Graduate Programs

Blogs from students, faculty & staff

In this episode of Victors in Grad School podcast, Dr. Christopher Lewis, the Director of Graduate Programs at the University of Michigan Flint, speaks with Leslee Whetstone, the Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Michigan Flint. They discuss Leslie’s journey from earning a Bachelor of Arts in History to pursuing a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) at Baker College.

Leslie shares that she initially aimed to work in a museum or research-related field with her history degree but ended up in retail management. Her path led her to higher education, where she found her passion for working with students. When she transitioned to the Graduate Studies campus, she needed to earn a master’s degree within two years, making the decision to further her education.

She chose an MBA to broaden her career opportunities, especially in leadership roles. Her motivation to pursue an MBA was also influenced by her familiarity with Baker College and its flexible, asynchronous online format. She appreciated the program’s quick-paced classes, which suited her writing and research strengths.

To succeed in graduate school, Leslie highlights the importance of time management and discipline, especially when juggling work, home life, and school. She emphasizes the significance of carving out time and being prepared to adjust plans to meet academic commitments. Leslie achieved her goal of graduating with an MBA, even though her journey was non-traditional and involved overcoming challenges.

Her MBA education provided her with valuable skills in leadership, team motivation, and self-improvement. Leslie recommends that others take the first step towards their academic goals and believes that investing in graduate education can lead to professional growth, self-discovery, and a more rewarding career.

Dr. Christopher Lewis encourages aspiring graduate students to explore their options, and the University of Michigan Flint offers a variety of master’s and doctoral programs, both in-person and online, to cater to diverse needs and interests. For more information, you can visit their website.

The conversation with Leslie Whetstone highlights how pursuing a graduate degree can open doors to new opportunities and personal growth, demonstrating the importance of taking that first step towards your academic goals.

This podcast is brought to you by The Office of Graduate programs at the University of Michigan-Flint. If you’re still wondering about other things to consider when it comes to graduate school, you can also contact the Office of Graduate Programs at UM-Flint. We’re here to answer questions Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST. You can also find out more about the 50+ programs that the university has to offer here.


Christopher Lewis [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the Victors in Grad School, where we have conversations with students, alumni, and experts about what it takes to find success in graduate school.

Christopher Lewis [00:00:11]:

Welcome back to Victors in grad school. I’m your host, dr. Christopher Lewis, director of Graduate Programs for the University of Michigan, Flint. Really excited to have you back again this week. Every week we are talking to different individuals who have gone beyond their bachelor’s degree, have studied different things, have learned different things along the way to be able to find success in that graduate school journey. Now, I know you may already be in grad school, you may be thinking about graduate school. You are on a path toward future education or you’re in future education, and you’re looking for ways in which you can find success yourself. And that’s what this podcast is all about.

Christopher Lewis [00:00:51]:

It is here to help you to find success in that graduate school journey. And every week I love being able to bring you different people that have had different experiences that you can learn from and take things that they learned ahead of you to implement into your own experience. This week we got another great guest with us. Leslie Wetstone is with us. Leslie is the Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Michigan Flint. She started her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan Flint, but then went beyond the University of Michigan Flint to get a Master’s of Business Administration at Baker College Center for Graduate Studies. And we’re going to talk about that experience and learn from the journey that she had. Leslie, thanks so much for being here today.

Leslee Whetstone [00:01:39]:

No problem. I’m happy to be here. Better to have you here today. One of the things I love doing is, first and foremost, turn the clock back in time. I want to go back a few years. I said that you did your undergraduate work here at the University of Michigan, Flint. But then at some point during that undergraduate work, maybe after that, because there was quite a few years between that time in which you got your bachelor’s degree and the time in which you decided to get your Master’s degree, but at some point you made that decision that you wanted to go further. You wanted to go from getting that Bachelor of Arts in History to getting that MBA.

Christopher Lewis [00:02:18]:

Tell me about what made you decide that you wanted to continue that education and move forward toward that Master’s degree. Yeah, so when I got my degree in history, obviously my career path was thought of a little bit different than what it was going to be. I did want to work in a museum or doing research, having that history degree, I was working in retail management and came across a position in higher education in the admissions department, actually, at Baker College for their Flint campus, and I applied and started working there. I really enjoyed working in higher education. I was at the Flint campus for about ten years and made the transition to work at the Graduate Studies campus. At that time, it was a requirement for me to earn a master’s degree within two years or start it at least within two years of making that transition into the Graduate Studies program. Had I not moved, I don’t know that my decision would have been to get a graduate degree. I am very happy that I did because it has brought me to where I am today, working for the University of Michigan Flint in an Associate Director position.

Leslee Whetstone [00:03:42]:

I am currently in 18 years of higher education, and I love it. I love working with students. I like to be able to discuss what brought me into education. I had a very untraditional path. I started out at Mott Community College. I spent about a year and a half there before I transferred to U of M Flint. It took me six years to earn my bachelor’s degree, so it was a little bit of a longer, untraditional path, and then it was another 16 years between my undergraduate to get my graduate degree. Did decide to get the Master’s of Business Administration, and you chose to go to Baker College.

Christopher Lewis [00:04:25]:

Now, it may have been a proximity piece because, like you said, you were working at Baker College at the time, and they had the degree. So it may have been just that. It was very close and very much something that was available to you. Talk to me about the reason for choosing a Master’s of Business Administration, because there could have been other degrees that you could have probably chosen to, and also the degree itself at Baker College. Why baker College? Why an MBA? Yeah. So as you mentioned, Chris, my undergraduate degree is in history. In the workforce, it’s not really that viable of a degree unless they do not care what your degree is in. I felt going into a Business Administration Master’s degree would give me some diversity, would open up for some additional job opportunities.

Leslee Whetstone [00:05:19]:

I wanted to be in a leadership position, and this would allow me to have that business and leadership education to back up some of my work experience that I’ve already had. I did work in some leadership positions at Baker College. I chose them because I worked there. I liked the pace of the degree. It was an asynchronous classroom. The classes were six weeks each, and it was a very heavy writing program and research program. And that was my strong suit, is writing and research. So I felt like it fit into my needs with quick classes and what I enjoyed doing.

Christopher Lewis [00:06:01]:

Appreciate you sharing that. Now, you did get through that program, you got through the degree. You were successful in gaining that graduate degree for yourself. As you look at the success that you had in graduate school, and you think back to the time when you were in undergrad, but also that time off and then that transition back into higher education. What did you have to do to set yourself up for success, and what did you have to do to maintain that success throughout your graduate school journey? So time management was huge. When I was in my undergraduate, yes, I worked, and I had more of a flexible job. I did not have any children. 16 years later, I’m in a graduate program, and I did have a child at that point.

Leslee Whetstone [00:06:53]:

She was 14 then. So pretty self sufficient. But a lot of the things that I did need to set myself up was managing my job load at work, my home life, and my school life. So that definitely was something that was a little bit of a transition. But on top of that, because I earned my undergraduate, or when I was in my undergraduate, it was in the late 1990s, there was not a lot of online classes that were available, and this program was 100% online, so I had never used an online format. So that, again, was a little bit of a learning curve for me. I was familiar with using computers and CRM systems at work, but actually having that discipline of an Asynchronous classroom and setting that time aside to do everything that I needed to do because it was a fast pace, it was, again making sure that I was carving out time and turning down plans if necessary, just to fit everything in. I did all right in my undergraduate, but in my graduate, my goal was to graduate with a 4.0.

Leslee Whetstone [00:08:07]:

I didn’t quite reach that goal. I did graduate with a 3.85, so I was pretty happy with how I did in planning to earn that degree. Do you think back to the education that you had, the classes that you had, the things that you learned during that MBA degree, and you think to the work that you have done since getting that degree, how has that prepared you for the work that you’re doing on a daily basis? It has greatly prepared me because with my Master’s of Business Administration, I did focus on leadership, and I am now in a leadership position. So one of the main focuses was working. Know how to work with diverse teams and how to motivate teams without being discouraging. Looking at researching past leaders such as you think Warren Buffett was one that we discussed and what their leadership styles are. But then also in those classes, spending that time to figure out how I could be an effective leader with a team and what my strong suits are, but more importantly, what my weaknesses are. Like what I can focus on to grow as a leader, but also to connect with my team and feel like I’m part of a team and continue to motivate.

Leslee Whetstone [00:09:36]:

So really my biggest focus was trying to learn how to be a better leader and be able to bring that into my current field in higher education. Now. Also, as you look back at your MBA degree and you think about the things that you had to do as you said, the time management and other things that you had to do to find that success in grad school, and you think about the person that you were then, and maybe think about other students that are going through this similar experience. What are some tips that you might offer to others that are thinking about graduate school and finding success for themselves? I would recommend to take that first step, decide that this is what you want to do and move forward with it. It is very rewarding to me to be able to tell people that I earned an MBA and that I did it, especially being a first generation college student going into an undergraduate. And in my family, I’m the only person that has a master’s degree. So that does make me feel proud. And I would encourage you to do what makes you feel proud.

Leslee Whetstone [00:10:55]:

If this is something that you want to do, take the time to do it. Being able to carve out your time, it can be difficult, but I feel like in the end, it is so rewarding and there are many benefits. It can help you grow within your current field. It can help you with better understanding who you are as a person, because the graduate programs are so different than the undergraduate programs, and it allows you to just explore who you are professionally and be able to move into new roles. It opens up so many doors. Definitely does open up many doors. And like you said, you’re now in a leadership position. You can draw on that same experience.

Christopher Lewis [00:11:40]:

The learning that you have and that you gain from that graduate experience is going to be something that you’re going to draw from for years after you get that degree as well. So it is an investment. It’s an investment in yourself, an investment in your future. So I truly appreciate you sharing your journey, for sharing your experience, and I wish you all the best. Thank you so much. And thank you for inviting me to join you today. The University of Michigan Flint has a full array of Masters and doctorate programs. If you are interested in continuing your education, whether you’re looking for in person or online learning options, the University of Michigan Flint has programs that will meet your needs.

Christopher Lewis [00:12:18]:

For more information on any of our graduate programs visit to find out more. Thanks again for spending time with me as you prepare prepare to be a victor in grad school. I look forward to speaking with you again soon as we embark together on your graduate school journey. If you have any questions or want to reach out, email me at [email protected].