By Kim Payne, MBA, University Communications

Three decades is a long time. Now that our sons are grown men (33 and 31 respectively), I realize just how long a time period 30 years can be.

It's also how long I thought about returning to school for an advanced degree.

A long-term dream

My wife had encouraged me to follow my desires for as long as I can remember. But other things got in the way – such as raising a family and work – which became real priorities. During that time, my wife also experienced a major medical set back, which delayed the pursuit of my educational aspirations.

Relocating to Florida from Pennsylvania in the fall of 2010 marked a new chapter in our lives. Despite being unemployed upon arrival (admittedly, not the wisest thing to do), and going through a full year (2011) of not working, I finally found temporary, full-time work, which continued through the summer of 2012.

Flipping the switch

After I became unemployed a second time, that's when the light bulb finally went on. Now would be the perfect time to enroll at a local college or university to start the process toward achieving my long thought-about dream of earning an MBA.

Taking courses while I was seeking a new job was a great way to make use of my extra time. I figured it would also increase my value to a future employer. As it turned out, I was right.

Challenging courses

That's when Saint Leo University entered the picture.

I discovered Saint Leo by surfing online and had seen the university's newspaper ads and billboards. I submitted my application and was accepted. I began my first two online courses during the Summer II term in July 2012.

Taking master's level courses after a three-decade absence from rigorous school work can be very intimidating. Also, I wasn't sure if I would like the online format. It was different, new, and challenging. The bottom line is that I really enjoyed it and found it to be stimulating. Having a communications background, I particularly enjoyed the detailed writing assignments.

Being a people person, I was worried that I'd miss the face-to-face interaction with an instructor in a traditional classroom environment; however, I never felt disconnected to the university. In fact, every faculty member who taught my courses had an open-door policy and was very accessible. Technology-wise, I took to it quickly. I even had several simulations with other classmates for group projects, and everything went off flawlessly.

The perfect fit

As fate would have it, one of the places I eventually applied for employment was Saint Leo University. They say timing is everything. During the job interview, I proudly remarked that I was enrolled as an online student, and recited some of the six core values and their importance to the university's student-centered mission.

Amidst my new, fulltime position, I still found time at night and on the weekends to do the necessary coursework. One of things I realized early on was the importance of planning my schedule to allow time for discussion questions, case studies, long-term projects, etc. I was always a procrastinator. The online format forced me to make better use of my time and not wait until the weekend to start thinking about those impending deadlines.

Personal gratification

If I hadn't been hired by the university, or I never parlayed my advanced degree into a promotion or a raise, I would still be content that I put in all the time and effort into earning an MBA. The personal satisfaction I gained can't be measured, and the degree can never be taken away. I can always say: "I did it!"

Inspiring others

One of my ulterior motives in obtaining my master's degree was to inspire my two sons to do likewise. They both have bachelor's degrees – one in communications studies and the other in criminal justice -- from other institutions, and I would like nothing more than to see them pursue their advanced degrees. I wanted to serve as an example and to encourage them to be the best that they can be.

If I can do it at age 58, so can they.

Looking ahead

What's next? Ultimately, I would like to apply to be a member of the adjunct faculty at Saint Leo University to teach communications and marketing. I've always enjoyed mentoring young people and this would a great opportunity to continue in that capacity to impact young minds and lives.

Getting my master's degree online through Saint Leo University was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life (after marriage and the birth of our boys). I would strongly encourage anyone contemplating an MBA to seriously consider creating a plan to achieve this goal and to "go for it!"

Remember, you're never too old to learn.

Kim Payne joined Saint Leo's University Communications office in 2013 as the staff writer and media coordinator. A 30-year professional communicator, he has worked in environments ranging from corporate to health care to advertising agencies and non-profits. Outside the office, he and his wife, Sue, enjoy playing golf and are huge hockey fans. You can reach Kim in UC at 352-588-7233 or

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

Online MBA Programs: Are They Worth It?

Accelerated MBA: What's The Key To Success

Accelerated MBA Online: A Faster Degree Path

Image credits: MyImages-Micha on Shutterstock and courtesy Kim Payne