From ice climbing geographer to Fortune 500 project manager. How this Homewood man upleveled his career with an online MBA


Spence Henderson did a UNA MBA and it helped his career.
Spence Henderson. Photo supplied

Recent economic disruptions might have you thinking more about how to protect your career. Homewood resident Spence Henderson took action that upleveled his career from a GIS analyst to his current role in a multinational Fortune 500 company. Hint: an award-winning online MBA from University of North Alabama was key to the equation. Keep reading for Henderson’s personal story.

Meet Spence Henderson 

Spence Henderson ice climbing
Just hangin’ around. Photo via Spence Henderson

Originally from Guntervsille, Spence Henderson graduated with a degree from the University of Denver in 2008 with a degree in Geography. Afterwards, for almost a decade, he worked for a number of companies doing GIS (Geographic Information Systems). 

While working full-time, he completed his MBA online from the University of North Alabama over a period of three years. After graduation, he was promoted from GIS work to a Senior Analyst / Project Management position. 

Today he works at the Irondale branch of Johnson Controls, a multinational company that’s been around for more than 135 years, innovating and discovering new ways to harness and conserve precious energy resources. 

Deciding to invest in an MBA

a classroom at UNA
In a classroom at UNA back when students could be in classrooms. Photo via UNA

After a year or two in GIS, Spence knew he wanted to explore his strong interests in business and economics. 

“The more I looked into graduate programs and degree options, the more an MBA appealed to me. Not only do you learn business fundamentals, but the career options are endless. Every business and company requires the skills an MBA provides and this seemed like a great degree to pursue.”

Three main factors helped make Spence’s decision: 

✅Convenience and Flexibility
✅ Quality
✅ Affordability

After a lot of research, he concluded that UNA’s MBA program checked all the boxes. 

Since Spence was already working hard in his GIS career, the fact that the program was entirely online and offered 8-week terms was a big selling factor. He knew that between his busy work schedule and after-work responsibilities, in-person classes would be next to impossible. 

UNA’s AASCB accreditation and great reputation, enhanced by the fact that he had friends and family who had attended and loved it, were also big pluses. The curriculum options were attractive, too. As the largest MBA program in the state of Alabama, with approximately 900 students, UNA has the resources to provide courses for a wide range of specialties.

Finally, affordability helped seal the deal. The entire MBA program costs less than $18,000, which is a major consideration for working professionals. 

Support along the MBA journey

Lots of support for the MBA at UNA
You’ll never walk alone. Photo via UNA

Before he started the program, Spence said he was nervous about balancing his full-time job while making sure he understood the courses and material. Once he began, though, his worries quickly subsided: 

“UNA helped by providing guidance on the progression of classes I should take over the course of the MBA program. I specifically remember the first two classes being a soft entry into the program so we wouldn’t be overwhelmed at the start. 

As I continued with the courses, I learned new material along the way which built upon itself and prepared me for the next courses.”

When we asked Dr. Gregory Carnes, Dean of the College of Business at UNA, about how they support students, this is what he said:

“We pride ourselves on the effort we make to help students by providing strong customer service and student resources. We work closely with students to remove any hassles or or hiccups that may come along so they can focus on their school work without unneccessary distractions.”

When Spence was completing the MBA program, he was in a career where he could leave work at the office. This allowed him to focus on his course material in the evenings and on the weekends. 

Also, during the first two semesters of the MBA program, he realized it was important for him not to overload himself with new material. This translated into no more than two classes at a time on top of his full-time work. 

He found that summer classes were more condensed, with more material in less time, so he reduced his course load to give himself space to enjoy the summer. 

The MBA paved the way for a new career in project management

a classroom at UNA
Students at work at UNA. Photo via UNA

“Before I completed my MBA, my career possibilities were limited. Upon completion of the MBA, I now had a broad understanding of Business Fundamentals which opened the door to new industries and career possibilities. 

Specifically, the courses I took in management, accounting, conflict resolution and finance prepared me for my current career in project management.” 

University of North Alabama offers online MBA, EMBA and BBA programs

UNA MBA program accolades
UNA MBA program accolades. Graphic via UNA

Convenience, quality and affordability are just three of the reasons people choose the University of North Alabama. Here are some others: 

  • UNA holds the prestigious AASCB accreditation (only 5% of business schools in the world have this).
  • UNA has the largest MBA in the state of Alabama and has received numerous awards and top rankings.
  • The MBA, EMBA and the highly ranked online BBA are all designed for working adults, have small classes, and are taught by full-time dedicated UNA faculty.
  • UNA has been online since 2004 (meaning, they are pros at online instruction and learning). 

Finally, instead of paying for a piece of paper, each class offers students immediate value toward an existing job or future career goal. 

Ready to take your next step?

Spence was enjoying his career in GIS and wanted to expand his opportunities in the business world in a way that worked with the rest of his life and his budget. 

UNA’s MBA program gave him a solid set of skills that he knows will help him wherever he goes. To anyone who’s considering the program, he says “UNA’s MBA program is a great option considering the cost, flexibility and the content of the courses.”

Want to follow Spence’s lead? Request information about the program on UNA’s website

Here are a few of the nuts and bolts you’ll want to know: 

  • UNA takes applications on a rolling basis, up until a week before each of five eight-week terms per calendar year. What this means for potential students is that there are five potential starting points each year. 
  • As long as you have three years’ worth of solid business experience, UNA will waive the GMAT. For people with less than three years’ experience, UNA is waiving the GMAT for summer and fall 2020 applicants. 
  • Also, any new online student, whether they enroll in the MBA, EMBA or BBA, who starts in the summer or fall, gets two credit hours for free. This amounts to about a $1000 scholarship. 

Want more info on UNA’s MBA program? Email them here or check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to learn more!

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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