There are several reasons students can choose to return to school and earn their graduate degree: to switch careers, to advance in their chosen fields and to further their love of education, among many.
For Shari Austin, however, a primary motivator was her daughter.
After watching her now-21-year-old daughter graduate from high school, Austin was inspired to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Applied Management from Grand Canyon University and — soon after — her Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management (MSGSCM) from USC Marshall School of Business.
“I know it didn’t matter to my daughter [that I didn’t have a degree], but to me, it did. That’s why I started going back to school, and it made me feel really positive about myself. I realized I didn’t want to give it up,” said Austin, who joined the online MSGSCM program this fall.
Another personal inspiration came from her church community: “There was a 60-something blind man at my church who got his degree. I thought, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ So, I’ve never stopped going to classes … and I’ve kept on with my education. Now, I’m about to get my master’s degree at USC at 41 years old,” she said.
Austin, who serves as a strategic customer specialist at DHL Global Forwarding, loves her current position and has no plans to leave the major freight forwarder, where she’s worked for the past 22 years. With her MSGSCM degree, she hopes she will not only further her knowledge in supply chain logistics and management, but also take on new roles and responsibilities as she continues her career path at DHL.
“After I got my bachelor’s degree, I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be and that I wanted to continue to learn,” Austin said of her decision to enroll in the program.
She was specifically drawn to USC Marshall because both of her siblings are Trojans, so she had firsthand knowledge of the university’s academic excellence, leading faculty and expansive alumni network. Plus, Austin knew she needed to pursue her degree online, as it would allow her the flexibility to successfully balance her coursework, career and family life.
Although she has decades of global supply chain experience, Austin feels there is still much to learn. Throughout her time at DHL, she has taken on multiple positions, and as she joins many meetings with upper management across the company, she wants to build and diversify her industry knowledge even more.
“I wanted to learn for myself so I could be a bigger presence in those types of rooms and be able to offer more support to the company as a whole,” she said.
So far, Austin has thoroughly enjoyed her classes and coursework, specifically in the area of running and managing ports. The online MSGSCM program, which can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis, also focuses on strategic procurement, logistics and distribution, outsourcing and artificial intelligence.
Moving beyond the classroom, students gain hands-on industry experience by taking part in real-time research and projects. As part of this learning model, students travel to Singapore, a dynamic international supply chain hub, for a week-long, extensive experiential learning trip, which Austin is particularly thrilled to join.
But her favorite part of the program so far, she explained, is the community she’s found within it. From cohort group chats to troubleshooting technology issues in the virtual classrooms, the MSGSCM students are eager to help and support each other, said Austin.
“I like the camaraderie … The best part of the program is us really being a team and talking throughout the week. It’s great,” she said.
Aside from career advancement within DHL, Austin hopes the MSGSCM program will also help her grow her small business, Honey Scrubbed, where she and her team hand craft facial and body scrubs.
With a full-time career, personal business ventures and family responsibilities, Austin is well-versed on how to juggle multiple commitments, and for anyone else considering graduate school, she emphasized one piece of advice: Keep your eyes on the goal.
“Don’t stop. Make a plan and just keep going because it’s never too late to make a change or learn or grow. You’re never too old. You could be 41; you could be 60. Just don’t give up on the dream to keep going,” Austin said.
Learn more about the online Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management program today.