Thinking MBA? 9 Successful Black Women Discuss the Impact of the Degree on Their Career

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Patricia Wheeler – Assistant Professor, Communication Studies at Morgan State University, Columbia University, 1981

Madame Noire: What impact has your MBA degree had on your career?

Patricia Wheeler: It opened up a lot of new doors for me. I originally came out of the journalism field and I really wanted to do more than just be another name or face on the air. I thought there were greater opportunities for African Americans in media management. And because of my MBA degree I was able to have a very versatile career at Time Inc, Gannett, the White House, and now as a professor. I think I was able to make a major contribution in my field because of this degree.

MN: What made you want to pursue an advanced degree?

PW: When I worked in television, most of the opportunities were on the air. But, what I discovered was that the decisions regarding content were controlled by the people behind the scenes that you never really hear about. It’s usually the lawyers and the business executives who got to call all of the shots and while I greatly respect on-air talent, they really didn’t have a say during those times. As a result, I knew that an advanced degree would provide me with additional skills such as accounting, management, marketing, etc, that I would need in order to position myself for these more senior roles.

MN: Given today’s economic climate, would you recommend this path to other African-American women?

PW: It really depends on what they want to do with their career. If they’re already working in their field, then I would really think long and hard before going back to school. However, if you’re looking to change fields then it makes more sense.

Other things to consider are whether or not you want to go full-time or part-time and if your company has a tuition reimbursement program. All in all, you should be realistic about your motives for getting an advanced degree and if money is your only driver you’ll be disappointed.

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