Eric Luongo often sprinted past opponents as a member of the Fitchburg State University track and field team while earning a bachelor’s degree a decade ago.
Now a quality control microbiologist, Luongo hopes to run circles around his peers by earning a Master of Business Administration in Management in the online program. He is on track to graduate in May 2020.
“I was looking to advance my career,” he said. “I spend a lot of time in the lab. There are a lot of technical skills there, but there is not a lot of strong business sense. So, I felt like it would help me diversify and expand on the knowledge I already have.”
Luongo has worked for Moderna, a clinical stage biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a year-and-a-half.
“My company is amazing,” he said. “We are working on personalized cancer vaccines. We do a lot of release testing to make sure the released batches are free of contaminants. I would like to stay where I am and move up into management.”
Moderna also has a tuition reimbursement program and is footing the bill for about half the tuition cost of the program, which helped Luongo step up to the starting line and return to college.
“I enjoyed my undergrad and did a lot of growing,” he said. “I didn’t plan to wait for 10 years to get back to school, but I couldn’t decide what to do or which degree program to take. I was waiting for a company to help me pay for it, too. That was a big thing.”
The flexibility of the online format helps Luongo plan his schoolwork around the rest of his schedule, which includes a Sunday through Wednesday workweek consisting of 10-hour shifts.
“Some days I am at work late and can’t get home on time,” he said. “The program has been great with my schedule. It’s been good to have Sunday and Thursday deadlines so I have time to do all of my schoolwork in a condensed period of time. The professors have been responsive and flexible.”
Off to the Races
Luongo grew up in the Boston area, where he still lives and works. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Fitchburg State in 2009.
“I had a couple of years when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “I started taking biology classes in my undergrad and liked them. I had a lot of good professors who made you think deeply about the environment.”
However, jobs were hard to come by after graduation in a struggling economy. So, Luongo started his career in contract research manufacturing for medical devices.
“I liked the fact that I could help people, and I wanted to do something where I could help society,” he said. “It was a highly regulated environment. I liked that I was doing something so somebody could have their medicine.”
In 2010, Luongo became a microbiology technician. He moved into quality control two years later and hasn’t looked back. Now, he is connecting the dots in business with the information that he is learning in the online MBA in Management program.
So far, MGMT 9170: Corporate Finance, MGMT 9040: Organizational Behavior and Development and MGMT 9050: The Human Resource Function and the Manager are his three favorite courses in the curriculum.
“I found them very analytical, and I work well with logical courses,” Luongo said. “Human resources and organizational development developed a lot of soft skills that I didn’t realize I had. A lot of it was enlightening — especially information technology. We use a lot of cloud-based applications.
“As we got deeper into web service and what companies offer for services and economics, it has been especially helpful with a startup because everything is so new and fast-paced. People ask me questions about it, and I can give a little background on it. It’s been helpful.”
Down the Stretch
Luongo is a few months away from becoming the first person in his immediate family to earn a master’s degree. He hopes to walk the graduation stage at Fitchburg State 11 years after he walked and received his bachelor’s degree.
“My family and friends are excited,” he said. “I am also engaged. My fiancé, Ashley Pottle and I are getting married in 2022. Plus, I have a Boston terrier taking up most of my time right now.”
Although it took Luongo a while to find the right graduate degree program, he believes having an MBA will help him separate from the pack.
“It’s rare to see a business degree in a biology field,” he said. “With the past couple of companies that I worked for, people get ultra-specific and want to stay in the lab. It’s already helped me communicate with other departments and realize how other roles like human resources and information technology affect my job.”
Just like when Luongo used to run competitively for the Fitchburg State Falcons, he believes the right mental approach is key to success in earning an online degree.
“Have the confidence to go into the program,” he said. “It was my first time to do any online courses. I was also a little scared about the workload because it had been so long since I was in college. I didn’t know if could handle it.
“In the beginning, I needed to devote more time to the classes. Because of the schedule, I had that ability. I could put an extra couple of hours in and get back into the college mode. My biggest thing was getting over that initial fear and committing to it. I’m glad that I did.”
Learn more about the Fitchburg State online MBA in Management program.