Six-and-a-half years ago, Katherine Person stumbled into a career helping veterans. The Templeton, Massachusetts, native has been hitting her stride ever since.
After earning a promotion to the role of grant lead at Veterans Inc., in Springfield, Massachusetts, she enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration in Management program at Fitchburg State University. She is on track to graduate in December 2020.
“I was working on a federal grant for veterans with a homeless prevention process and a rapid rehousing component,” she said. “In the new position, I was running a team of four people. That was a new thing for me — I had never supervised anyone.
“I was also in charge of budgets and how we were spending a lot of that grant money, whether it be on veterans or supplies. I thought it would be helpful to have more of a background in management.”
Person learned about the online degree programs at Fitchburg State from a friend who was already enrolled in one. When she further researched the MBA in Management program, she thought it was a perfect match for her needs.
“It was also reasonably priced,” she said. “The tuition was a flat fee. It helped that my job has an educational component to it, so I get a small reimbursement every year. Between the flexibility and having classes in finance, marketing and management that were relevant to my job, the program is focused and fast.”
So much so that Person earned two additional promotions before completing her master’s degree. In her current role as senior manager of client services, she oversees a team of 60. She is also under consideration for Worcester Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty awards.
“The background, the degree and the knowledge of looking at things from a management perspective helped me get those promotions,” she said.
Home of the Brave
After finishing high school as a member of the National Honor Society, Person graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public health from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2010.
She was involved in numerous extracurricular activities, including competitive ballroom dancing. She also completed some online courses during her undergrad.
“After college, I was working multiple jobs and trying to find something that would pay a reasonable living wage,” she said. “I ended up finding Veterans Inc. Homelessness is a public health issue I’m working on.
“I worked one on one with veterans and helped them with housing issues and benefits. It was kind of an outreach position, too, which I loved. I can tell that I am good at interpreting federal guidelines, which is interesting. I’m always helping the community to understand the guidelines and my team to put them into practice efficiently.”
Being able to apply what she is learning in the program to her work in the real world validates Person’s pursuit of the online MBA.
“The degree has given me the tools necessary to more effectively manage programs and contribute directly to the reduction of homelessness among veterans,” she said.
Person started at the company as a universal services advocate in September 2013. She especially enjoys the aspect of working with veterans.
“I have a huge military family,” she said. “My grandparents, my cousins and my dad were in the military. They were excited for me to go back to school. They said, ‘That sounds really great. It’s all online. You can do it in your free time.'”
The flexibility of the online format helps Person have enough time to focus on her job while doing schoolwork around her busy schedule.
“It’s been amazing and so easy to do in my free time, on nights and weekends,” she said. “I can log in at any point and get things done. I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I had to show up somewhere for class.”
So far, MGMT 9180: Accounting Practices for Managers is Person’s favorite course in the online MBA in Management program.
“I struggled with that course because math is not my favorite subject, but I learned so much about accounting principles and how to read and interpret financial statements,” she said. “For my final paper, I did a project on future value, and I compared two different retirement accounts that I personally have.
“I figured out that I need to transfer my money into one of them. We were looking at the fees and calculating what it’s going to be worth over time. It was shocking. It was beneficial that I could pick my own project and do something that’s relevant to me. It was cool.”
Land of the Foxtrot
Although the timing for Person to return to college was perfect, she believes earning a graduate degree without missing a beat at work requires the right time management skills.
“I would tell anybody considering this degree that it’s a really great program,” she said. “The more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out. You should also remember to set aside some time to do your homework.”
Provided the commencement ceremony is not cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Person plans to walk the graduation stage. She then hopes to hit the dance floor.
“Once I have some more free time, I would like to get back to ballroom dancing,” she said. “I found a place near my work.”
Even if Person is doing dance steps in her free time, she hopes to make more strides in her career with an MBA in Management. While she is getting accustomed to her client services role, she is keeping her options wide open.
“I am looking at a few different things,” she said. “I’d like to get into housing and real estate.
“There’s such a need — especially for veterans — to access housing that’s affordable. I know so much about housing from this job that I can earn some money on my own and give back to the community.”
Learn more about the Fitchburg State online MBA in Management program.