In the midst of the holiday season, we want to recognize the strongest support network for students in The University of Alabama’s EMBA program — their families.
The decision to return to graduate school and pursue an M.B.A affects not only the student, but their family members as well. It is important for students to work together with their spouse and children to maintain a healthy balance between school, work and family time.
According to Susan Maples, having a spouse attend grad school is an adventure for the whole family. Susan’s husband, Sam Maples, graduated from the UA Tuscaloosa EMBA program in May of 2013.
“Be ready to give up many of the things you do together as a family for about 18 months, and be ready to say no to other things and invites that are not as important. That way, the little time you have together will be quality time doing things you enjoy,” Susan said.
Susan previously worked for 10 years in manufacturing engineering and management for Toyota, but is now a stay-at-home mom. She and Sam have four children — three girls, ages 14, 12 and 10, and their youngest a boy, age 7.
“Seeing their father studying at home had a good influence on the kids. They were able to see it takes time and effort to achieve goals, and they also learned it takes the whole family working together to help each other,” she said. “It wasn’t always fun for them, though. They had to learn that we make choices in life and sometimes the choice made was not always what they desired at the moment.”
Finding a balance between work, school and family time that worked for everyone can be difficult. Susan recommends using study breaks and mealtimes to spend time together and catch up. She also suggests trying to take interest in what your spouse is learning.
“If you are able to help them study, that is still time spent together,” she said. “Get to know the members of your spouse’s team as well. We enjoyed having Sam’s team study at our house and spending time time with them.”
Andrea Elrod agrees that finding a balance between home, work and school is difficult for EMBA students, as well as their families. Andrea is married to Russ Elrod, UA Huntsville EMBA class of 2013.
“It was difficult for everyone, but we all saw that it was the most difficult for Russ to juggle the pressures of work, home and school,” Andrea said. “I was personally amazed at the way he carved out time for the children in the evenings and stayed up late almost every night to read and study.”
Andrea is a CPA and Director of Accounting for Davis Lee Companies in Guntersville, Ala. She and Russ have two daughters, ages 7 and 9.
“Russ used his books and study time as teachable moments with the girls anytime possible. He enjoyed his professors and classes so much that the children even enjoyed hearing about them,” she said.
According to Andrea, spouses of EMBA students should expect conversations to revolve around interesting topics in the classroom.
“I found that even though Russ and I had some stressful times during the program, we also grew closer in some ways because he got me involved,” she said. “He even convinced me to read and enjoy some of his books and articles!”
While the EMBA program requires help and support from the family, it also provides them with new and exciting opportunities. Both Susan and Andrea accompanied their husbands on the 2013 UA EMBA international trip to Istanbul, Turkey.
“Istanbul was not on my list of places to visit prior to Sam starting his EMBA, but it turned out to be an incredible experience,” Susan said. “The optional excursion to Ephesus was definitely a highlight. It was a time where Sam and I could enjoy traveling together since the ‘class’ part of the trip was over, and gave us a chance to enjoy a few stress-free days.”
“The trip to Turkey was a fun and wonderful experience. It was the one point in the entire program where I was truly able to bond with the other students and their spouses,” Andrea said. “My tip for future spouses on the international trip is to research and plan outings with other spouses before your trip. The students have plans all day and night, but the spouses have plenty of time to goof off, so make the most of it!”
Another point in the program that is enjoyable and rewarding for all members of the family is graduation.
“We enjoyed the reception hosted by the EMBA department and the graduation ceremony,” Susan said. “We felt it was important for our children to see their dad receive his degree so they could realize it was one of the rewards of completing the program. We also had a graduation party for him at home.”
“The EMBA office does a great job with their reception before the ceremony, and we enjoyed and appreciated that,” Andrea said. “The most memorable part of the ceremony was when our normally non-emotional 9-year-old looked up during the graduation and admitted that she was so proud of Daddy, she wanted to cry.”
We welcome spouses to attend an upcoming event or an open classroom along with their spouse who is considering the program. For more information on the EMBA program or to attend an upcoming event, contact the EMBA office at 205-348-4501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.