Penn State Online MBA graduates inaugural class since redesign

November 22, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The redesigned Penn State Online MBA (OMBA) ushered in its first graduating class in August 2019. In a partnership with Penn State World Campus, and led by the internationally recognized Smeal College of Business, the redesigned program opened in fall 2017, offering students greater flexibility and more choices with a total of 15 concentrations and a summer start date.

The 33 graduates hailed from various backgrounds ranging from engineering to management and countries as far as China and Mexico. Additionally, graduates came from a variety of industries such as education and hospitality. 

“Our first graduates are the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by our team and partners to redesign a program that provides working professionals with optimal flexibility and choice in an online MBA program, as well as the outstanding caliber of education expected at Penn State,” said Stacey Dorang Peeler, OMBA managing director. “We are very proud of what we have accomplished as a program, and, of course, exceptionally proud of all of our graduates.”

Two recent graduates, Peter Disi and Jeffrey Sharp, were able to reflect on how the new program exceeded their expectations.

“I’m now better able to motivate my teams, develop more sustainable and impactful long-term strategic plans, and manage for organizational change within my company through the skills I learned.”

— Jeffrey Sharp, 2019 Penn State Online MBA alumnus

Disi was drawn to Penn State due to its academic reputation, online learning experience and school pride that set the University apart from other institutions. Disi said that the program has given him a broader perspective in the world of business.

“The various courses I took that covered key business units within any organization gives me the ability to utilize critical-thinking skills in making strategic decisions for the business,” Disi said. “This has been helpful to me in my current role.”

When Disi began the online MBA program with a concentration in corporate innovation and entrepreneurship in fall 2017, he had more than 10 years of experience in human resources.After residing in Tampa, Florida, at the beginning of the program, he now resides in Cranbury, New Jersey, after receiving a promotion as a manager for HR people analytics and data strategy at Johnson & Johnson.

Additionally, Disi said the program has given him the willpower to succeed and the strength to persevere through life’s challenges. Not only does he feel a strong sense of personal growth throughout his OMBA journey, he said, but also wisdom. 

Jeffrey Sharp and his wife and daughter smile at Lake Placid.

Penn State Online MBA graduate Jeffrey Sharp and his wife and daughter visit Lake Placid to celebrate Sharp's completion of the program.

IMAGE: Penn State

After evaluating Penn State’s flexibility and highly regarded reputation, Sharp knew that the OMBA program would be the best fit for him to pursue his concentration in corporate innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Sharp said the program has given him extraordinary opportunities to excel in the workplace. He was promoted twice while in the program and has now been designated to a senior management position at Bekaert since completion.

Sharp originally grew up in Bellevue, Washington, and received his undergraduate degree from Central Washington University. At 22, Sharp became employed in the steel industry as a sales representative and slowly worked his way up. After being based in Chicago, he met his wife, Katie. His current company, Bekaert, which focuses on steel wire transformation and coatings, recruited him to manage sales in the west in Denver before moving to Columbus where he managed key accounts.

Sharp was promoted in March 2018 as a North American segment manager for Bekaert’s energy division. He will be relocating to the company’s regional headquarters in Atlanta at the end of this year. For his new position, he is responsible for energy-related products and acts as the general manager for the business unit. 

“The true impact over the life of my career I’m sure will be even greater,” Sharp said. “This is just the impact in the positions I’ve been entrusted to hold.”

Sharp went into the program knowing he needed to gain a better understanding of finance, accounting and data analytics in order to be eligible for senior positions. However, he overlooked the real impact of organizational behavior, strategic management and leadership classes could have on one’s career. 

“The biggest impacts I found to my own career were through these “soft skills” classes,” Sharp said. “I’m now better able to motivate my teams, develop more sustainable and impactful long-term strategic plans, and manage for organizational change within my company through the skills I learned.” 

With developmental skills in place, Sharp and Disi were able to better position themselves to advance their careers. One of the most memorable experiences for Disi was completing group work. Having a foundation to hear various perspectives on the topic of discussion allowed him to build his knowledge and gain better insight, Disi shared. 

Now that Disi and Sharp have graduated, they are looking forward to applying what they have learned to their careers. Out of all of the skills Sharp has gained, he thinks leadership is a skill underestimated by many. 

“Anyone can lead, whether you’re an individual contributor or senior-level executive, you can lead. Leadership certainly comes easy to some, but it is also a skill that can be learned and one that even great leaders can improve upon,” Sharp said. “Penn State’s OMBA program helps to develop those leadership skills.”

The Penn State OMBA is now accepting applications for summer 2020 enrollment. 

Visit the Penn State Online MBA website for information.

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Last Updated November 22, 2019