Cup.

The ACG Cup is an intercollegiate competition that brings together real-world context and feedback from leaders of successful businesses in West Michigan. We learned more about mergers and acquisition alternatives, valuation of companies, capital markets, finance options and corporate strategy.

This practical competition really developed my financial skills as well as my leadership skills. While I was accustomed to a deeper financial background, my team contributed in their own way as we were committed to excellence to learn about what we were doing and why we were doing it. It was a great experience for all of us, and I will take what I learned from that experience into my career.

I was extremely anxious when I began this journey. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if I could do it. But with the support of classmates, family, friends and keeping the faith in knowing that with God all things are possible, I was able to complete my program and graduate earlier than I had expected.

I could not have done this without the support from everyone involved. The faculty at Cornerstone was beyond helpful and was always willing to lend a helping hand, and my classmates could not have been any better. Outside of class, I had the support from friends, family and co-workers that really made this journey valuable.

Not only did I grow professionally, but I grew personally as well. Taking part in the PGS program made me a better person, and I will use the skills I learned both in the classroom as well as the interpersonal skills I developed in my career and my life.

I will end this with one of my favorite quotes that I live by from former University of Notre Dame head football coach Lou Holtz, "Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."

With the right mindset and in relying on God, anything is possible.

Category: Student Perspectives