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All in the family

May 9, 2023

There are a plethora of reasons to attend USI—location, cost, classroom size, the list goes on and on. Some students are generational, following the footsteps of parents or older siblings in attending the University. And occasionally, family members attend USI together.

The Harp Sisters

Britlee and Bailee Harp were born and raised on the west side of Evansville, and as sisters, have shared an education journey for most of their lives. Though the two are different ages, they both completed their current degrees in 2021 (Britlee earned her doctorate degree from Butler, Bailee earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville). But attending USI together for their Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees was a fortuitous decision.

Britlee, a pharmacist currently living in Carmel, Indiana, wanted to complete an MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration. She looked into attending at her alma mater but found Butler’s dual Doctor of Pharmacy and MBA degree did not fit her needs. Obtaining her master’s was always a part of her educational goal, and USI’s online options were a perfect fit for her, allowing her to complete coursework online at a time convenient for her. Coworkers and a former boss—all graduates of USI—spoke highly of the online programs.

“One of the most enjoyable parts of this journey has been able to learn about topics I don’t see in my daily work,” says Britlee. “I work as a clinical pharmacist, so I don’t routinely see information regarding accounting, finance and economic data. It was a nice change in pace!”  

For Bailee, who works for an accounting company in Newburgh, Indiana, that is rapidly growing, USI was her top choice due to the University’s reputation. Though she did not attend USI for her undergraduate degree, she knew she would be able to learn and further her knowledge about business by working toward an MBA with an accounting concentration at USI.

 “I think one thing I will take away from these past two years is everyone in the program is so different, but we are all trying to accomplish the same goal,” says Bailee. “Having group projects has helped me see the different stages of life everyone is in, but we are all just trying to learn and better ourselves.”

And though they both had their individual reasons for attending, the Harp sisters also enjoyed the ability to attend the same university for their MBAs and now, graduate together as well.

“The program went quickly, and I was so happy to graduate with my sister! We grew up going to the same elementary, middle and high schools. We watched each other graduate from college, and now we get to graduate together,” says Britlee. “One thing I have taken away is the saying ‘When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to get it’ by Jim Rohn is true. I was working 80-hour weeks, working on-call and completing MBA coursework. It was exhausting, but I knew the importance of both completing my coursework and taking care of my patients. Pushing through that time helped me grow as a pharmacist, student and person.”

“Going into Commencement, it just seemed unreal because it feels like we just started yesterday,” adds Bailee. “This graduation is completely different for us. Britlee being two years older, it is so rare we do the same thing, more the less do the same thing at the same time. I am just so excited we get to do this together.”

Father and Daughter Duo

Growing up, Brittaney Johnson’s parents continually stressed the importance of hard work and education. They led by example, both attending and obtaining bachelor’s degrees from USI. Brittaney would follow in their footsteps, earning her bachelor’s degree in marketing, from the University in 2008.

So, when the father and daughter thought about obtaining their master’s degrees, it made sense they both came back to USI. But it was a surprise they were completing their studies at the same time.

“Brittaney informed her mother and I (just before Commencement) that she was completing her degree. It was an unexpected surprise and has turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both of us to be participating in a Commencement Ceremony together,” says Greg.

Brittaney Johnson, her husband Matthew '09,
and their three daughters

“Graduating at the same time as my father is exciting,” adds Brittaney. “My parents always stressed the importance of hard work and education. My father and mother were both first generation college graduates and now each of them, my two sisters and I all have graduate degrees.”

A working mom of three girls, Brittaney was unsure if she could achieve her goal of earning her master’s degree in business administration, something she always considered working toward. However, being familiar with USI and having earned her bachelor’s degree online was the first step into looking at options with her alma mater.

“USI allowed the flexibility to go through the program at my own pace, and I completed the program with minimal family sacrifices,” says the current Director of Economic Development for Big Rivers Electric Corporation in Owensboro, Kentucky. “The most enjoyable part of my higher ed journey at USI was meeting so many different classmates with diverse backgrounds. I really enjoyed each of their stories, experiences and perspectives.”

Greg returned to USI to earn his master’s degree in criminal justice, a new program offered by the University. He talked frequently with Dr. Melissa Stacer, Director of the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Program, as the degree was being developed and knew he wanted to be among the first to be enrolled.

“Each course has been a challenge that has provided me with a feeling of accomplishment at its completion,” he says. “I will take away new skills and abilities in this field that I have made a career of for the past 43 years.”

Greg Oeth (right), his wife Melody '07 M'09 (left),
and their grandchildren

Not only is Greg excited about his accomplishment in obtaining his master’s degree, he feels a sense of pride in his daughter accomplishing her goals at the same time.

“USI has been a legacy institution for our family,” he says. “I’m happy with my personal achievements and proud of what Brittaney has also accomplished as she continues to advance in her career because of her continuous pursuit of personal development.”

“USI is family to me,” adds Brittaney. “My mother, father, both my sisters, my husband and myself are USI alumni. My mother-in-law, Janet Johnson, has been a long-time employee. I think we all would agree that USI offers excellent degree and career paths at a very good value.”

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