Matt Belanger ’16 had his sights set on going into full-time ministry until he realized there was one pretty serious drawback.
“I would have been poor,” Belanger said. “God bless my friends in church life, but it just doesn’t work out for my family of six financially.”
Once he had that revelation, Belanger switched gears to selling software as a service, or SaaS. He has worked for a San Francisco-based company, while residing in Orlando, Fla., since March 2016.
Belanger recently bolstered his business acumen — and his graduate degree tally — when he earned a Master of Business Administration in Management online from Fitchburg State University in December 2016. He finished with a 3.8 GPA.
“Having an accredited MBA from a reputable institution like Fitchburg State helps to increase my stickiness at my present employer and my marketability for career advancement,” Belanger said. “That was the big reason I did it.”
With his busy work schedule that includes travel, Belanger wanted to finish the online degree program as carefully and quickly as possible. Belanger and his wife, Tara, who is a teacher, have four young, energetic boys at home.
“I really didn’t broadcast it a whole lot,” Belanger said of the online MBA. “My father knows, and he’s been supportive. I received a small financial award from Fitchburg State, which I’m grateful for, but for the most part, I footed the bill. I completed it in a year. I just wanted to get it done. It was an intensive 12 months.”
The online MBA was Belanger’s second master’s degree. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky in 2010.
Why Fitchburg State University?
Belanger did thorough research of online degree programs to find a flexible, affordable MBA from an accredited school. The Fitchburg State program met all three of those criteria, which were crucial for him to be able to earn the advanced degree.
“I recall U.S. News & World Report rated Fitchburg as the No. 1 most affordable online undergraduate university,” he said. “I don’t think they did anything with the MBA part, but I found the MBA to be very affordable too. I really didn’t know much about Fitchburg going into the program. I knew they had excellent online reviews and were well-rated among peer institutions — not to mention I’m originally from Massachusetts, and so I was partial to an institution from my home state. ”
Belanger said he was able to get ahead in some courses but had to work up to the last minute in others during his fast-paced 2016.
“There were maybe one or two courses where I turned in some material late, maybe an hour late, or I was right up to that hour at midnight,” he said. “But there was a good chunk of courses where I was ahead. Because of my travel schedule for work, I knew that in order to keep up with things, I had to get ahead as much as possible, but I really didn’t have a set schedule. I have four kids, so it’s really difficult to say, ‘I’m going to do this at such and such time.’”
Belanger said he really enjoyed the curriculum and especially the courses taught by Dr. Michael Leamy.
“He really did a bang-up job,” Belanger said. “I had him for two courses.”
Some of Belanger’s favorite courses included Marketing Management [MGMT 9160], Management Theory and Process [MGMT 9080] and Organization Behavior and Development [MGMT 9040]. He also enjoyed the online format for several reasons.
“Because it’s online, you’ve got the component of interacting with other students, which was very effective,” Belanger said. “Naturally, all of the tests are online and usually needed to be completed by a certain time. In terms of topics, a lot of the professors integrated YouTube videos and tech talks. That was very helpful. It further enhanced the material that was covered in the course.”
He said the variety of the curriculum, which included reports and research projects, made the material more interesting.
“I found those to be relatively manageable, so it wasn’t just reading and studying the course text,” he said. “It was certainly a lot of reading, but also projects and a variety of different ways to reinforce the material. A lot of the material that was being covered — corporate finance, human resource topics — I could speak to, because that is what I would experience day-to-day.”
Belanger also said one of the key factors for his success in the online MBA program was covering all of his bases before starting a new course.
“On a number of occasions I reached out to the course professor ahead of time to see if I could get the syllabus early, so I could order the proper materials,” he said.
“I didn’t have the advantage of being on campus or even in Massachusetts, where I could drive and pick up the books. Having the syllabus ahead of time was a real important factor to make sure I ordered the books on time, and had them on hand in time to begin the course.”
Achieving Fiscal Fitness
Belanger believes the MBA he earned online from Fitchburg State has already added a new dimension to his career.
“Because of its affordability, my degree is paid in full. I’m better prepared to save for retirement and other important investments that my counterparts are probably not even thinking about,” he said of his newest master’s degree. “I thought the value and overall experience were excellent.”
Belanger added he would also recommend the Master of Business Administration in Management online program, along with a little bit of advice:
“You’ve got to be focused,” he said. “You’ve got to have the discipline. You’ve got to have some sense of technology, naturally, because this is online. And I would say, ‘Get it done. Get in there, work hard, communicate with other students and communicate with professors as frequently as you can.’”
And, of course, pick a career that can pay your bills.
Learn more about the Fitchburg State online MBA in Management program.