Jetsetters Securing MBA Dreams
Imagine enrolling in an MBA program that meets 1,500 miles away from your home. For Russell Keith and Michelle Cantone, this is life in the Information Security MBA program.
Aiming to create managers who understand business fundamentals and the implications of information security, the MBA program features classes largely held online, with periodic face-to-face meetings in Reston, VA. Designed as a two-year online part-time program, the Information Security MBA is geared toward working professionals hoping to pursue further education while also remaining engaged in the workplace.
For many of the MBA students, the occasional classroom meetings require only a small amount of travel; however, for Russell and Michelle this requirement calls for babysitters, flight plans, hotel reservations, and travel itineraries.
Michelle currently works as the Technical Support Supervisor for a local county government outside of Houston. As someone dedicated to constantly developing as a professional, Michelle is enthusiastic about the program. She explains, “I cannot deny it is extremely valuable for me to have my MBA. I feel it will at least start conversations and open doors not previously available. It also carries a level of respect in any industry. I want to grow and take on more responsibility—having my MBA will help me stand out against my competition.”
Working for the American Airlines Federal Credit Union as the manager of the Enterprise Infrastructure and Data Center group, Russell also sees the potential value that an MBA in Information Security offers. He explains, “I have a BS in Network and Communications Management and an MS in Network Architecture. The Information Security MBA will give me the business knowledge to complement my technical skills and allow me to eventually move past my current middle management position and achieve my goal of CIO.”
Living in Texas and commuting to Virginia has been a challenge for Russell and Michelle. Michelle says, “Traveling certainly is not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of planning and coordination to get to DC. I am typically in town for fewer than 36 hours; and I normally hit my bed at 2 a.m. on Sunday. But I think I do better leaving town every eight weeks; it permits me to focus exclusively on the course at hand as opposed to the million other things going on in my day.”
For Russell, the meetings are the biggest challenge, but somehow he and his wife manage to find the silver linings. “Working for an airline makes travel very easy on me and my wallet,” he says. “My wife is very supportive of my career and educational goals and she is happy with my choices. She also plans to fly in with me from time to time for a little change of scenery.”
For both Michelle and Russell, the benefits of receiving a degree from JMU outweigh the challenges involved in the process. Michelle explains, “I live near a school which offers a Master’s in Information Security. Though it is a well-recognized school, I wanted to focus on managing InfoSec, not merely doing it. I found JMU and knew it was where I needed to be – even if it is 1,500 miles away. I feel that I am respected and appreciated by the school and not treated like a check coming in, but as a valuable member of the profession.”
Russell agrees that JMU is the best option for him, even though it is located thousands of miles away from his home. He admits, “I wanted to get my MBA from a real brick-and-mortar school that would be easily recognized; I didn't want to feel like people were thinking I just bought my MBA online. JMU offered the perfect marriage of my requirements.”