How a working professional in Detroit returned to school to earn her MBA

I wish I would have done it sooner

Going back to school over the age of 40 did not sound appealing to Mia Johnson. As a human resources professional in Detroit, Michigan, Johnson was looking to upskill within her field.

Concerned about how she would balance her professional commitments and her coursework, Johnson thought earning a graduate degree was out of her reach.

Through a partnership between her employer and Davenport, Johnson soon realized that she could do it all. Her only regret: she hadn’t done it sooner.

Your employer has your back

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Johnson moved to Michigan at the age of five. Growing up a product of the Detroit Public School System, Johnson has strong ties to the Motor City and is proud to call Detroit her home.

Working in the region as a human resources professional for over 20 years, Johnson knew that there were lifelong learning opportunities within her city — she just didn’t think any of these options would be the perfect fit for her.

In her role as human resources senior staffing specialist for DTE Energy, Johnson is responsible for the recruitment, hiring and staffing of all employees within the DTE customer service organization.

Although she is happy in her position, she couldn’t help but wonder if something was holding her back from taking her career to the next level. Johnson knew that if she wanted to continue to climb the corporate ladder into managerial roles, she would need to obtain a graduate-level degree.

Johnson hadn’t stepped foot inside a classroom since earning her bachelor’s degree in 1995. The idea of being a student again, having assignments and paying for another degree after all these years terrified her — so much so, that she tucked the idea away, thinking there were too many barriers standing in her way.

What she didn’t know at the time was that with the support of the partnership between Davenport and her employer, her goal could easily be achieved.

Johnson has been an employee at DTE Energy for over 15 years. But it wasn’t until she accidentally attended a lunch and learn presentation about Davenport’s Corporate Education Scholarship that earning her MBA seemed much more possible than she ever thought.

Surprised to hear about Davenport’s professional development and course choices in Detroit, Johnson began to understand the unique opportunity that was before her.

Corporate partnerships offer a win-win to the employee as well as the employer. Employees are offered a chance to continue their education and training while saving time and money. Meanwhile, employers gain highly qualified employees.

“With Davenport and DTE having my back, it was time to bet on myself,” Johnson stated. She enrolled to begin courses in the fall of 2019.

“It’s exciting to see Mia and other employees at DTE advance their growth, learning and development and fulfill their career aspirations by participating in this corporate education scholarship program,” said Diane Antishin, vice president of human resources and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at DTE Energy. “DTE is proud to continue to partner with Davenport and offer our employees rewarding educational opportunities and resources.”

A degree that is relatable

Johnson soon learned that the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Davenport wasn’t what she expected — it was even better.

Being located close to Davenport’s Detroit campus, Johnson was now confident and ready to get back in the classroom. However, it wasn’t long after she began classes that the pandemic hit.

“At first I was worried about having to now take all online courses. This was very new to me,” stated Johnson. “But the world was changing, and I needed to adapt.”

The online course format options ended up being one of Johnson’s favorite elements of her MBA program. After all, Davenport is ranked among the best online colleges in Michigan.

“Davenport made it so easy for me to get acclimated to online courses,” she recalled. Once she felt up to speed, Johnson found that the online courses and tools were not only easy to navigate, but they also gave her added flexibility — which is especially key for students who are also full-time working professionals.

Johnson found there were many benefits to being both a professional and a student. “I appreciate my graduate experience a lot more than my undergraduate experience because everything was so applicable to real-life this time around,” she stated.

Davenport University, MBA Graduate, Detroit Campus

Mia Johnson proudly holds her diploma in the DTE Energy office located in Detroit

“I could relate all of my courses — management, econ, finance classes, all of them — back to my day-to-day life. That is something you don’t get to experience as a young undergraduate student.”

Having several years of professional work experience, Johnson found that she also had a much deeper interest in the subject matter this time around.

“My papers, my projects — it all could be related directly back to the work I am doing right here at DTE every day,” said Johnson.

“I really can see how this graduate experience is going to give me the tools I need to grow in my career. I am eager to continue to apply the new things I have learned within my role.”

As a bonus, Johnson wasn’t the only DTE Energy employee in her classes. She and her classmate soon became comrades, leaning on each other for guided study sessions and to start applying their new knowledge within their professional roles in real-time.

No regrets

Perhaps Johnson’s biggest takeaway from her experience is that it truly is never too late. “I wish I would have done it sooner — I can’t believe I ever thought it was too late for me to do this,” said Johnson. “It’s never too late.”

“Davenport did an amazing job getting me back in the school mindset and acclimated to my new learning environment — they even provided me with tutoring support. I would recommend working professionals consider continuing their education, and don’t wait.”

Johnson is hopeful that her story can inspire other professionals to leap to upskill within their fields as well. Johnson earned her MBA through Davenport University in December 2021.

Next steps

Interested in learning how to take your career to the next level? Wondering how you can support your employees as they upskill within their fields? Follow the links below to learn more.



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