Graduate Programs

Blogs from students, faculty & staff

Dr. Christopher Lewis, the host of Victors in Grad School, engaged in an enlightening conversation with Jennifer Keahl, a franchise owner and area developer for StretchLab. Through their discussion, Keahl generously shared her journey, from pursuing a graduate degree to leveraging her education in her professional ventures. The insights provided in their conversation shed light on the crucial aspects of navigating graduate school and the implications of an advanced degree in real-world scenarios.

The Motivation Behind Pursuing Graduate Studies

Keahl’s decision to embark on her graduate education emerged from her innate desire for continuous learning. Her passion for education and enthusiasm for taking on additional responsibilities in her professional role became the catalyst for pursuing a graduate certificate in hazardous waste management and subsequently an MBA from the University of Michigan Flint. The opportunity provided by her employer to cover tuition expenses acted as a further incentive. Keahl’s experience reflects the varied motivations that drive individuals towards graduate studies, be it the pursuit of knowledge, career advancement, or the chance to tap into new opportunities within their current roles.

Choosing the Right Path: Selecting the Right Program and Institution

Keahl’s choice of the University of Michigan Flint for her MBA highlighted the importance of a well-rounded decision-making process. Apart from the convenience of being a local option, she emphasized the structured program and the networking opportunities it provided. These factors played a significant role in her decision-making, illustrating the value of a program that aligns with one’s professional obligations and personal commitments. Keahl’s deliberate and thoughtful approach to choosing the right program reflects the critical nature of considering various elements such as program structure, networking prospects, and geographic convenience when selecting the right graduate institution.

Transition and Success in Graduate School

As Keahl noted, the transition to graduate school requires discipline, prioritization, and a proactive approach to time management. Her ability to intertwine her coursework with her professional responsibilities speaks to the practical applicability of skills acquired in a graduate program. Her experience underscores the vital role of transferable knowledge in facilitating a seamless transition and sustained success throughout the academic journey. Also, her emphasis on the value of not hesitating to seek help complements the importance of building a support network to navigate the challenges of graduate school.

The MBA and Real-World Application

The discussion delved into Keahl’s current role as a franchise owner and her reflections on the connections between her MBA education and her present endeavors. Her experience illustrated the tangible benefits of the MBA program, particularly the insights gained from classes focusing on organizational leadership. Keahl emphasized the significance of softer skills alongside technical knowledge, demonstrating how the MBA experience equips individuals with a holistic skill set essential for real-world applications. This insight provides a powerful testament to the comprehensive value of graduate education in preparing individuals to thrive in their professional pursuits.

Advice for Prospective Graduate Students

Keahl’s journey culminated in an encouraging message urging aspiring graduate students to embrace the opportunity without waiting for the perfect moment. Her recommendation to discover and apply one’s passion aligns with the overarching theme reflected in her own path. Her story serves as an inspiration for prospective graduate students, emphasizing the transformative potential of pursuing advanced education and channeling that knowledge into diverse professional arenas.


Jennifer Keahl’s narrative embodies the profound impact of graduate education, underscoring its role in fostering continuous personal and professional growth. The conversation with Dr. Christopher Lewis provides invaluable insights into the multifaceted journey of graduate studies and the enduring impact it can have on one’s life and career.


Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:01]:
Welcome to the Victor’s in Grad School, where we have conversations with students, alumni, and experts about what it takes to find success in graduate school.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:11]:
Welcome back to Victor’s in Grad School. I’m your host doctor Christopher Lewis, Director of graduate programs for the University of Michigan Flint. Really excited to have you back again this week. As always, every week I love being able Sit down with you, to talk to you, to help you along this journey that you are on. I know you might be at the very beginning just Thinking about and saying, do I really wanna do this graduate school thing? Or you could be in graduate school and trying to figure out this transition from work To graduate school, undergrad to graduate school, whatever it may be in that regard, or you might be toward the end of your graduate degree and you’re looking at that light at the end of the tunnel. But no matter where you are in this whole process, this podcast is all about helping you to find success in that journey. And I say journey Very intentionally because it is a journey. Going through your bachelor’s degree is one part of the journey, but then as you go to graduate school, it’s very different.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:08]:
And if you’ve listened to any of our past episodes, you’ll hear that to be the case. I also love every week being able to bring you Someone that has gone before you, someone that also has gone to graduate school and has been successful and has found success and is Sharing that success with you so that you can learn and grow from what they had to go through And then make some decisions based on that that might help you along the way as well. Today, we’ve got another great guest with us. Jennifer Kiel is with us today, and Jennifer Kiel is a franchise owner and area developer for StretchLab, which we’re gonna learn a little bit more about today as well, But I’m really excited to learn from her experiences and have her here today. Jennifer, thanks so much for being here today.

Jennifer Keahl [00:01:56]:
Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:58]:
Well, I am excited to have you here today too, and I know that you did your undergraduate work at Michigan State University, and then you went on from there, and you got a graduate certificate in hazardous waste management, and then Went on from there again and got a master’s of business administration at the University of Michigan Flint. And what I love to do And starting these conversations is really turn the clock back in time because what I’d love to do is is really pick your brain a little bit about this journey that you went on. Because at some point in this experience, from going from undergrad into your graduate school. In putting in those professional jobs in the mix, you made a decision to go to graduate school. What were the reasons that were going through your head that made you say, I wanna take this step and go and get these graduate degrees.

Jennifer Keahl [00:02:49]:
Well, I’m a lifelong learner. So I love school. I love learning, and I knew I always wanted to go back to school. And in 2011, the company that I worked for was undergoing quite a bit of change, and it gave me the The opportunity to take on a lot of additional responsibility and be part of some of the growth in that company. And they offered the opportunity to cover graduate school, my tuition expenses. And I went from Getting a new employee handbook and then taking the tests required and applying in about 3 week time period. So we got the handbook in June, and I enrolled and began my program that fall. So I was really excited.

Jennifer Keahl [00:03:33]:
I chose U of M U of M Flint because of the very structured program and the networking and the hybrid opportunity. So that’s where I came from.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:43]:
Now you just answered a little bit of my next question, which was you chose to go to the University of Michigan Flynn for the master Through business administration, your undergrad was in a very different area, and you could have chosen to go and get an MBA at many different places. Talk to me about what was the reasoning behind wanting to do the MBA, but then also why you chose the University of Michigan Flint as the place That you ended up versus other places.

Jennifer Keahl [00:04:08]:
I chose the MBA because I was transitioning into an operations leadership role, And the foundation really helped me, to learn the really what I needed to know in from a business side. So my very first class was doctor Chen’s accounting class, and it was phenomenal for her to help me learn the some business basics In accounting, I thought that it could be immediately applicable to the new roles and the new responsibilities that I was taking on. I chose U of M Flint. I’m local. I live in Grand Blanc, so it was nice and close, but more so because you know, I had looked at other universities, but more so because of the structure of the program. It was Very cut and paste for me, so to speak. So I’m I was very busy at the time. I was still working, you know, had a family, and it was Very structured.

Jennifer Keahl [00:05:01]:
I also loved that there was a networking opportunity. So the MBA program was a hybrid program where we did the residency on campus, and we had the opportunity to network with other MBA students, and I love that opportunity. And it also gave me the flexibility to do my studies at home at during the times when I needed to do work at late hours the night or early hours of the morning.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:05:25]:
Now every student that goes into a graduate degree ends up having to definitely transition. And There’s a definite way in which you are educated as an undergraduate student, and that is not always the same as when you are a graduate student. The expectations are different. The type of coursework is different. The rigor of the coursework is different. And there is a transition that you have to go through To find that groove, find that ability for yourself to find success. Talk to me about that transition for you and how it went, And what did you have to do to be able to find that success for yourself at the beginning, but then what did you have to do to also Maintain that success throughout your entire time through the MBA.

Jennifer Keahl [00:06:12]:
It takes a lot of discipline. So you have to prioritize, And you have to make it a priority. And if that meant that I was, doing homework in the morning, you know, before work, Then I was doing that. And, again, I was very fortunate in that it was immediately applicable. So a lot of the the, case studies or Projects, I was able to use directly from my experiences at my current and future positions. So, yeah, like I said, it just takes a lot of discipline, a lot of prioritization, and not being afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:06:47]:
Now I know that You are a franchise owner of StretchLab in Clarkston, Michigan. For those that don’t know what StretchLab is, why don’t you tell me more about that? And then The other piece that I really have an interest in is really reflecting on thinking back to this education that you went through through the MBA. How do you find that the that the work that you’re doing with StretchLab connects to the learning that you did through the MBA?

Jennifer Keahl [00:07:16]:
Oh, that’s a great question. So I’ll start with your first question. StretchLab is a boutique fitness brand owned by the parent company, Exponential Fitness. So StretchLab is 1 on 1 assisted stretching. You might compare it to something similar as, like, physical therapy or massage, But it’s not. It is just simply 1 on 1 assisted stretching. It was invented in California by a personal trainer whose clients kept requesting longer assisted Stretching at the end of their training workouts, and it got to the point where the clients just wanted to be stretched the entire time. And that’s how StretchLab was born.

Jennifer Keahl [00:07:51]:
Exponential Fitness bought the StretchLab Studio in 2017 and then began franchising. And now there are over 400 Locations open worldwide. My studio was the 5th to open in Michigan. So opening a franchise and opening any business, The skills and the knowledge and and what I learned from my MBA program was absolutely invaluable. There were so many classes that were beneficial, and some of my favorites were the organizational leadership classes. Doctor Bloom’s classes were some of my favorite, And it’s because it takes some of those softer skills. So the accounting and the financial and maybe some of the other, you know, harder skills, You may not be doing that hands on. But as a leader in the organization, you need to be able to communicate.

Jennifer Keahl [00:08:41]:
You need to be able to Show some of these softer skills in in all facets of the business from your employees to your members and even when you’re networking In in the community.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:08:51]:
I really appreciate you sharing that because I think that, you know, understanding that there will be both hard skills and soft Skills that you’re going to be learning in your program is important, and you might not always realize what you’re learning until after the fact and you reflect Back on that because, you know, the programs are going to, a lot of times, focus on those hard skills, but along the way, they’re spattering in the soft skills And things that you’re going to need to know about working with people and being able to lead people and those interpersonal, Intercultural dynamics that happen within any type of situation. As you think back to your experience, Were there specific situations in your MBA that you’ve that you can point back to right now that really prepared you for those soft skills for working with people in that way?

Jennifer Keahl [00:09:41]:
There were several. There were some of the values assessments and personality assessments that we took that really helped me become more self aware, and there were also some of the operational exercises. There was a little field exercise that We did. And it really taught you that it’s more than just the operations behind the scenes. You really have To appeal and be empathetic and understand your employees and your customers and your community, it’s Probably the most difficult part for individuals, and so those exercises I think were invaluable for me.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:20]:
Well, Jennifer, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for sharing all of this, For sharing your own journey. As you think about the experiences that you had in graduate school that prepared you well for the that prepared you well for what you’re doing right now as you think back to the things that you learned along the way. Is there any advice that you would give to others that are thinking about graduate School that would help them to find success sooner.

Jennifer Keahl [00:10:44]:
You know, I loved the graduate school program. I would highly recommend the program. I I think that my advice would be to go for it. I think sometimes people wait for some perfect moment in time, and There’s never a perfect moment. You have to find that perfect moment and go for it, and then find your passion and apply it. You can apply this MBA program to any business out there, to anything you want to do. It’s beneficial for life in general. So that would be my advice would be to go for it.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:11:16]:
Well, again, thank you, Jennifer, so much for sharing your story today, and I wish you all the best.

Jennifer Keahl [00:11:21]:
Thanks, Chris.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:11:22]:
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. For more information on any of our graduate programs, visit to find out more. Thanks again for spending time with me as you 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].