Chris Coffin had been out of school for two decades before he decided to seek an advanced degree.
Coffin’s career led him through several consulting jobs in Canada and the United Kingdom before he took on his current role as a global software sourcing manager for Citigroup in Toronto.
“I had been wanting to do my MBA for some time — probably within a few years of graduating with my bachelor’s degree and working in management consulting,” he says. “Getting an MBA has been kind of a lifelong goal.”
When he felt it was the right time to get started, Coffin started looking into graduate programs with online and hybrid options in his region, across North America, and even overseas. Of his mental list of requirements, credibility and cost weighed most heavily.
“I ran across UL Lafayette Online,” says Coffin. “I saw they had an MBA with a concentration in Finance, which is what I was looking for, and it was AACSB accredited – which is a big deal for me, I really wanted the global accreditation – and it was affordable. I was sold.”
Going back to class
Coffin knew during his initial research that an online program would be the most practical way to fit graduate school into his life with work and family, but he is also a very social, gregarious person and some skepticism crept in about whether the online experience would work for him. His doubts were quickly laid to rest as he connected with peers through the University’s online forums.
“Online as a medium has come a long way since the days of VHS tapes being shipped by the post office,” Coffin explains. “I have found it far more engaging, which has fed my need to feel like I’m part of something else. I had never anticipated that going in.”
UL Lafayette online MBA students use a specialized Success Hub through Moodle, which allows them to communicate with each other asynchronously. Coffin focused on being active and intentional on this platform, engaging with his classmates to make the digital space more welcoming.
"I found the online program is best, in my opinion, if you invest yourself in it. You get a lot more out of it if you're willing to put more of yourself into it," he says.
Coffin compared his experience with the University online to his time managing a team of 30 people at HSBC, one of Europe’s largest banks.
“Those 30 people were spread all over every operating center of the firm: Brazil, Hong Kong, Dubai, Canada, France and Buffalo, New York,” he says. “I learned through managing that team how to engage people in different time zones and how to understand cultural or interpretive differences. There’s a lot of value in everyone feeling like they’re being heard, and they’re part of the program.”
Staying Busy and Staying Focused
With the support of his wife, Tracy, Coffins says he was able to set aside time for coursework without having to make too many sacrifices.
“I devoted a chunk of four to five hours to my studies on Sunday every week, and then I spread the rest over the week, particularly if I had a gap in my schedule,” he says. “My wife was quite understanding of my time on Sundays and particular days of the week.”
In sharing his experience, Coffin hopes to bring more people to the digital classroom by allaying any reservations they may have about pursuing graduate studies online.
“It’s an excellent option if what you want is an education in business,” he says. “It’s okay to have the apprehension about online, but you should really try to gain some experience in how it works, because it is an engaging environment to learn in. That isn’t obvious on the front end when you’re considering it.”
There is also no reason to feel confined to the digital learning space, according to Coffin.
“There are lots of resources in your local community that can help you,” he says. “Things like the local library have refreshers on statistics or additional reading opportunities. Students should also think about how they would have access to other elements of the university on campus,” such as 24/7 digital library access.
Now, MBA earned and in hand, Coffin says he is satisfied with the results. He found the MBA program to be refreshing, relevant and helpful in the exact ways he had been hoping it would be.
“I have learned a lot in my industry and I'm happy to say I also learned a lot of things I didn't really know very well as part of the program,” he says.
The MBA program online attracts a diverse student body of professionals at all different stages of their lives and careers. For Coffin, getting to work and to exchange ideas with such a variety of people was invaluable.
“There's a real mix of knowledge and experience, and an opportunity — if you're willing — to really help and mentor other people,” says Coffin. “There’s also the chance to meet people in similar types of careers within other industries. I've met lots of people in oil and gas, hospitality, project management, and health. My network has grown substantially, particularly here in Acadiana and the South.”
In August 2022, Coffin traveled from Toronto to Louisiana to participate in commencement ceremonies and proudly receive his MBA degree.
"I think it's hard to find a better high value education for the kind of affordability you're going to get at the University,” says Coffin. “It's fully accredited with the AACSB. That's the gold standard in business. Now, no matter where I go in the world, that will be recognized as an MBA that meets all expected requirements.”
Are you ready invest in yourself and your career by earning your MBA? Learn more about the MBA program online offered by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.