Javier and Joanne Loubriel have two young daughters and full-time jobs, both of which keep them on their toes each day. Thanks to the convenience of the online Saint Leo MBA program, they are able to pursue graduate studies on top of these daily obligations.

Growing up, Javier, 39, and Joanne, 37, were Army brats and lived all over the United States. Both also spent time in Germany. They now reside in Lake Mary, FL in the Orlando area with their two daughters and Chihuahua.

Undergraduate Studies and Landing on Saint Leo University for Graduate School

For their undergraduate studies, they attended traditional, classroom-based degree programs at two large universities. Joanne attained her bachelor’s in risk management and insurance from Florida State University in 2005. Javier earned a bachelor’s in psychology at the University of Louisville in 2007.

After being out of college for many years, Joanne explains why she and her husband decided to look into graduate degree programs.

“We were both looking to advance in our careers,” she says. “We read about how well Saint Leo University is rated in the southeast and checked out their MBA options. The fact that we could do this program online having full-time jobs and two young kids was very appealing. Also, the fact that the program was accredited was important to us.”

In addition, both work for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a leading property and casualty insurance provider. Their employer encourages continuing education by offering tuition reimbursement to employees.

Choosing the Saint Leo MBA in Project Management

The Loubriels both decided on the Saint Leo MBA in project management. They enrolled in the online graduate degree program in January and began their coursework together.

“Project management has lots of flexibility across all industries right now, and the coursework sounded very interesting to me,” Javier explains of selecting this concentration.

“I want to expand my breadth and develop my skills to move into a more senior leadership role,” Joanne adds. “I thought this Saint Leo MBA program would fit that focus pretty well.”

Joanne admits she had some trepidation about going back to school after having completed her undergraduate degree nearly two decades earlier.

“It was harder in my head to go back than it actually was,” she says. “Once we got into it, we realized it wasn’t too bad at all. We just had to learn how to use the discussion boards and other features of the course site. I think it is super easy to use.”

Early Faculty Support

While the couple is still just a few courses into the MBA curriculum, numerous faculty members have already made a positive impression on them as students. Dr. Andrew McLeod is one of them.

“I enjoyed taking his intro class,” Joanne says. “He really worked with us as new Saint Leo students to help us get our feet wet and gave us a nice introduction as far as what we would be learning throughout the MBA program.”

“He also connected us to a librarian to show us all of the online databases and helpful resources like Grammarly that we have access to as students,” Javier adds.

Dr. Diane Monahan has also gone above and beyond for them.

“She made sure we really understood the content we are learning and how to apply it to our careers,” Javier says.

“She also will schedule Zoom meetings with us at our convenience,” Joanne adds.

Their professor for a class they are currently taking, Dr. Nicole Hawkins, has been a pleasure for them to learn from as well.

Tips for Succeeding Academically while Juggling Multiple Priorities

While their lives are certainly hectic, they offer up some strategies on how they have been able to succeed in the Saint Leo MBA program in spite of so many other obligations.

“The most important thing is to set a schedule for yourself and work ahead,” Joanne says. “For instance, if I have a discussion post due on Thursday, I will try to get most of it done by Tuesday so I’m not waiting until the last minute. You should also start bigger projects as early as possible. If you have any free time come up, use it to your advantage.”

Javier brought up how valuable it is for the couple to be enrolled in the same program.

“This program works really well for us doing it together,” he says. “Having that ally to work with is huge. We will talk about the syllabus for each class and our upcoming assignments. We help each other navigate everything and stay on track.”

He encourages anyone pursuing a degree to find at least one other classmate for support.

Highlighting the Core Value of Integrity

Out of the university’s six core values, Joanne and Javier agree that integrity is the most meaningful to them.

“Doing the right thing is always important for family, our work, and the classes we take in this MBA program,” Joanne explains. “I really like how the coursework itself incorporates the concept of integrity.”

Advice to Prospective Students Considering Saint Leo University

Even though they are still quite new students, the Loubriels already have some advice on why prospective students should give Saint Leo a second look in their college search.

“Saint Leo makes it so easy because they give you so many resources to do your best work,” Joanne says. “Taking two classes per term is a nice format. Plus, the professors are super responsive, and the quality of the education you will receive is phenomenal.”

Javier emphasizes the convenience factor of the online courses.

“The flexibility to fit this program into a busy lifestyle is key,” he says. “You can also chat online with librarians practically any time of day.”

Career Considerations

The Loubriels have worked for Liberty Mutual for many years. Joanne, now a claims unit manager, has spent 17 years with the company. Javier, a large loss inside specialist, has served the insurance provider for over a decade. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, they have both transitioned into working remotely.

Both can already attribute some of the concepts they have learned in the Saint Leo MBA coursework to benefiting their day jobs.

“I’ve been able to bring back some class topics to my coworkers and leadership about industry trends and other topics we've discussed in class,” Javier says. “I also serve as a mentor  through an employee resource group for traditionally underrepresented groups. My mentee and I have discussed several helpful articles I have read for school.”

“It has helped me improve my presentation skills,” Joanne says. “The last course I took was on communication. I feel much more comfortable presenting in front of others, focusing my topics more clearly, and overall being more effective in getting my messages across to others so that they truly understand what I am communicating. I’ve also shared several articles with team members.”

Lending a Helping Hand to the Homeless

Along with their graduate studies, full-time jobs, and caring for their daughters, the couple also has managed to volunteer with the Orlando Union Rescue Mission.

“This is a faith-based nonprofit providing housing to people experiencing homelessness,” Joanne explains. “They also provide education, childcare support, and other services. It’s pretty unique because it strives to help families, not just individuals.”

It was their employer, Liberty Mutual, who connected them to this organization. The company encourages volunteer work and rewards employees for these volunteer hours.

In addition to volunteering, they have enjoyed traveling the world and spending quality time with their girls at the park, playground, and pool.

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by the Loubriels and is used with permission.