Eman Warraich-Gibson has plenty to talk about now.
The New Jersey native graduated with a 4.0 GPA from the online Master of Business Administration in Management program at Fitchburg State University in December 2019. She also won the Graduate Student Leadership Award and was featured in a Bloomberg Businessweek article on one-year MBAs.
"The award is special," she said. "I got my first master's degree from Columbia University, and I was just a few points away from graduating with honors. It meant a lot to me to be recognized here at Fitchburg State and have that personal achievement."
When she started working for Integrity House in 2012, she felt that she was not contributing as much as she'd like because of the business learning curve. Three years and an MBA education later, it's a different story. Warraich-Gibson was promoted to chief clinical officer at Integrity House, a substance use disorder treatment nonprofit organization headquartered in Newark, in October 2019.
"I didn't necessarily feel as prepared as I wanted to be," she said. "I didn't feel like I was contributing to dialogues we were having around the table about the business, sustainability, strategic planning and program development.
"I didn't have any exposure to any of those things while I was a middle manager. That bothered me. I wanted to contribute more to my organization, do my share in conversations with our leadership team and help carry the weight."
Mission accomplished. Warraich-Gibson was promoted two more times while she was enrolled in the online MBA program. She started her new role a little more than one month before graduation.
"My boss and I had talked about me coming onto the executive team years after the MBA," she said. "Then, it happened before I finished. I appreciated being rewarded for my work. I want to continue to climb the ladder here."
Warraich-Gibson knew from an early age that she wanted to become a therapist. She was already working for a child social services agency when she graduated from Columbia with a master's degree in social work in 2012 and became the first person in her immediate family to earn a graduate degree.
"The place where I was working at that time didn't offer clinical hours toward becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker," she said. "I was looking for somewhere that would offer hours, and I was hired at Integrity House. It ended up being a really fulfilling experience.
"I absolutely want to stay here. I am committed and dedicated to the organization. I find a lot of meaning in our mission. I feel very strongly about the opioid epidemic. I enjoy what I'm doing. It doesn't feel like work. I look forward to coming here every day."
In addition to working full time, Warraich-Gibson has a busy home life. She and her husband, Shawn, have two children, Jibreel (6) and Idris (2). So, she needed the flexibility of the online format to facilitate a return to college.
"It was as manageable as I could have imagined it being," she said. "I had my second child in January 2018, so I had a 1-year-old at home. Plus, I have a demanding full-time job. We have residential programs [at Integrity House], so I might frequently need to work from home or come in late at night or on a weekend if there's an incident.
"The homework that comes with an online program took away a lot of time from home life, but it was manageable because I didn't have to leave for days to go to an actual campus. The tuition cost and one-year time to completion attracted me to Fitchburg State. I didn't want to be in school forever."
The Right Approach
MGMT 9050: The Human Resource Function and the Manager and MGMT 9080: Management Theory and Process were Warraich-Gibson's two favorite courses in the program, but she found value in the entire curriculum.
"Given my current role and what I was learning, I was able to apply almost everything to my work experience," she said. "I can have more conversations and be more assertive, in my approach at work. I was able to improve functions in a couple of our different programs."
Since Warraich-Gibson enrolled in March 2019, she said that she has been involved with the HR department by improving staffing patterns, training for managers and front line staff, and providing feedback on workflows. She has also been able to read financial reports, understand bottom lines, and see the importance of revenue balancing with expenses.
"My very first class was an IT class," she said. "At that time, I was overseeing our IT department. It was coincidental and worked out great. The entire program was geared toward real life, which I enjoyed."
Warraich-Gibson had such a positive experience in the program that she has convinced two of her friends to also enroll at Fitchburg State.
"One of my colleagues who works in the finance department will be graduating in the spring," she said. "She started the semester after I did. I told her I found it applicable and that the organization would value her having an MBA. Then, following my graduation, my sister-in-law enrolled in an education program."
Warraich-Gibson made her first visit to the Fitchburg State campus for commencement.
"The graduation ceremony was amazing," she said. "We live in Jersey, but I wanted to take the road trip and go. My whole family came. It was good for me to be there and have my kids see that because they weren't born when I last graduated. I wanted them to see you can still do things whenever in life.
"My husband was very supportive. Obviously, he stepped in a lot to help while I was pursuing this degree. My parents were very excited. I didn't tell a lot of people about it until I was halfway through, but everybody was very excited and supportive."
After completing the MBA program, Warraich-Gibson began teaching psychology as an adjunct at Rutgers University and Montclair State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is also now an active participant in leadership team discussions and the sky is the limit. She believes the master's degree will continue to open doors for her in the future.
"The biggest thing is the accreditation because that's what everyone looks for — that you attended an accredited university," she said. "I value the accreditation and the flexibility.
"You have to put in the work to see the benefits, so commit to it and take it seriously. Don't take it any less seriously than you would a live class — especially since it's a shorter period of time. It's very achievable as long as you are committed."
It's also a nice conversation piece.
Learn more about the Fitchburg State online MBA in Management program.
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