Andrea Herschelman is breaking new ground at the University of Southern Indiana.
Last year, she became the university’s first Interior Designer. Now, she is enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program.
“I have an Interior Design bachelor’s degree, which is a fine arts degree,” she said. “I felt like it was pigeonholing me a bit. When I started working at USI, the opportunity to get my degree was definitely a plus.
“I wanted to go back to school and get a master’s degree because I thought it would give me more variance in my education. It was a way for me to get a better, broader range of education and make myself even more viable for the future.”
Herschelman had no shortage of motivation to return to higher education after she graduated from Maryville University a decade earlier. She receives free tuition because she is a full-time USI employee.
“I had the urge and knew I wanted to go back,” she said. “The cost always held me back. How to start, when to start and which degree to choose — I was a little bit apprehensive about all of those things. I didn’t even think I was a candidate for the MBA program.
“I had a 3.9 GPA in my undergrad, but I didn’t think an MBA was achievable if you didn’t have much business background. I was going in with the intent of attaining a more generic degree that didn’t require a huge amount of prerequisites.”
However, Herschelman did not have to take any prerequisites because of that stellar GPA and her work experience. She was an Interior Designer for VPS Architecture, in Evansville, Indiana for six years before she was hired at USI.
“It all completely lined up for me to earn an MBA,” she said.
Herschelman, who is from Evansville and played volleyball and softball at F.J. Reitz High School, credits her mother, Christina, with sparking her interest in design.
“She worked in the construction field when I was growing up, so I always had interest in construction and architecture,” Herschelman said. “I took drafting classes in high school, because I thought architecture was what I wanted to pursue. However, I liked the creative part of design more than I liked the technical aspect. I really liked creating environments people could live, work and learn in, so that was a bigger focus for me than exterior detailing. Interior design was a good outlet for me.”
She did an internship at VPS Architecture her senior year of college, which led to her full-time job with the company.
“When I graduated in 2010, the economy was still recovering,” Herschelman said. “There were limited opportunities [in design]. Even though I thought I never would, I moved back home. I was with that firm for six years, so it turned out to be a great decision.”
In addition to her everyday duties as a University Interior Designer, Herschelman is helping manage numerous construction and renovation projects that include construction of a new arena at USI.
“We’re building the arena now, which will be part of our Physical Activities Center (PAC),” she said. “The first phase will be completed in October of 2018. Once the arena is finished and basketball and volleyball can play in that facility, we will move in to Phase II, which is a renovation of our existing PAC. It’s a three-and-a-half-year project. It’s pretty exciting for the university.”
Herschelman has completed two courses in the MBA program, which is offered fully online. She has already experienced great success in the program.
“My friends and family think I’m a little crazy,” she said. “They say, ‘I would never go back to school.’ It’s been really great though. The classes I’ve had have been very informative and hands-on.”
“The professors have also been great. It was daunting because when I first started the MBA without any business background, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll probably take one class and quit.’ Now, I look forward to each class. They’re all different, but it’s not so hard that you can’t grasp the concept.”
Herschelman is confident she made the right decision to take a leap of faith.
“This was definitely a great choice for me,” she said. “It puts me in a position where I’m more educated, more valuable and more informed. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t question this path at this point.”
Once she completes the MBA program, Herschelman plans to explore all of the options she will have at her disposal.
“Five years ago, I would have said my goal was to own my own company, to work for myself or be part of a two-man group,” she said. “But other doors in different avenues have opened in the last couple of years that are tangible because these are different areas I could pursue with an MBA.”
Herschelman has quickly discovered that the MBA program is manageable even with a full-time job.
“Although I do think it’s challenging, I don’t think it’s unattainable for somebody who is in a career position and has a job, or even somebody coming out of school,” she said. “I think it’s easier for me having work experience. I can use that work experience in a lot of my classes and a lot of our examples and assignments.”
She added that making the commitment to enroll is the toughest part.
“Something my graduate advisor told me was that it’s never going to be a great time, so you might as well just do it,” Herschelman said. “You can talk yourself out of it by saying, ‘There’s never going to be enough money. There’s never going to be enough time.’ There’s never going to be a time when it’s just perfect, but you can get finished so fast. It’s not as daunting as you might think it will be.”
Learn more about the USI online MBA program.