Twenty-five years after Brian Hape graduated with a bachelor's degree, he heard an opportunity to expand his higher education knocking loud and clear.
Hape answered by enrolling in the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Data Analytics program at the University of Southern Indiana. He will graduate in 2018.
"I'm sort of mid-career," Hape said. "With the industry I'm in, which is finance, and my job track, which I have a pretty good idea of what that's going to be in the future, I felt like it was a good time to go back and refresh some skills and learn some of the new information that's out there — especially when I saw the data analytics opportunity. That is used very heavily in our industry."
Hape, who graduated from Western Kentucky University with a bachelor's degree in accounting, is nearing his four-year anniversary as a senior credit manager at United Leasing & Finance.
"It doesn't matter what industry you're in or at what level you are at — you're focused on that industry and on one company inside that industry," he said. "Sometimes it's hard to see outside of that. It was really helpful and insightful when I started classes and saw some of the ways other companies work and some of the techniques that they use. It's a really eye-opening experience."
Money in the Bank
Hape was born and raised in Evansville, but he followed in the footsteps of several of his family members to attend WKU in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Hape wasn't sure what direction he initially wanted to take his career before he landed his first job after he finished school.
"I always had an interest in business," Hape said. "I took a couple of courses at Western Kentucky — an accounting course and an economics course. I really understood the accounting course, and it was something I thought I could do.
"When I graduated, I just happened to get a job at a bank. I really liked finance and banking and went with it from there. When I started school, I was still trying to figure it out. It just happened that I ended up in banking and loved it. It fit me well."
Hape's extensive experience in the banking field provided another reason he went back to school to earn a master's degree.
"I went through the financial crisis 10 years ago, and I found myself looking for a job," he said. "Part of the reason why I went back to school was to have that knowledge and have that MBA. You never know what's going to happen. The degree gives you some flexibility and something you can really lean on when you're out looking."
The eight-week course format has helped Hape work school seamlessly into his schedule, which includes spending time at home with his wife, Karli, and his daughter, Sydnee, who is five years old. Both Hape and his wife are certified public accountants.
"It is not a long time to commit," Hape said. "You can get in and get out. You can plan around it easier. It certainly makes it convenient. I looked at several different options. Being here in town was definitely one of the reasons I chose USI. It's also very cost-effective when it comes right down to it."
The convenience and flexibility of the online courses is another reason Hape has relished his return to school.
"The program is very flexible," Hape said. "You can work on it on your own time, whenever it's available to you. They provide deadlines for you to get your work done, and you just have to plan accordingly. You can even get ahead a little bit. If you're in a position to get ahead, there's usually a couple of weeks of work posted for you, so you know where to go in and what to do."
ECON 601: Business Economics and Forecasting is the course Hape has enjoyed the most so far.
"It gave me a good view of how people make decisions, how to help people in your company make decisions and the incentives that go into that, and how to design your company so that people have the right incentive to make decisions," he said.
Hape is confident the MBA will be a tremendous asset to his career.
"I believe, and my family believes, you have to just keep trying to get better, improving and finding ways to make yourself better," he said. "This is a great way to do it. My friends and family are all very supportive."
Both Hape and Karli hope their college experience will provide plenty of motivation for Sydnee when she has to decide whether to pursue higher education.
"You parent by example," Hape said. "She's just starting school, but she sees me going to school. She understands that. I'm sure that has some impression on her."
Hape said he would recommend the MBA with a concentration in Data Analytics program, which is available 100 percent online, to anybody, no matter how busy their schedule.
"I was really concerned about the time constraints, but you can take an eight-week class like I did during the summer and it doesn't take that long," he said. "You still have gaps in your schedule where you have downtime. I think that's really useful to plan for that, especially if you're working full-time. If you have a family, you still have time to take your vacations. The program has great flexibility."
He'll also have plenty of time to plan for another graduation ceremony.