Graduate Programs

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Jennifer Phillips

Embarking on a journey through graduate school can be both challenging and rewarding. In a recent podcast episode of  Victors in Grad School, Jennifer Phillips, a graduate of the University of Michigan Flint’s MBA program, shared her personal journey and the lessons she learned along the way. Her experiences offer valuable insights for current and prospective graduate students seeking to navigate the path to success.

Setting Yourself Up for Success:

Jennifer’s decision to pursue a graduate degree was fueled by her passion for lifelong learning. Despite being a full-time working mom with family obligations, she found the flexibility of online classes at the University of Michigan Flint to be a key factor in her decision. By carefully managing her time and balancing her priorities, Jennifer was able to embark on her graduate school journey with determination and focus.

Choosing the Right Program and Institution:

When it came to choosing the Master of Business Administration program at the University of Michigan Flint, Jennifer considered a variety of factors. The program’s flexibility, convenience, affordability, and alignment with her entrepreneurial aspirations played a crucial role in her decision-making process. By selecting a program that resonated with her goals and values, Jennifer set herself up for success from the outset.

Overcoming Challenges and Seeking Support:

As Jennifer progressed through her MBA program, she encountered obstacles and moments of self-doubt. However, her willingness to reach out for support and guidance proved to be pivotal in overcoming these challenges. By seeking advice from faculty, taking a semester off when needed, and relying on her support system, Jennifer was able to navigate difficult times and stay on track towards completing her degree.

The Power of Continuous Learning:

Reflecting on her graduate education, Jennifer emphasizes the invaluable skills and knowledge she acquired during her MBA program. These insights not only enhanced her professional capabilities but also opened up new possibilities for her future endeavors. By embracing a mindset of continuous learning and growth, Jennifer is well-equipped to pursue her entrepreneurial aspirations and thrive in her professional life.

Tips for Prospective Graduate Students:

Drawing from her own experiences, Jennifer offers practical advice for individuals considering graduate school. She encourages prospective students to overcome self-doubt, take the first step towards their educational goals, and approach their journey one step at a time. By emphasizing the value of investing in oneself and seizing opportunities for growth, Jennifer inspires others to pursue their academic aspirations with confidence and determination.

Jennifer Phillips’s journey through graduate school serves as a testament to the resilience, dedication, and passion required to succeed in academic pursuits. Her story illuminates the importance of perseverance, self-care, and seeking support during challenging times. By following her example and embracing the value of lifelong learning, current and prospective graduate students can chart a course towards academic and professional success.

In the end, Jennifer’s insights remind us that the journey through graduate school is not just about obtaining a degree but about personal growth, professional development, and the enduring pursuit of knowledge and excellence.


Dr. 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.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:11]:
Welcome back to victors in grad school. I’m your host, Doctor. Christopher Lewis, director of graduate programs at the University of Michigan, Flint. Really excited to have you back again this week. This week as always, we are on a journey together. I love being able to talk to you every week as I know that you are on your own journey, your own journey of going into through and looking at the end of graduate school. But as you’re looking at all of that, hopefully, one of the things that you’re thinking about is what you can do to be successful in this journey because it does take effort. It takes time, and it takes a lot of forethought to make sure that you’re doing what you can to be successful.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:59]:
And there are things that you can do right today that’ll set yourself up on the right foot to be able to help you to find that success. And that’s what this show is all about. This show is all about helping you to be able to see different ways, different things that you can do to be able to be successful in this journey that you’re on. In every week, I love being able to bring you different people, people that have gone before you, that have decided to to go to graduate school, gone through graduate school and have found success. This week, we got another great guest with us today. Jennifer Phillips is with us and Jennifer did her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan Flint, got a bachelor of applied sciences and economics, and then a few years later made a decision to go back to school and get that master of business administration degree also at the University of Michigan Flint. So we’re gonna be talking to her about her own journey and what she learned along that path. And I’m really excited to have her here.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:07]:
Jennifer, thanks so much for being here today.

Jennifer Phillips [00:02:09]:
Thank you for having me, Chris.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:11]:
It is my pleasure. I love being able to talk to people about the journeys that they have gone through. And what I would love to do is is I wanna turn the clock back in time. I wanna go all the way back to your undergraduate days first, and let’s talk about as you’re going through that degree, then you left your undergraduate work, went back into the work world after completing off that degree. And I know you did you did work while you were going through your undergrad as well and had that experience. But at some point you made a decision to continue with your education. Talk to me about that. And what made you decide that you wanted to go to get that graduate degree?

Jennifer Phillips [00:02:50]:
So for me, the reason that I chose grad school was because I consider myself a lifelong learner. Ever since I was young, I felt that I would always go on and work my way through graduate school. And for me, my life, you know, took turns in different directions. And I was a working mom, full time mom when I got my undergrad degree. And for me starting grad school, there was a gap between my undergrad and my graduate degree because of having the young kids at home and having to help them with their studies. I needed to know that I had time for my own studies so that I could be successful. So I was excited to be able to start when I did start and the flexibility that’s offered by grad school, being able to take the classes on my own time online, most of them I could schedule around my own schedule and family obligations and work. I figured I would make a go of it, and I’m glad that I started.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:45]:
So when you did decide to go back to grad school, you decided to get a master’s of business administration, and you decided to get that at the University of Michigan Flint. There are many different schools, many different programs that are out there. Talk to me about the decision making that you went through when you did make that decision to go back to graduate school and what was going through your head in regard to why the Master of Business Administration? But 2, why the business administration, but 2, why the University of Michigan Flint?

Jennifer Phillips [00:04:17]:
Prior to working at the university where I am employed currently, I was an entrepreneur myself and I see myself going back into that maybe when I’m retired, getting into entrepreneurial aspirations that I have. U of M Flint, I chose U of M as my alma mater. I’ve began classes right out of high school actually and returned decades later. And I have a special place in my heart for U of M Flint. When I looked at the offerings for the MBA, it was something that I could do. It was flexible. There were some evening classes, and just the setup of it was great for me. The convenience was perfect for me.

Jennifer Phillips [00:04:56]:
The affordability, the university invests in their own, and they made it an easy choice for me. The flexibility, as I said, in the scheduling worked for me. And those are the reasons I chose U of M Flint. I wanna see Flint be successful and U of M is a bright spot in the city of Flint. And so I’m happy to to be able to support as a student and to earn my graduate degree there as well.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:05:18]:
Now I know that there was a couple of years between when you got your undergraduate degree when you went back for your graduate degree. And anytime that you make a transition from different degrees from different levels of degrees, there’s different ways in which you’re educated. And there’s a transition that you have to go through to be able to find success in that journey for yourself. You did get through your degree, you finished off your MBA, so you found success in that journey. As you think back to the beginning of your graduate degree and that transition back into school after being out for a little bit of time, what did you have to do to be able to set yourself up for success? And what did you have to do to maintain your success throughout your graduate school journey

Jennifer Phillips [00:06:07]:
to revisit kind of what I let into in the beginning for me, I did want to continue right away with my education, but I knew that I had to put my family first. My kids were young at the time. My youngest son, it was once he finally finished 6th grade that he was then independent and able to manage his homework with very little help from me where I knew that then I would have the free time. So I actually kinda hung around the flagpole. I stayed close to the graduate programs during those years, would put visit the open houses that you’d have and things just to let you know that I’m here and I’m coming and was just waiting for the right time. So for myself, as I said, I, you know, working full time is kids in school, had a husband, a family, school sports, things like that, taking my time. I decided to go to school part time to work it in around all of that. So it took me 4 years to get my degree and that was my choice so that I could have the work life balance.

Jennifer Phillips [00:07:01]:
And that worked well for me to maintain. I took it seriously. I set aside the time. I sacrificed my evenings and some sleep for studying every semester that began, I’d get my syllabus and set out my calendar so I could see when my due dates were so that I knew that I would make all the deadlines for my assignments and exams. And that just helped me to chart out a path throughout the semester. I had a lot of family support. My family was in my court. My classmates were my gym buddies.

Jennifer Phillips [00:07:30]:
You know, they kept me going when I feel like I was browning a little bit throughout the semesters. My colleagues and friends encouraged. There was just really a really great support system that I had, and I’m grateful for that. But I am also personally driven and I make my commitments and I succeed at them. I did well in the courses. I did have one tough semester, I’ll tell you, Chris, and I felt like quitting. I had actually gone full time that semester and I never did that again with working full time and going. It was tough.

Jennifer Phillips [00:07:58]:
But I felt like quitting. And I but I reached out to my professors, and I did talk to the dean. And they just said, you know, take a semester off, just regroup and come back. And that was right during the pandemic, in fact. And I’m so grateful that I did that and that I listened to them because I took the the ones the next semester off. And then when I came back, it was smoother sailing after that. So I guess for success, the way to maintain is just keep going. Just keep going.

Jennifer Phillips [00:08:25]:
Reach out if you’re drowning.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:08:26]:
Makes me think of Dory from Finding Nemo as she just keeps swimming. And definitely there are times where you have to do that. And I appreciate that you said that you did reach out and you asked those questions. And talk to me about what was the response that you got when you did reach out to your faculty, when you did reach out to the people within your program for that support, what was their response back in regard to providing you with resources or tools or things that could help you to get through that term even though you were hitting that proverbial wall that was more difficult during that specific term?

Jennifer Phillips [00:09:04]:
I think mostly it was, as I said, that was at the beginning of the pandemic. It was the spring semester in 2020. And I think there was just an awful lot going on at that time, right? We were washing our groceries and it was just a really scary time. And so the advice that I got from the dean was, who was also my instructor, was just take some time off, just take a break and regroup and come back. I felt like I was doing horribly. I think I’d gotten a c on an exam. I’ve never gotten a c on an exam before. And he assured me that that was nothing to be concerned about.

Jennifer Phillips [00:09:38]:
And I think that I was right in there with the realm of others in the course. But, you know, I did better from there moving forward. It was my first exam in that semester. And so once you see the first one, you kind of know how to prepare for the next one. And so that’s what I did was I just changed up my study habits and found different path to prepare in that particular course and took that semester off, got some R and R, came back with a fresh mind in the fall. And and I said, reached out to my colleagues and they said, you got this. You’re doing great. And I did great.

Jennifer Phillips [00:10:09]:
I graduated with a 3.9. I think I did okay. That didn’t hurt me too bad.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:15]:
No. It definitely doesn’t. And, you know, and I think that that one thing there just that everyone should understand is that you can have a bump in the road and that one bump in the road isn’t going to make or break your experience going through graduate school. Now, if you have multiple bumps in the road, that can be more of an issue. And as you’re hitting those bumps along the way, what Jennifer said is so important, which is reach out, ask for help. Don’t push through thinking that you’re doing things in the right way if you truly are lost. Because the more that you can ask for help when you truly need it, that there may be resources, may be assistance, may be other things that a faculty can offer you, that the program can offer you, that the university can offer you, that may be able to set things up to help you along the way as well. You just don’t want to go so far down the path that you can’t fix the issue as it’s going on.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:11:16]:
And that’s really important.

Jennifer Phillips [00:11:18]:
I would agree to that wholeheartedly. And I tell my kids this as well, start the semester strong. And I think that’s part of the reason that that early c hit me so hard because that’s what I tell them. It’s so much easier. You don’t know what’s coming as the semester goes on. So if you set yourself up strong in the beginning, then if something happens, there’s a definite family, which happened to me one semester in my undergrad. You can recover from it more easily if you come out of the gate strong.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:11:44]:
Now you’ve completed, as I mentioned, your MBA a few years back. You were in professional life throughout the entire time, but you’re continuing with your professional journey. As you look at the work that you do on a daily basis, how do you feel that the graduate degree prepared you for the work that you do?

Jennifer Phillips [00:12:00]:
That’s a great question. And and I’ll tell you, Chris, I, there were many, many classes where I gleaned some excellent skills and tips and tricks that benefited me in my workplace. And I shared that with my colleagues, with my director, the things that I learned, those little handy little tricks and tips and things that I didn’t know were beneficial to me along the way. I feel like my MBA degree has set me up to go anywhere I choose. And I’m really excited too that I made that step to get that degree because of the possibilities that would be afforded to somebody with a graduate degree versus someone without. You know, my kids would say, what were you gonna do with your degree, mom? And I say, you know, I don’t know. I don’t really know where all my future is gonna take me, but I’ve planted the seeds and prepared my fields for rain. That’s how I tell them.

Jennifer Phillips [00:12:51]:
I say, you know, any investment we make in ourselves, it’s nothing but good. And we don’t know what lies ahead, but I look forward to, you know, with expectant faith for where my degree may take me. As I said, I have entrepreneurial aspirations and that’s one of the things that I did take an entrepreneurial course in my grad program. It was excellent. And I’m looking forward to maybe in my retirement years when I have a little more time picking up, you know, and just doing something a little part time. I don’t see myself as ever stopping the workplace. I love working. I love learning, and I love being out in the community.

Jennifer Phillips [00:13:25]:
But I think that the things that I learned in my master of business administration courses will really help me the 2nd time through as an entrepreneur.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:13:34]:
As you look back at your graduate education, getting that MBA, and you think about other students that are looking at graduate school now, whether it be in the MBA, whether it be in I know you work with physical therapy students in the physical therapy program at the University of Michigan Flint, no matter who they are, what are some tips that you might offer students, prospective students, people that are considering graduate education that could help them find success sooner?

Jennifer Phillips [00:13:59]:
So for me, I had concerns myself. When I was considering I’m not a spring chicken. I’m not the youngest person in the room, and I felt like I was maybe too old to go to school. And and so I was pondering, you know, should I even start this? And I talked to a colleague and I said, gosh. When I’m done, I’m gonna be, you know, a 100 years old. And she says, but you’re gonna be a 100 years old anyway. She said, this way, you’ll be a 100 and you’ll have your man MBA. And I guess I thought about that and I thought, you know, she’s right.

Jennifer Phillips [00:14:31]:
And when you look back, the years go by so fast. I mean, I look back 10, 20 years has gone by like a couple of months, it feels like some days. And so I know that this time that I invest in myself, whether it’s 2 years or 4 years or some of our programs you can whip through in a year, that that it’s gonna go by quickly. That time really does go by fast. And we really just need to take a step. Just take that first step. Look at it one class at a time, one semester at a time. And I’ll tell you, I’ve just never heard anyone, Chris, say to me, I’ve never heard anyone say that they’ve regretted going back to school and earning that graduate degree.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:15:11]:
Well, I really appreciate you sharing that and sharing your own journey today, Jennifer. I do appreciate. I know that it is a continuum. And as you said, you love having the opportunity to continuously learn and grow. I mean, graduate school does that, but your professional life does that and you have to push yourself to do that throughout your entire career. Now, I truly appreciate you sharing that and I wish you all the best.

Jennifer Phillips [00:15:34]:
Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:27:30]:
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].