O'Shea negotiated many challenges to earn her online MBA at SOU

Student overcomes life challenges to earn SOU MBA and land “dream job”

Staci O’Shea is a survivor. She has overcome the challenges of being a teen-aged mother of special needs children. She has escaped domestic violence, found her way through a divorce, moved around the country and achieved sobriety.

She has also followed an academic path to career preparation, new-found confidence and real-world success.

“I am a survivor in a few different aspects,” O’Shea said. “School has always been a refuge from life circumstances that were overwhelming and often served as setbacks.”

O’Shea received notification last week that she has completed all requirements for her online MBA degree from the SOU School of Business, after earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration from SOU in 2019. She has reached those academic milestones while working – first with a local nonprofit and for the past year in her “dream job” as a project manager at the Dutch Bros. headquarters in Grants Pass.

“My only goal when I started was to make it through each term, one class at a time,” said O’Shea, who participated in the federal TRIO and Success at Southern student support programs, first at Rogue Community College and then after transferring as an undergrad to SOU.

“I had excellent guidance from both programs that helped me to decide that business was where I should land,” she said. “I enjoy management positions and have long been told I am a natural leader.”

But O’Shea’s route to this point in her life has been convoluted and challenging. She was born and raised in Medford before graduating in 1995 from Crater High School. She took her first college course at RCC in 1996 after becoming a teen mom. She moved to Overland Park, Kansas, then to Las Vegas and then to Eugene before eventually returning to the Rogue Valley. Along the way there was what she described as “a dangerous relationship that was riddled with domestic violence,” her divorce and the discovery a 12-Step resource.

Last week, in addition to learning that her master’s degree coursework has been accepted, O’Shea achieved her 10th year of sobriety.

She thanked SOU business professor Rene Odonez upon being notified that she was approved to receive her MBA, telling him that his “reassurance that I was on track and that I was worthy of a college degree was exactly what I needed when I sometimes doubted my abilities.” O’Shea is a first-generation college student who often lacked confidence during her undergraduate studies, and initially had trouble visualizing herself as MBA material.

“Once I realized that the online coursework was perfect for me, and I had professors and my Success at Southern counselor rooting me on, I knew I could probably handle the MBA program,” she said.

Ordonez, who coordinates graduate programs for the School of Business, said O’Shea is precisely the type of student for which SOU’s online MBA program is intended – even if her personal backstory may involve more challenges and inspiration than most. SOU offers an entirely online MBA program with concentrations in accounting, business analytics, marketing, finance, healthcare administration, information analysis and decision making, and general business practices. The program is designed for flexibility, accommodating the needs of mid-career learners and students anywhere in the world.

The university also has a traditional, on-campus MBA program with a variety of concentrations.

“Staci didn’t realize it at first, but our online MBA offerings are very well-suited for people in circumstances such as hers,” Ordonez said. “We want to reach adult learners where they live and work, and help prepare them for the next steps in their careers.

“We were lucky to have her on-campus for her undergraduate studies, as well. She is inquisitive and determined – I think she now knows that she’s a very good student and a valuable employee.”

The MBA program selected O’Shea to receive the Oregon Lottery Scholarship in both 2019-20 and 2020-21. The scholarship is awarded to graduate students based on merit and need.

O’Shea said it was a “spur-of-the-moment thing” when she applied for her Dutch Bros. position, which drew more than 100 applicants. She now feels empowered to make important decisions for a fast-growing company whose community involvement and philanthropy is making a difference nationwide.

“I would not have my job at Dutch Bros. without my educational training at SOU, in both the undergrad and MBA programs,” she said. “I have learned the importance of professionalism, critical thinking skills, self-discipline, time management skills and also creative problem-solving.

“Personally, it is important to show my kids that higher education is possible even though my younger years took a much different path. It is important to my sobriety that I set and achieve goals that are challenging yet possible, and the most important aspect of my higher education is that I don’t give up – I keep going no matter what. I earned these degrees one class at a time and was able to overcome my self-doubt with a constant stream of hope and successful completion of each course.”