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Thriving in the Virtual Classroom

Pooja Madhav


Valerie Barnes experienced a shift in her perspective on further education when she saw its benefits translate into her role as an HR business partner senior specialist after recently completing her online master’s at the Daniels School of Business.

Valerie Barnes chats with De’Neatria Robinson, Associate Director for Career Development for Online Programs, after the ceremony on December 11, 2023. Pictured above.

Corporate professionals from around the world have different reasons for pursuing their master’s — but Barnes’ is simple: personal and professional fulfillment. The Daniels School of Business’ online master’s provided her with unparalleled freedom, convenience and adaptability as she navigated her learning. Most importantly, Barnes’ freedom stemmed from her ability to choose how she wanted to spend her time, empowering her to manage her master’s and civil responsibilities seamlessly. In turn, establishing that the online program presented greater flexibility for her to achieve her goals.

Online learning can be challenging. For most students, it becomes another task to accommodate an already full, corporate plate of responsibilities. Distance-learning programs can also be prematurely dismissed as disconnecting or lacking engagement–be it a class, panel event or even a master’s. However, through the Daniels School, Barnes discovered a whole new reality.

Depending on the kind of coursework she found herself engrossed in, Barnes was able to adjust her time commitments and adapt to new ways of working. In turn, this fueled her ability to tailor her schedule and suit the demands of both her full-time role as business partner and successfully pursuing her degree part-time.

Purdue made Barnes’ degree possible without needing her to put other parts of her life on hold. Barnes says that she valued being able to complete a quick workout between classes or complete household chores in the morning and choosing to study later at night. The online model allowed her to pursue quality education without needing to compromise on maintaining a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. For example, not being limited by a rigid schedule that includes time-consuming commutes made the whole process much more manageable.

Navigating one’s way back into academia after a long hiatus can be overwhelming, but Barnes finds the return on investment worth the short-term adjustment. The payoff came through unwavering support from her family, colleagues and workplace, which reinforced the pride she has in taking in her giant leap. Right away, she channeled the value of her master’s back into her everyday job. Not only is Barnes grateful for the insights that she is able to apply in specific demands of her role like “creating more equitable compensation packages” or “catering resources to engineers,” but so are her colleagues. Barnes’ online master’s is a gift that keeps giving.

"As soon as I finished my work day, I was able to take a break – and then begin studying. The online master’s program allowed me to have a balanced lifestyle."

“My workplace allowed me to push my status quo. My colleagues were inspired and energized by the fresh perspective my MBA gave me,” says Barnes. Barnes explains that the value of her learning was not simply limited to her courses. Her degree allowed her to integrate her newfound skills into her role seamlessly, which continues to facilitate collaboration and foster new corporate relationships.

Barnes also found value in Purdue’s Online Writing Lab, which eased her transition back into the intricacies of academic writing. Academic writing is a skill that corporate professionals find a key hurdle to overcome when they return to academia in pursuit of a master’s. At Purdue, through online tutoring services that offer prompt feedback. Through this resources, Barnes familiarized herself with citation styles and formatting, among other writing fundamentals. She was also able to submit her papers for instant feedback, without needing to spend time to find a mutually convenient hour or waiting for a liaison to step in. Barnes leveraged both the writing lab and the Business Career Services Office to enhance her resume and easily engage with industry peers.

"Creating a schedule helped me compartmentalize how to manage my time. I always had my agenda taped behind my work monitor.”

With a combination of both face-to-face consulting sessions and automated tools being available, getting feedback and opportunities to consistently improve yourself are endless. Barnes was able to meet with consults at the Business Career Services office, who helped her find networking opportunities to connect with various groups of HR professionals through the latest and popular applications like Slack.

Valerie Barnes
Valerie Barnes captures this significant milestone with her mother, Sharon Washington, during her commencement celebration.

In the occasional moments when balancing her life and pursuit of education became challenging, Barnes turned to the support of in-school, professional success coaches who helped her recognize ways to improve her time management. All the way from Space Coast, Florida, Barnes was able to connect with a Daniels School of Business coach who helped her “create a schedule for the week and find a rhythm” — allowing her to compartmentalize and cater to each one of her commitments effectively and equally.

Aside from Purdue’s resources, Barnes also highly valued being able to learn from her peers at the Daniels School of Business. Being able to see how unique voices and perspectives manifest on papers allowed her to recognize her team members’ strengths and simultaneously hone in on her own. Earning her online master’s made the 1,200-mile distance from Space Coast, Florida, to the Daniels School of Business seem almost nonexistent. She easily found familiar faces on campus to greet when she first visited the Purdue campus for her graduation.

Barnes says that she saw the rewards of her master’s quickly, even while she was still in the program. In one of her courses, Organizational Behavior, she was able to pick up on essential managerial principles that she can now apply in conversations with employees and representatives from various companies to enable enhanced interactions. Through these principles, she learned how to converse with individuals from diverse backgrounds, laying a strong foundation for her growth as an HR business partner and serving as a launchpad for her to explore more opportunities.

"I had an employee reach out to say, 'Hey, I would love to know more about Organizational Behavior. It’s a course I may want to concentrate on and pursue education in.' Their interest inspired me to host and facilitate a strengths finder event for my client group.”

Today, Barnes has broader skills to apply in life and in her job as she continuously strives to work toward new growth opportunities. She thrived with the online format and thinks it will empower her for years to come.

If you would like to receive more information about pursuing a business master’s at the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, please fill out the form and a program specialist will be in touch!

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