WASHINGTON – The Howard University experience is touted by students, alumni, faculty and staff who each have stories of meeting lifelong friends, having first-time experiences and coming back year after year for a memorable Homecoming. The coveted cultural experience that a Howard University education provides, along with its rich legacy and reputation of producing world-renowned business leaders, is what led John Ferguson, vice president of people and culture for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, to turn to the Howard University School of Business for an MBA.
“I always knew that I wanted to go back to school and was interested in attending Howard because of the rich history and culture, but I wasn’t sure about the timing and how that would align,” said Ferguson. “I had recently been promoted to vice president of people and culture at Monumental Sports, but my motto is to never stop learning, and I felt that the time was right to pursue an MBA.”
Ferguson explored the range of options the School of Business offers for MBA students. As a seasoned executive, Ferguson knew he would need a flexible option that allowed him to balance his personal and professional life while pursuing coursework. He also didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be immersed in Howard University culture. The School of Business has grown to offer a variety of graduate programs to suit different personal and learning styles, including a full and part-time in-residence program, an online executive MBA (EMBA) and an online MBA (OMBA).
“I went back and forth on whether to pursue the EMBA or MBA, and whether I would need a full-time or part-time program. I knew I needed an option that didn’t require me to leave my full-time job, so I enrolled in the accelerated part-time MBA program with the goal of finishing in two years,” said Ferguson. “By taking courses in the Summer, I was able to complete the program at the same pace as the full-time students.”
Like many Howard students and alumni, Ferguson says he experienced being in classes where the faculty and students looked like him for the first time. Throughout the past year, the coronavirus pandemic and global uprisings in response to systemic racism made this experience even more valuable.
“Especially through the uprisings in 2020, being a student at Howard allowed me to have a safe space in a place outside my personal home where we could have that open dialogue,” said Ferguson.
Having more than a decade of work experience behind him, Ferguson was able to bring his professional experience to the classroom and, simultaneously, take his classroom experience to work with him every day.
“I was also able to leverage my professional experience while in the program because I had seen what we were discussing throughout my professional experience. Organizational management was my favorite course, especially as a human resources executive. It allowed things to come full circle and just click,” said Ferguson. “Sometimes you see people with an advanced degree, and you wonder, ‘Do they have a leg up?’ This experience allowed me to build confidence to push harder and understand that I had built a lot of knowledge and expertise on my own; but the program rooted me in the theory. Not only can I now talk human capital conceptually, I can also go toe to toe in a discussion and ask deeper questions, and this allows me to bring a competitive advantage to the company I work for.”
Ferguson says being in the MBA program gave him a space to workshop things he was contending with professionally with his classmates and faculty. For him, being in the MBA program was a silver lining during the coronavirus pandemic, which impacted the sports and entertainment industry financially.
“We were navigating this in real time. I was able to learn and apply immediately,” he said.
While juggling personal, professional and academic life, Ferguson maintained a competitive GPA and was invited to join Beta Gamma Sigma, the international business honor society. He participated as a finalist in the Burt’s Bees Case Competition sponsored by The Clorox Company and the University of Michigan Marketing Club in 2019 and competed on the Howard University Case Team at the 42nd Annual Conference & Career Exposition presented by the National Black MBA Association. Preparing to graduate with the class of 2021, Ferguson reflected on his experience at Howard.
“To anyone debating whether or not an MBA is for them, I would say, a Howard MBA gives you a competitive advantage. I knew I could continue my career without pursuing the MBA, but I wanted to compete with professionals at the highest level,” said Ferguson. “Having Howard University on my resume and my LinkedIn profile has given me new opportunities. So, if you’re asking, ‘Why pursue an MBA?’ I would say the better question is, ‘Why not?’ For Black and brown executives, Howard University is the best place to go.”
Photo 1: John Ferguson poses in front of Howard University sign at MBA Orientation
Photo 2: John Ferguson poses with trophy at Monumental Sports event
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.
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