Managing business & organizations program sets grads up for advancement

Managing business & organizations program sets grads up for advancement

A bachelor’s degree can be a gateway to advancing in the workplace and unearthing more lucrative job opportunities. This is exactly the reason Kelly Wilkening and Aaron Voss chose to go back to school as adults and earn a Bachelor of Applied Science in Managing Business & Organizations. Both of them graduated in December 2023 as part of the very first cohort of this online program at UNI.

Specifically designed to help students build upon the skills and knowledge acquired through an associate of applied sciences (AAS) degree, the managing business & organizations degree allows students to develop the professional competencies needed to effectively serve in managerial and supervisory roles within business and non-profit organizations.

“Earning the degree has given me a lot more confidence and a lot more knowledge that will help me move up and make me feel like I can move into managing people or leading a contract,” said Wilkening. 

“The MBO program is a very well-rounded and complete program that encompasses a lot of what it is that you need to know to be a leader and help manage an organization,” said Voss. “So everything from how to market a business to how to lead and communicate with people to ethics and standards and analysis and all of that sort of stuff was taught. It provides a good foundation for what you need to know, no matter what industry you go into.”

Both Wilkening and Voss started pursuing a degree at community college right out of high school. But for different reasons, they both decided to discontinue their pursuits of higher education. Wilkening, a Des Moines native, describes herself as a shy person and said that the traditional college experience felt overwhelming. Voss, from Cedar Rapids, was able to land a job in the technology field without a degree, so at the time didn’t see a reason to finish his program.

Kelly Wilkening

Wilkening went on to hold numerous jobs. She worked in the restaurant industry, became a stay-at-home mom then worked as a teacher aide and library aide in her children’s school. In 2017, she decided it was time to finish what she started and got her AAS through Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). It was at DMACC that she read about UNI’s new managing business & organizations program in a newsletter. She went to an informational webinar about the program and heard what sounded like a great opportunity. 

“The classes in business seemed interesting to me,” said Wilkening. “I also thought learning how businesses are actually run would be good for moving through a company.”

The fact that the managing business & organizations program is also entirely online was essential for Wilkening.

“It seemed like online was going to be the best option because I didn’t have the time to go to campus for classes, and I knew I needed to keep working full-time to support my family,” she explained.  “The online classes made it flexible so that I could do my homework at night or on weekends when I had free time and not have to take chunks of the day away to go to an in-person class.”

Wilkening appreciated that UNI used Blackboard just like DMACC. The support staff at UNI also kept in close communication with Wilkening to ensure she had an easy transition to the program.

Throughout the three and a half years of her studies, Wilkening was able to connect what she was doing in coursework to her real job numerous times.

“That was really helpful, and it showed the real-life application of what I was learning,” she said. 

For example, in an entrepreneurship class, she was tasked with coming up with a new business or major project to run. Wilkening was able to apply the assignment to a work project and successfully presented it to her boss and director.

By the time she graduated in December, the program had grown her communication skills immensely and allowed her to have a better understanding of her company’s monthly financial updates.

“It feels really good to know that all the hard work paid off and I was officially a bachelor degree holder,” she said. “Being able to say that I did it and set a good example for my kids and show them it's worth the hard work to finish your degree and it does pay off was extremely rewarding.”

Similarly to Wilkening, Voss took a break from community college, but he eventually returned to Kirkwood and graduated with his AAS in 2013. After another break, he began researching bachelor's degree programs. Because he wanted to continue working full-time, he knew an online program would make the most sense.

“I like continuous challenges,” Voss explained. “So if I was thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of my career, I don't think that I would have been content just staying status quo, and this was really an opportunity to make sure that education requirements didn't impede me from doing things that might be more interesting to me as I progress.”

Voss’ sister went to UNI, so he’d heard good things about the school. He appreciated that his credits seamlessly transferred to UNI, and he also felt that the curriculum was the most relevant to his goals.

“One of the things that was probably the biggest draw for me is some of that more detailed understanding of the financial side of business management,” said Voss. “So how does all the accounting work? What's the marketing strategy? That’s what I wanted to learn more about.”

Aaron Voss

In the end, Voss’ journey to receiving his degree was so successful that he is even considering going back to get his master’s at some point.

“I'm very happy that I made the decision, and I feel like it has provided a lot of value to me for the time spent,” he said. 

Learn more about the program at Applications are currently being accepted for the fall 2024 term.