After graduating from Weber State in 2012 with his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Mike Nguyen took time off to pursue his career. It wasn’t long before he felt the “itch” to go back to school. But finding the right graduate program proved to be a little challenging.
Even though Mike’s work as a consumer insights consultant for Intermountain Healthcare, the largest healthcare system in Utah, deals heavily with data analytics, he still pulls from his psychology background to draw insights from research to discover what consumers are thinking. It’s his love for people that drew him to Ball State University’s online master’s in quantitative psychology.
“A lot of my friends pursued MBAs or MHAs, which they recommended to me. And, while those programs made sense for someone who works in analytics, they didn’t feel right,” says Mike.
“I was looking for the perfect combination of people and data – I was looking for something like quantitative psychology.”
It didn’t make sense for Mike and his husband to uproot for his education, especially with their full-time careers, an assistant coaching position, a newly built home, and his in-laws all residing in Utah. But Mike’s friends who completed their graduate degrees online weren’t necessarily convincing him that this was the way to go for his own education.
“They described feeling unattached from their schools and being unable to get to know their professors. I didn’t want that experience,” says Mike.
Mike was unsure if an online education would provide the same connection as an in-classroom experience. He also had concerns about time management and receiving the proper attention from professors. Still, he made the decision to reach out to Dr. Holmes Finch for more information about the online master’s in quantitative psychology degree.
“Maybe Dr. Finch sensed my hesitation, as he was quick to resolve my concerns,” says Mike.
Dr. Finch shared that there wouldn’t be a single deciding factor to Mike’s decision, so he took a hard look into the qualifiers he set for choosing a university and its online graduate programs.
The university Mike would attend needed to be non-profit, have an on-campus presence, be engaged in research, and it had to be at least 100 years old. Ball State checked off all of those boxes.
Being an assistant high school boys’ volleyball coach, having a Division I men’s volleyball team to cheer for during his studies was, as Mike puts it, “the cherry on top.”
Connected Across Time Zones
After Mike was accepted into the program he was quick to follow the University’s social media accounts and subscribe to a Ball State sub-Reddit to keep up with the student community. And, of course, he made sure to follow the men’s’ volleyball team throughout their season.
“These things made me feel like I was a part of the student body, even though I was two time zones away,” says Mike.
Mike also attributes the faculty he worked with, particularly Dr. Finch, for the connection he felt to the University and the success he had as a student. Dr. Finch was not only one of Mike’s professors but also his advisor, and always met him with the same excitement for learning and understanding of course materials. He also made a conscious effort to group students by time zones to make collaboration easier for schedules.
“As his student, he was always happy to answer my questions – and I had a lot of questions,” Mike remembers. “He has a mentor-like quality to how he approaches students. And, despite how much I felt like Bambi trying to learn how to walk on the ice with my statistics courses, he was excellent at coaching me along.”
Mike took a quick inventory of his current skillset and of those needed to achieve his career aspirations. His interests were leading him more and more in the direction of statistics and survey design – both of which he needed advanced knowledge to become a leader in his field.
Throughout his studies, he found that the education he was receiving could be applied to his current job immediately, and on a daily basis at that. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he frequently used his new quantitative and qualitative skills to understand Utahns’ thoughts and behaviors at a given time. The insights they gained from survey responses helped to shape statewide campaigns that encouraged Utahns to wear masks.
Mike’s skills also expand into continuing medical education research as well. His statistical work as a second author on a research paper will hopefully soon be published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
Mike graduated in May 2020 and made plans to travel to campus to attend Spring Commencement. However, plans shifted once Ball State had to postpone Commencement due to the pandemic. Mike still celebrated his achievements and plans to visit the University at a later time.
For those who are considering earning their degree online, he offers this bit of advice:
“Ignore any perceived stigma [about online programs]. You will find that, in many ways, it is a lot harder. You have to push yourself harder and be disciplined,” he says. “Most importantly, you’ll get what you give – so, give it your all.”