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Déjà Vu: Brigitte Nickel Returns to Familiarity of SOU to Earn MBA


SOU MBA graduate Brigitte Nickel

Brigitte Nickel knows a thing or two about coming full circle.

After she transferred from Southern Oregon University while enrolled as an undergraduate, Nickel returned to earn a Master of Business Administration. She graduated in 2013.

"I started as a business major," she said. "Then, I decided to switch gears into community health. Once I graduated from Portland State University, I still thought having a business background would benefit me in corporate health. I thought about just finishing my undergrad in business, but it made more sense to get a master's since I already had a lot of the prerequisites."

When Nickel originally enrolled at SOU, she was a business major with an emphasis in marketing and a minor in psychology.

"Community health is something that's really important to me," she said. "During my sophomore year, I decided to pursue that as a degree instead. Once I graduated, I felt I could still use more real-world like skills, like business, to excel in a career. So, instead I went back to get my MBA."

In true full-circle fashion, Nickel is now the marketing manager for ACA Performance Services, a division of ACA Compliance Group.

"It's kind of funny how I ended up doing marketing anyway," she said. "I like the creative aspect of it, figuring out what people want and providing services in a way that is enticing to different people."

H-E-L-L-O, SOU

Nickel moved to Grants Pass, Oregon, with her parents after they retired during her senior year of high school. The two options for college she mulled over were SOU and Portland State.

"It's kind of funny I ended up going to both," she said. "SOU was significantly cheaper and significantly closer. I went straight into my undergrad when I was still fresh out of high school and 18. I thought it would be nice to have my parents around in case something came up, some emergency."

Nickel worked for SOU during both of her stints as a student. She was an office worker her freshman and sophomore years and an office manager in the small business development center while she was enrolled in the master's program.

"I got to work and help other small businesses with the information I was getting through my MBA," she said. "It was perfect. I also got to know a lot of the professors. I knew their backgrounds, their work history and their teaching styles. My parents also live down here, so I thought that would be a good support system."

Nickel was impressed with the strong amount of experience the professors brought to the MBA program.

"I feel like at a lot of universities the professors are all academically trained, not necessarily with real-world experience," Nickel said. "I knew that a lot of the SOU professors were still working in the business world as consultants. They chose to be professors. It's not necessarily where they're making all of their money.

"The fact that they are teaching because they like it went a long way with how I viewed their teaching styles. Because they are still active in the business world, they're constantly updating their material and are ahead of the game. They're not just teaching you theories they learned in school."

Nickel was also impressed by the accessibility of the professors.

"Most of them give you their cell phone number, and you can call them," she said. "I worked full-time and wasn't always able to make the office hours, but if you sent them an email sometimes at 11 o'clock at night, they would reply to you right away or at least within one day. It's definitely what drew me back."

Practical Curriculum

Nickel enjoyed all of the courses in the curriculum -- especially the ones that she could use in her business and personal life, such as ethics.

"I've always thought ethics is a really interesting topic," she said. "They did a good job of incorporating both sides of an issue to evaluate and make a decision that is not only beneficial in a business sense but also morally."

Overall, she found all of the MBA courses offered a solid overview of the different aspects of business.

"In a lot of classes, there's a strong focus on critical thinking," Nickel said. "Obviously, you have accounting and finance that are more technical, but a lot of the classes were broader picture and gave you different skill sets you either might not have received in your undergrad or you were fine-tuning."

She also enjoyed the insights provided by the professors and other business leaders.

"There was a leadership course where they brought in different types of leaders every week from all aspects of business," Nickel said. "It was really interesting to hear other people's outlook on the business world that you may not have had access to without this connection."

Marketable Marketer

Nickel has no doubt the MBA has been a huge reason for her success in the business world. Since graduation, she has worked as an executive assistant and a marketing manager for two different companies, including Cary's of Oregon in Grants Pass.

"I built a lot of relationships and different networking opportunities at SOU, which led to pretty much every job I've ever gotten or have been offered," she said. "SOU is always posting jobs to the alumni board. They're focused on putting students in good jobs and keeping them in the area, too."

Nickel, who owns a dog and enjoys hiking, rafting and eating at great restaurants, has had her parents' support throughout her education.

"My parents have always been huge supporters of education," she said. "For anybody looking to advance in their position or just for a more well-rounded program, the SOU MBA program is a good opportunity to do that in a part-time setting. You're still able to work, you're still able to have that family life.

"It's important to continue your education. I did mine right out of my undergrad. I took two terms off. Even if I had waited, I could see the value in it after working for a few years and going back to see firsthand how the theory of business applies in the real world and using those skills to fine-tune what you do and how you present yourself."

As much as Nickel has taken a shine to Oregon, she hopes to find some familiar ground in a very familiar place sometime down the road.

"I was born on the big island of Hawaii," she said. "I lived there most of my childhood. I'm waiting to go full circle back to Hawaii."

Learn more about the SOU online MBA programs.

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