Hazelmae Overturf celebrated her graduation with “feelings of accomplishment, pride, and love.” 

Executive MBA Student Celebrates Virtual Graduation with Optimism and Grace

By Mia Gleason

In a thoughtful letter penned to herself at the start of her online Executive MBA studies at Washington State University, Hazelmae Overturf made a point to cut herself some slack.

Pursuing excellence comes naturally to Overturf, a senior manager of learning and development at BECU in Kent. But she also knew earning the degree while holding a management position at the state’s largest credit union would require giving herself some grace.

“Don’t forget that perfection is never your end-game,” Overturf wrote in her letter. “Learning through the failures and the successes is always what drives you and what you want for others. Take mindful time away to reflect on how far you have come and can still go. Celebrate even the small wins and all forward progress, and most importantly—keep having fun.”

A virtual graduation

As a new program alumna, Hazelmae Overturf advises Executive MBA students to “stay organized and give yourself grace.”

The advice paid off for Overturf, who graduated in December with an executive master’s degree in business administration. Her philosophy helped her stay motivated and on-task, even during the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was looking forward to trekking to Pullman to participate in a live graduation, but that just wasn’t in the cards,” Overturf says. “Instead, we planned a Zoom watch party with my friends and family during the day of graduation, and of course I was all dressed up in my rented cap and gown.”

Her family sent Hawaiian floral leis as a surprise, and her husband took her on an adventure to pick up a special meal and a gift to mark the completion of her EMBA program.

“The day itself meant a lot,” Overturf says. “It was different than how I imagined it would be, but the feelings of accomplishment, pride, and love were all still present, and I look fondly back on the memories.”

Balancing a career and Executive MBA studies

“I have always known that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, but it took about a decade to figure out my long-term plan,” Overturf says. “During that time, I grew up, travelled the world, and had a wonderful start to my career at BECU.”

To advance to her goal of becoming a chief learning officer at BECU, Overturf decided in 2019 to start her EMBA studies. The chief learning officer is an executive responsible for marshalling an organization’s technology and talent to prepare for and adapt to changes in the business environment.

Overturf says she ultimately chose WSU’s online Executive MBA for its flexibility.

“I researched WSU’s approach and discovered it provided a great blend of live and recorded lectures,” Overturf says. “Live lectures were the most important to me because I wanted to meet and learn from my fellow classmates. Earning a degree from a highly ranked program was also a priority, and WSU’s reputation fit the bill.”

“Carson College of Business online MBA programs are designed specifically to support working professionals,” says Cheryl Oliver, associate dean for professional programs. “We strive to provide outstanding course content students can put to immediate use in their professional lives—whether that’s running a company or other leadership roles in their communities.”

One of the best parts of Overturf’s experience at WSU was directly applying her learnings to her current job.

“In our information technology management class, we created a business proposal for an IT initiative,” Overturf says. “At the end of this class, I was able to hand this proposal to my boss to deploy a virtual classroom technology that improved our employees’ online learning experience.”

Reflecting on growth during the program

Overturf says she is lucky to have made meaningful connections with her fellow EMBA classmates, especially her capstone team.

The WSU Executive MBA capstone is the final series of courses in the program. Students work together in groups to develop and complete a comprehensive business plan that ties into all their previous coursework.

“My capstone team was a source of great support, and we excelled at bringing out each other’s strengths,” Overturf says. “We celebrated our triumphs and supported each other through any trials in and outside of the capstone.”

In her letter, Overturf gave herself a goal to “never put off something until tomorrow that you can do today.” As a self-described, mostly reformed habitual procrastinator, she says this is something she actively practices.

“On some days, this looked like completing a discussion post early or reading a chapter of a textbook,” she says. “On other days, it was simply making my bed in the morning. It helped me prioritize the things that can be done today and to accept things that could wait.”

As a new program alumna, she advises MBA students to “stay organized and give yourself grace.”

“You are capable of more than you imagine, and remembering that helps remove barriers,” Overturf says. “You can do something meaningful every day to advance toward your goal.”

Learn more about the WSU Carson College Executive MBA program.