Chris Ebert B’20 was stuck.
He was ready for a new challenge at work, but advancing without a bachelor’s degree was going to be nearly impossible.
“I was stuck against that ceiling,” he said. “I was lucky to get as far as I did without a degree. I needed that piece of paper to knock the barrier down.”
Ebert was only 12 credits short of having his bachelor’s degree. As a Saint Mary’s traditional undergraduate, he was lured away by work opportunities before earning his diploma. Eventually he knew he was going to need to go back and finish.
“That next role was never going to happen if I didn’t finish my education,” he said. “First thing you see on our job board, every position reads ‘bachelor degree preferred.’ ”
At an educational job fair, Ebert ran into an admissions counselor and Paul Christensen from Saint Mary’s Department of Business and Technology, who is the program director for several bachelor completion programs including the B.S. in Business Administration.
They formulated a plan for Ebert to complete his degree, and he took his first course in 2018. Then, again, life got in the way, and — with the help of Straighterline and some prompting from Christensen — he finished in 2020.
“Paul put together a plan that made it easy to do,” he said. “They put together a custom program to put me over the finish line. I was missing a gen ed in science and they gave me an extra business course instead, which was more valuable to the track I was on. I would have done the science course, but it was not as applicable to my job. I give Paul a lot of credit. He really hustled to make something custom fit for what would benefit me the most.”
Ebert said he found the courses directly applicable to his work in data analytics. “I didn’t know the textbook terms for things I’d learned on the job. So I could start applying the proper terms to things I already knew, which was kind of fun,” he said. “And I learned a few new things. I’ve never been the world’s greatest writer. With written communications and oral communications, my skills improved significantly.”
He also appreciated that the instructors brought their relevant work experience into the classroom. “The professor for business analytics on the Minneapolis Campus had worked his whole career as an industry professional, so he brought a lot of real-world experience which made his lectures interesting,” Ebert said. “That insight was neat for me to experience.”
The flexibility of being able to take two courses online helped him achieve his goal to push himself and finish as quickly as he could. A self-proclaimed Excel dork, Ebert made an Excel file of his assignments, their due dates, and how many points they were worth – all to keep him on track with his studies. “I love the little check marks,” he said. “It turns green when a no turns to a yes. And I’m a “going-to-get-all-the-points person if I’m going to keep score. I get really competitive.”
After quickly completing his bachelor’s at Saint Mary’s, Ebert’s career path has continued to accelerate. Currently happy as a senior business analyst with 3M, Ebert is also finishing his Master’s in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics from Saint Mary’s.
As an undergraduate student, a bachelor’s completion student, and a student in the master’s program, Ebert said he would absolutely recommend Saint Mary’s. “I take any excuse I can to come back to campus. It’s a special place. I loved my smaller class sizes, and all of my professors knew who I was. In the bachelor’s completion business program, Paul was extremely helpful and fair but also tough when he has to be. I’m a person who asks a lot of questions, and I never feel like I was annoying him.”
To adult learners looking to complete a degree or get an advanced degree, he advises them to go for it. “It’ll never be easier than it is today,” he said. “It’ll also never be cheaper than it is today. The cost was a big factor for me. I paid for it out of pocket. Same for the master’s program. The value you get is second to none.”