As the first graduate in the WGU MBA Healthcare Management program, Michael Alvarez has no complaints. "I found a good thing at WGU," said Mike. "The model was unique and it was more affordable than anything else out there."
Being in the healthcare industry, this Florida native knew that in order to advance his career he would need to pursue his master's degree. He earned his undergraduate degree from a traditional university and while he was thankful for that experience, he knew it wouldn't fit into his current lifestyle. Mike is married and the dad of a beautiful daughter, Mia, so there wasn't a lot of extra time after work.
He started checking into weekend MBA programs, but found it would take longer than he wanted and the cost was prohibitive. One evening, Mike was reading a newsletter from his employer, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). He saw that his company had become a partner with WGU and was offering employees a flexible option to earning their degree.
Mike knew it was a perfect fit after visiting WGU's Web site and learning about the competency-based model. "I never thought a program like this existed," said Mike, "Nor did I expect to finish it so quickly."
WGU's unique competency-based approach to education lets students progress as quickly as they can demonstrate competence. WGU isn't based on the number of hours spent in a classroom, but rather on the knowledge you are gaining or already possess. "My degree incorporated knowledge that I used everyday so I was able to move through it at a quick pace," Mike remarked.
Students are paired with a mentor that guides them through the program while they pursue their degree at WGU. His relationship with his mentor was strong from the beginning. They had recurring weekly meetings that allowed him to ask questions and get clarification. "She was positive from the start and everything seemed achievable with her," said Mike. "She was encouraging and helped to keep me motivated."
Mike knew he couldn't have done it without the support from his employer and his wife, who mastered the concept of keeping a 5 year old occupied so he could study. "HCA really knew what they were doing when they teamed up with WGU. They knew how critical it is for people in a competitive industry like healthcare to go back to school," said Mike. "These people are working full time, and earning their degree has to be on their time. So it becomes a win-win situation for everyone."
Mike's one hope is that other people and colleagues will take advantage of this unique program. "It wasn't a walk in the park. I had to work hard; in fact I often devoted three to four hours a night, five nights a week to my schoolwork," said Mike. "You have to be self-motivated and not just in the beginning, but for the long-haul. Success lies on the discipline within you; using WGU and its resources only as back-up."
Mike earned his MBA in 13 months and hopes this degree will help him advance his career with HCA.