Student Profile: Jessica Janssen, Midland MBA Class of 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Jessica has been promoted since the publication of this post, and is now the Vice President of Development at Midland University.

Hi, Jessica. Tell us about your background.

I graduated from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln with a degree in business administration and have been in philanthropic roles most of my career. Most recently, I was Executive Director of the Fremont Area Community Foundation from 2010-2013, until I took a leap into the finance world with a job at First National Bank in Fremont.

As a private banking officer, I work with executives and medical professionals, physicians, and others in the field who desire a more personalized banking experience. My customer base really relies on me for complete concierge banking—I’m the single point of contact for everything from deposits and opening accounts to commercial loans and wealth management.

You recently made a career change—is that what motivated you to earn your MBA?

That was certainly part of it, but I’ve always wanted to pursue a graduate program. I discussed and thought about a number of areas of pursuit. In fact, I considered a Masters in Communications and Advertising, or a Masters in Public Administration. Ultimately, I landed on the MBA because I felt it was the most well rounded degree—one that would provide value to any current or future employer. As a private banking officer, the MBA applies 100%, and it has a lot of applicability in nonprofit management, as well.

How do you see your MBA helping you advance your career?

I have a strong passion for philanthropic work. Because of the courses I have taken at Midland, I have really focused that passion on blending the purpose of corporations making a profit, and the value of doing good in the world. My goal now is to use the MBA to blend these ideals and provide value to a corporation while making a difference in the community in a meaningful way.

The MBA has done a great job of setting me up with the fundamentals I need to meet my future career goals. I also have the opportunity work on a variety of projects across disciplines, including the Global Term Project, which allows me to blend the idea of impact investing and corporate philanthropy, and learn more about the field I’m interested in.

What project are you working on?

I’m planning to do a project with ConAgra Foods—I’m working with their international team and the ConAgra Foods Foundation working towards the sort of impact investing program I just mentioned.

Could you tell us a little more about that project?

Many of the details of the project are off limits right now due to NDA, but I will say that I was excited about the global project from the very beginning. I had a pretty clear idea of the direction I may want to go in for this project, and Ray Sass (Director of the MBA at Midland University) and Elizabeth Churchich (MBA Program Coordinator at Midland University), were completely supportive and gave me free reign to build my own project scope. I used some connections I had through the Fremont Community Foundation and reached out to a few different companies to see where there may be opportunities available, and ended up in more serious discussion with ConAgra. I’ve been able to create my own project that fits the work I want to learn about, and also fits the requirement of the global project within the Midland MBA itself. It’s a really great opportunity.

One of our program’s most distinctive features is its hybrid format. How has that worked for you in practice?

It’s amazing. Not only am I a working professional, I’m also a mom to a 4 year old. I wanted to balance my professional life with what’s happening at home, and that just wouldn’t have worked with some of the other programs that require you to be on campus once a week—I don’t have that kind of in-person time to give up. But I can absolutely do my homework, complete assignments, and connect with professors early in the morning and after work when things have settled down a bit.

Meeting in person every 3 weeks is something I was able to commit to, and my employer supported me with this format, as well. I’ve developed some great friendships and had the time to think about my plan, vision, and direction for the future. The program has worked out amazingly. I really think the hybrid program is the way to go.

To close, we’ll open up the floor to you. Anything you’d like to add?

The professors at Midland aren’t just great teachers—they’re also terrific contacts for us, both for bouncing around ideas and for networking. I’ve gone back to them as mentors and asked how they would approach certain situations or what they think of a problem I’m facing, and they’ve been a tremendous resource. It’s a terrific network. Overall, that’s a huge win for Midland, and one of the biggest highlights of the program for me.

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