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Jennifer Mary Gates: Prepared for My Encore Career

When Jennifer Mary Gates came to class, she sat up front in the center, “raised Jennifer Mary Gatesmy hand all the time and kept the class late.” She was a graduate student in Caldwell’s master’s in business administration program and she was focused on getting the most out of her classes decades after receiving her undergraduate degree. “I needed to learn how to go to school. There was so much to get from each class,” said Gates, who was also juggling full-time work, family obligations, and transitions and teaching yoga.

Gates, who received her MBA on May 19, overcame the preconceived notions she had about going to college as a mature student.

“I was intimidated by Excel.” Now she knows its benefits. “Preparing for assignments enabled me to better execute research and analyze and produce reports.”

She was not sure what it would be like going to school in a younger culture. “Now I understand the younger workforce so much better.”

Gates was apprehensive about studying on the internet. “I was terrified of online classes but now I enjoy them. Many classes were challenging, but “they opened up opportunities,” she said.

Before starting her master’s classes, she needed to take seven prerequisite undergraduate classes, which turned out to be good introductions. “It got me into the student mode.”

Gates appreciated the faculty members in the School of Business and Computer Science. “I learned so much from each and every teacher, even if their style was not my style.” She found that they were more than willing to help. “They understood what the students need,” said Gates, who is a bank commercial loan officer in corporate risk. “In graduate classes, everyone is engaged,” she said. “I was taught how to present to an audience, and now I have the tools to be confident in my presentation and delivery.”

Along the way, Gates adjusted according to her needs, taking a semester off, enrolling in summer, Saturday and evening classes and learning to manage her time effectively. She took advantage of the short-term study-abroad course, run by Business Professor Bernie O’Rourke, focusing on industry in Ireland. She enjoyed singing and laughing with the other students as they traveled through Ireland’s different counties and scenic countryside, going to and from the corporations, speaking to business leaders and learning their operational processes.

Gates received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina–Greensboro and previously worked as a real estate agent and in retail in family-run small businesses. Her MBA has prepared her for her next “fulfilling encore career.” “I refreshed myself. It opened up everything for me.” She wants other adult learners to know they can do it too. “Have the confidence to know your opportunities are unlimited.”