Sam Suiter is No. 1.
Suiter is the first graduate of the University of Southern Indiana's Accelerated Master of Business Administration program which is offered full online or in-class. He crossed the proverbial finish line on June 9, 2017.
"I received a call from the provost," Suiter said. "The provost said, 'You're the first.' I said, 'Really?' I was quite surprised that I was the first student to complete the accelerated format of USI's MBA program."
Suiter was among the first students to enroll in the accelerated program, which led to his surprise accolade. Appropriately, he discovered the USI accelerated online MBA program ... online.
"Believe it or not, I saw an advertisement for USI's MBA program on Facebook," he said. "I was exploring MBA programs at local universities. I live in a tri-state region consisting of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. There are several universities in my area offering such programs. Each has similar graduation requirements and courses. The most evident difference was the total program price.
"If you're paying $75,000 for an MBA and I'm getting it at USI for $12,900, you're not a business major. The price was right. The amount of coursework was right. I chose USI because of these factors."
Suiter, who is an executive director at Lincoln County Health Department in Hamlin, West Virginia, was not quite finished even after he completed the online MBA program. He is now enrolled in an online Ph.D. program focused on industrial and organizational psychology at Grand Canyon University.
"As companies seek globalization, industrial and organizational psychology becomes an important factor in a company's successful entry into worldwide marketplace," he said. "It is important to get workers of different cultures, backgrounds and social norms working together as a team to ensure success within an organization."
The accelerated online MBA program was clearly a home run for Suiter.
"They allowed me to add more classes than I needed to take so I could accelerate my own learning, or I could do the minimum amount of coursework and graduate in 18 months. I wanted to get through quickly."
The flexibility of the online format also helped Suiter balance school and work.
"The great thing about the USI online program is the workload of the program's curriculum," Suiter said. "The school of business has designed the curriculum keeping in mind that students are working adults with families and job responsibilities."
Suiter also managed to have enough time for some good, old-fashioned rest and relaxation while he was enrolled in the program.
"My wife [Julie] and I are avid cruisers," he said. "We frequently travel to the Caribbean. In fact, I was able to go out of the country two or three times during my 10 months at USI. I never missed an assignment and was never late. If I can do it, anybody can do it. Curriculum designers have removed all of the 'fluff' from the program. USI online MBA students only study the 'meat and potatoes' of a traditional MBA program. This was also a factor I considered when choosing USI."
Suiter has spent almost his entire career in public service, including 27 years as a paramedic. He worked in public health before he went to work for the State of West Virginia in 2015.
"I entered into public health as an emergency-preparedness person in a health department setting, so I worked it backwards forward," he said. "I knew all about emergency response techniques, but I didn't know all of the finer details of public health. In their world, they knew all about public health but were clueless about emergency response. It was a good fit for me."
Suiter, who has earned bachelor's degrees from Marshall University and the American Public University System, continues to enjoy the impact he has had on others' lives.
"I like working in public health because you can help guide policy development which equates to healthier outcomes in your community," Suiter said. "I place great emphasis on education. In my agency, I've encouraged every employee to continue their studies. I'm happy to say 100 percent of my employees are in school; they're in master's programs and bachelor's programs. They have seen that if I can do it -- work and maintain family life, it's possible for them. We have even hosted our own study groups to keep each other motivated and moving forward."
Julie is also in school pursuing a nursing degree in the Kentucky Community & Technical College System, although she might transfer to a larger university soon to finish.
"We plan to move south and prepare for retirement," he said. "'MBA required' is a common theme one sees when searching job advertisements. I considered law school and some other programs, but the MBA program seemed to be the better fit for me."
Suiter said he enjoyed the entire curriculum of the online MBA program, including the courses MNGT 601: Managing Human Capital, CIS 601: Information Systems and Technology, BLAW 618: Legal and Social Environment of Business and BAN 601: Applied Business Analytics.
"My most memorable professor was Dr. Jill Oeding, which was awesome," he said. "Dr. Oeding is a practicing attorney and chooses to teach in a college environment, she was unbelievably thorough with explaining the required business law course."
Suiter was impressed with the faculty and their general approach to teaching online.
"All of the professors were really great," Suiter said. "Each professor went out of their way to make you feel at ease when talking to them. They provided clear instructions and organized lessons. They bent over backwards to get you through the courses. The teacher aides were also great. Any questions were answered in a timely manner. You get a lot of feedback. It was a fantastic learning experience."
Suiter said he spent roughly 15-20 hours per week on school.
"Sometimes less, sometimes more," he said. "If I ever had an issue with time management, it was of my own doing. It never seemed like I was up against a deadline. I had plenty of time, and I thought it worked out really well."
When Suiter is not at work or engaged in school work, he is a musician with many local band and orchestra groups. He also keeps statistics for his wife's softball team.
"I went to school at Marshall University, fresh out of high school with the hopes of becoming a music teacher," he said. "After the first round of student teaching, I said, 'Not for me.'"
Once he completes the doctoral program, Suiter hopes to work toward his goal of teaching higher education. He knows the online MBA helped him pave the way to achieve his dream.
"Often times, one questions if they are prepared to enter into a graduate program due to a lack of experience or specific content coursework," he said. "While it helps to have these things, USI's curriculum is designed to expose students to needed concepts early in the program.
"Then, you work forward. They give you good grounding and then they level you out, so to speak, which allows you progress through the rest of the program."
Suiter is certainly a fan of higher education and isn't shy about his love for USI.
"If you are looking at an accelerated MBA program with online offerings, I strongly urge you to consider choosing the University of Southern Indiana – it will be the best decision of your life!"