Baking, banking + a UNA MBA? How this Senior VP rocked all 3


Karla Blevins
Karla Blevins recently completed UNA’s online MBA program. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

After several years working in finance in Birmingham, Karla Blevins started thinking about an MBA. When a friend from North Alabama told her about the UNA MBA program, she wanted to know more. Find out how she balanced a full-time banking career with doing UNA’s online MBA. Bonus: she landed a big promotion after she finished.

Meet Karla Blevins, Senior VP at BBVA

Karla Blevins is a Trussville resident who describes herself as a homebody who loves to bake, and she’s a Senior VP at BBVA.

Here are a few fun facts about her journey:

The personal side

Blevins grew up in Rogersville, outside Florence, home of UNA.

She loves to bake, read and spend time with her husband and their dogs (not necessarily in that order).

She and her husband started a garden this year and grew a lot of tomatoes this past summer!

Pre-COVID, she loved traveling, and looks forward to fun vacations in the future.

The professional side

Karla Blevins in front of the BBVA sign near the Rotary Trail—she's a graduate of the UNA MBA program
Karla Blevins by the BBVA sign next to the Rotary Trail. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

After high school, she came to Birmingham to go to UAB for undergrad.

First, she thought she’d be pre-med. Unfortunately, she discovered she’s not into the sight of blood or injuries.

Career aptitude tests led her to finance + that’s what she got her degree in from UAB.

After college, she took an internal auditing job at Regions.

After 6 years, she went to BBVA in risk management. This means foreseeing and solving for problems before they happen.

In the 9 years she’s been at BBVA, she progressed from being a junior person to team lead about 3 years ago. Then in February 2020, she became Senior VP + Internal Control and Operational Risk Governance Program Manager.

Bham Now: What made you decide to do an MBA?

UNA graduation - imagine going after you copmlete your UNA MBA
One day, big in-person graduations will be a thing again. Photo via UNA

Blevins: In 2016, I’d progressed a little within the same team for about five years and wanted to take the next step. I thought an MBA would help.

I actually started a different role at the same time as I started the MBA in 2017, but it was a bit of a parallel move. 

After I finished last year, I started taking on more responsibility. Ultimately, that led to my promotion.Curious to find out more? Check out UNA’s MBA program today.

Bham Now: Why the UNA MBA program?

University of North Alabama, home of the UNA MBA
When you see this sign, you know you’re at UNA. Photo via UNA

Blevins: Originally I was looking at another program. But then one of my friends who lives in North Alabama started her MBA program at UNA. She said it was all online and told me a little about it, so I started looking into it.

I realized it was a viable option for me—the price was good, so it was cost-effective. The fact that I didn’t have to take the GMAT was appealing, since I wanted to start my MBA rather than study for a test. Also, what I knew about UNA from growing up in North Alabama led me to apply there.

Bham Now: What was the application process like?

Blevins: It was a really good experience. I emailed for a little more info and got a personal response within a day. Someone called me to talk through my application and what I needed to do.

Then I sent in my application and I got my acceptance quickly. I had a person to talk to the whole time which helped a lot.

Bham Now: What was it like doing the UNA MBA program while working full-time?

Blevins: It was challenging but doable with a lot of advance planning. I took two classes at a time and had to make time in the evenings and on weekends to complete assignments.

If I had weekend plans, I had to plan for it and do more work during the week.

Bham Now: What did your workplace do to support you?

Blevins: They were very supportive, and the tuition reimbursement program helped. My direct supervisor was very encouraging. He always understood if I had a group meeting and couldn’t stay late.

Bham Now: What did UNA do to make the program doable for working professionals?

Blevins: Everything’s online, so you can work when your schedule allows. I did have to be very aware of the day and time items were due, since some assignments were due during working hours. Teachers were very responsive and helpful with any questions.

Bham Now: Would you do it again?

Blevins: I would! It’s been a good payoff for me—it gave me new knowledge and I met some pretty interesting people.

Why the UNA MBA program?
Affordability and costs are just one of the reasons people choose UNA. Photo via UNA

If UNA’s MBA sounds like a good fit for you, here are some nuts and bolts you’ll want to know:

Cost: It’s possible to complete the entire MBA program for less than $18,000.

Quality: UNA is among the 5% of business schools in the world to hold the prestigious AASCB accreditation.

Flexibility: there are 5 different eight-week terms per year, and you can apply and start before any one of them. UNA works closely with students to help you design a schedule that will help you reach your goals while meeting your current commitments.

Ready to find out more? Request more information for UNA’s MBA today.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

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

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