A lot of serious thought and financial preparation go into the decision to sponsor yourself in Wharton’s EMBA program. However, it often results in significant career impact for students who choose that path. Alumna Marla Bleavins, WG’12, is a good example. She was recently named deputy executive director and chief financial officer for the Port of Los Angeles. We asked Marla to tell us about her decision to self-sponsor and the impact that has made so far on her career. Here is what she said:
On Going Back to School:
I had been thinking about going back for an MBA for a number of years. I was working at Los Angeles International Airport and finally decided that I needed to go back to school both for my current position and to create more opportunities for myself down the road. I looked at a number of schools and discovered Wharton’s EMBA program in San Francisco, which would allow me to get an MBA from Wharton without moving or quitting my job. The price tag was hefty. It was a lot more than the local schools I considered. But I thought that having a Wharton MBA would be a good differentiator in California so it was worth the premium.
On Deciding to Self-Sponsor:
I evaluated the situation as if I were a corporation. I looked at my cash, income and expenses. It was a tedious exercise to look at what I would cut out of my budget, what I would borrow, how much of my savings I could deplete to pay for the first semester, and how much I could still save each month. It was difficult, but once I decided to go back to school, I knew this was where I wanted to spend my money.
A benefit of being self-sponsored is that you aren’t obligated to stay at your current organization. I was working at the airport and knew that I could possibly get a few thousand dollars in sponsorship, but it would require a commitment to the job for a certain period of time. That didn’t seem worth it.
I graduated in May and in June I was contacted about a job opportunity. Someone had seen on Facebook that I had graduated from Wharton and reached out with an offer. It doesn’t get any more direct than that in terms of the Wharton name opening doors. Another opportunity came my way a few months later at the City of LA Convention Center Department. The interviewer didn’t initially know I went to Wharton, but when she saw the Wharton name on my resume during the interview, she literally jumped out of her chair. I knew I had the job in the middle of the interview and having Wharton on my resume was a big part of that. Wharton played a role in getting my new job as deputy executive director and CFO at the Port of LA too. It’s a great credential to have on your resume. It definitely sets you apart, especially here on the West Coast.
Advice for Prospective Students:
If you really want to come to Wharton, then make it happen. You do have to sit down and run the numbers in your life to see how it will financially affect you and your family. It may mean you have to delay some things like buying a new car or remodeling your kitchen (which I did).
Self-sponsorship is daunting and there were plenty of nights when I questioned whether I could do it, but running the numbers showed me that it was possible. I was working in public service for the government and certainly wasn’t rich or in a position of getting bonuses. But the doors that have opened up since graduation have made the investment in myself worthwhile. A Wharton MBA has the ability to be a game changer in your career.
To read a blog by Marla about diversity at Wharton, click here.
To read a blog by Marla about the Global Modular Course in Rwanda, click here.
To read a blog by Marla about choosing Wharton over a local school, click here.