How to fit an MBA between tornadoes, an Alabama Power job and hiking the mountains


Melissa Mayo has an EMBA from UNA
Melissa Mayo dressed for success. Photo via Phil Free

Most people try to avoid emergencies. Birmingham’s Melissa Mayo dives into them. She seeks adventure travel, mountain climbing and helping people during big storms. After years of working in storm response and GIS (geographic information systems), Mayo fulfilled a lifelong dream by earning an online Executive MBA (EMBA) from the University of North Alabama’s award-winning program. Keep reading to find out why Mayo chose this path and how she fit an MBA into her action-packed lifestyle.

Meet Melissa Mayo

EMBA from University of North Alabama
Maps are my kind of thing. too. Photo via Melissa Mayo

While Melissa Mayo grew up in Pinson, Alabama, she currently lives in the Birmingham area. At Alabama Power (APC), she supervises a team of what she affectionately refers to as “fantastic GIS gurus.”

Before the power company, Melissa gained valuable experience using GIS technology to respond to statewide natural disasters with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency

(AEMA). A glimpse into a typical day included preparing, training and building new technologies to handle urgent situations like oil spills, ice storms, hurricanes and of course, tornadoes.

Outdoor passions spill over into Melissa’s spare time with traveling, hiking and hanging with her beloved dog named Legend.

I wanted to understand more of what makes this adventure-seeking, GIS guru, power leader tick and why she made the decision to invest in an EMBA from UNA.

What made you decide to enroll in UNA’s online EMBA program?

Hiking in the snow. Photo via Melissa Mayo

Earning an MBA has been a goal of mine for many years. Many MBA and EMBA programs are offered in an online setting and yet still require in-person commitments. With my current role and occasional storm duty activities, I felt as though I could potentially have difficulties meeting those in-person commitments.

UNA is truly a fully online program with no in-person requirements.

Interesting Fact: UNA has been online since 2004. This means they can offer the very best of online learning. Curious? Request information today.

Why University of North Alabama?

University of North Alabama’s campus in the springtime. Photo via UNA

I reached out to several universities and investigated a variety of different MBA programs. Here are some of the factors that helped me make my decision: 

☑️ Cost: UNA was particularly attractive in several areas, not the least of which is value for the cost. The UNA MBA/EMBA program is fully accredited and extremely economical. It has been a great value as compared to the cost of many other business programs.

☑️ Flexibility: I could do my work when my schedule best allowed, allowing me to juggle both my work commitments and personal life with school. 

Additionally, the professors were very accommodating on the rare occasion that I had a storm or other work event that conflicted with a schedule. 

UNA’s structure allows for the student to be in control of his or her own fate a bit more than with other programs that adhere to a more rigorous program progression.

☑️ Quality: UNA is committed to offering a high-quality MBA education and experience for students. From the time I was a student, they have continued to improve and build upon this program, including successfully achieving the prestigious AACSB accreditation

Interesting Facts: only 5% of the business schools in the world have AACSB accreditation. Also, UNA has the largest MBA program 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.

Why the Executive MBA vs. the regular MBA?

online MBA from UNA
#1 EMBA in the country. And you can do it all online. Photo via UNA

I discussed the MBA/EMBA program options, as well as my career endeavors and educational aspirations, with UNA advisors prior to enrolling. 

I already had several years of work and supervisory experience in previous jobs as well as with my current employer, so we landed on the EMBA as the best fit. 

With my background in geography, I was looking for more leadership and management-focused topics with an overview of areas like accounting, finance and computer science. The EMBA is designed in this fashion. 

What was it like doing the program while working full time?

When I started, I had envisioned it would take three years to complete. However, some work and personal life events tangled up that timeline a bit. Thankfully, I was able to take a semester off when other things took precedence. 

I reduced my course load to one class for my final two semesters when I felt as though I had too much going on to successfully juggle everything. 

UNA made it easy for me to work through these schedule changes. 

What possibilities opened up for you as a result of doing the program?

It’s helped in three main ways: 

The immediate opportunity I have as a result of completing the program is that I will be teaching a required business-related course for emergency managers for Lander University’s Emergency Management Master’s degree where I am an adjunct lecturer. 

I began as an adjunct lecturer there in the spring of 2019. I’ve taught two courses in their EM Master’s degree program and an undergrad geography course in their history department. 

By completing the EMBA program, I will be eligible to teach this course beginning with this fall semester. I have no doubt additional opportunities will arise in the future as well.

In business meetings, the EMBA coursework has helped me better understand what’s being covered, whether it’s the fiscal status of our group or something else. I feel much more confident in my ability to follow and engage in an educated and intelligent fashion.

My ultimate goal is to take care of my team to the best of my ability. I want to set a good example for them, but also provide for them a safe space where we can challenge each other, learn from one another, and continue to grow in our craft. 

Several of my courses gave me very useful tools in this area and have enabled me to (hopefully) do just that. 

What would you have to say to someone who’s considering a UNA MBA?

There’s something about that moment when they’re about to hand you the diploma … Photo via UNA

Jump in! 

While returning to school is certainly a commitment in its own right, UNA makes certain it is manageable and does not feel like an insurmountable mountain to climb.

Request information about the program on UNA’s website

Ready to take the first step toward your own online EMBA, MBA or BBA?

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

  • UNA takes applications on a rolling basis, up to one week before each of five eight-week terms per calendar 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. Melissa explained: “Not having to study for and pass a major exam prior to enrollment was less stress on me and did not turn into a blockage for moving forward. I was able to enroll and start working on my EMBA course work the next semester instead of having to schedule and take an exam, wait for the results, and then enroll.” 
  • 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 online EMBA program? Email them here or check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to learn more!

Sponsored by:

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

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

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