MBA Program Leads to Shift in Career Focus for Joe Schaefer

Joe Schaefer, USI MBA student

Joe Schaefer left his biology career in San Francisco. His heart has always been in Indiana.

After he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Southern Indiana in 2013, Schaefer landed a job as a medical microbiology laboratory researcher at the University of California San Francisco.

“I got a good sense of what doing research would be like,” he said. “I met and talked with a lot of much more qualified individuals who convinced me that it would be to my benefit to expand my education beyond a bachelor’s degree, particularly in areas that I’m weak in. Because of that, I decided to get an MBA to shore up some of my weaknesses and to learn new information.”

That’s when Schaefer knew it was time to move back home. He is on track to graduate from USI’s MBA program, which is offered 100 percent online, in May 2018. But Schaefer has no plans to don a lab coat after he sports a cap and gown again.

“I’ve shifted my career goals since I started the MBA,” he said. “I have found that I really enjoy management and the analytics that come with it.”

Schaefer worked as a medical research technician at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Evansville for one year before he left for California. His wife, Audra, has worked there as an assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology since 2015.

“I’m hoping when I earn the MBA, it will coincide with the new IU School of Medicine downtown facility opening in 2018, and that I can take on a science management-related position in the med school,” he said. “The combination of the MBA degree with my biology degree is somewhat unique for the area and makes me look very interesting as an applicant. It helps that I am very skilled in analytics.”

Science Minded

Joe with his wife, Audra
Joe with his wife, Audra

Schaefer initially became interested in biology in high school. Once he graduated, he knew a career as a laboratory researcher was what he wanted to pursue after college.

“The basic biology course and the advanced biology course were taught by teachers I really liked,” he said. “Those courses were really the most challenging and most interesting for me. We learned about things like anatomy, ecology and genetics. It felt like the most applicable area of study.”

Schaefer, who grew up in Mount Vernon, Indiana, thoroughly enjoyed his time as a USI undergraduate, which was the primary reason he enrolled in the MBA program.

“For a somewhat smaller school, USI draws really high-quality professors,” he said. “That was a huge motivating factor for me. I am able to have a more personal relationship with my professors. It’s easy to access them. That’s carried over to the MBA program. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my professors, and I still keep in contact with a lot of them. They have helped me network and have recommended opportunities.”

Flexibility Aplenty

The online delivery is perfect for Schaefer, who works full time as a contractor with Mead Johnson Nutrition in Evansville.

“The online courses are fantastic,” he said. “I can do my coursework essentially any time from any location, as long as I have my computer and a Wi-Fi connection. The way the MBA program is set up, I can usually spend small portions of my evenings or small portions of the weekends and complete my schoolwork fairly easily.”

As for the curriculum, Schaefer has particularly enjoyed the FIN 601: Financial Management and Markets and ACCT 601: Seminar in Management Accounting courses in the early stages of the MBA program.

“I like finance because it’s a very analytical type of study,” he said. “That coincided with all of the time I’ve spent in science and with analysis of all different kinds. I also found that in my personal life I was not very knowledgeable about finance — neither corporate finance nor personal finance. That finance course has helped me become much more financially literate.”

That knowledge even helped the Schaefers when they recently purchased a home in Newburgh, Indiana.

“Because of that course, my wife and I started investing for our retirement,” he said. “We were able to run the numbers to make sure that our mortgage was going to be what we wanted. We’re much more critical. It’s really provided a lot of real-life skills and has been practical.”

Onward, Upward

Schafer, who spends his free time working on setting up the new house, said he has plenty of support as he works toward the completion of a graduate degree and toward a new direction in his career.

“My friends and family are all really supportive of it — my wife in particular,” he said. “She has helped in all kinds of ways. She helped with taking on more housework and things like that when I’m busier than normal with courses. She has several advanced degrees, so she is supportive of higher education as a whole.”

Schaefer has also been able to apply some of the knowledge — especially from the managerial accounting course — from the MBA program directly to his current job. He has already enjoyed the challenge of taking on a different field of study.

“You have to be prepared to learn new things,” he said. “I always think that no matter what the background is of the person coming into the MBA program, they are likely to take courses in something they have not studied before. That was certainly the case with me.

“To an extent, the old cliché, ‘Get comfortable with being uncomfortable’ is true, but it’s a good kind of uncomfortable. I’m very happy to be back in the area and at USI.”

Learn more about the USI online Master of Business Administration program.

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