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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2021 Graduate Education

Online MBA Alumna Jola Barnett Gives Back through Teaching and Mentorship

By Mia Gleason • Photos courtesy of Jola Barnett

Alumna Jola Barnett (’08, ’12) is the regional vice president of operations at Skagit Regional Health in Arlington and Mount Vernon, Washington, and a section instructor in the WSU Online MBA program.

Jola Barnett, a Carson College alumna who earned her degree online through WSU’s Global Campus, says the first time she stepped foot on the Pullman campus was at her graduation in 2008 when receiving her bachelor’s in business administration.

“I felt the overwhelming pride of being a Coug in that moment,” Barnett says. “As I sat with other traditional campus graduates in the ceremony, I felt connected and proud that I chose WSU.”

Barnett says she later met then President Elson S. Floyd who asked her about her online experience and what more could be done to enhance the experience for future students. He mentioned the opening of the MBA program in Spokane and how he’d like to make an online MBA program available as well.

“He asked if any of us would be interested in pursuing the online MBA and, at the time, I really didn’t give it much thought,” Barnett says. “However, that intimate conversation was the spark for my future enrollment.”

In the summer of 2010, Barnett saw an ad for the online MBA program in an alumni magazine and applied for admission as soon as she could; she didn’t even look at other universities.

Selecting a Top-Ranked Online Program

Jola and Megan Barnett tailgating with the late President Elson S. Floyd during Apple Cup 2013.

Because the WSU online MBA format is designed to accommodate working professionals, Barnett felt the transition to the program while being a full-time working mother would be feasible.

“My undergraduate experience felt like a world-class education, and I had no reason to think the online MBA would be any different,” Barnett says. “The semesters were structured in a way that I could balance my high-paced professional career, my family, and my advanced degree simultaneously. My education was no different than those who were in a traditional classroom, and it may have even been a little more challenging.”

Making the Transition From Learner to Leader in the Online MBA Space

Barnett loved her experience as a graduate student in WSU’s online MBA program and her involvement in the ASWSU online senate. Along with other senators, she attended regional conferences and recruitment activities with WSU leaders like Cheryl Oliver, associate dean for professional programs.

“Cheryl was instrumental in developing and enhancing the online program,” Barnett says. “I felt personally connected to the program and was proud to be part of its growth while also being able to develop relationships with Carson College of Business leaders.”

Barnett’s involvement and passion for the Carson College did not go unnoticed. A few months after she graduated, one of her professors contacted her and asked if she would be interested in helping as a section instructor in a strategy audit class.

“I was flattered by his compliments of my work and engaged learning and accepted the position without hesitation,” Barnett says. “The section instructor assignment led to other references. Before long, I was a section instructor for a handful of my former professors.”

Barnett’s Experience and Empathy Help Students Develop Higher Skills

As a long-term section instructor, Barnett knows how important it is to understand and support students who are working professionals.

“I have firsthand knowledge of the courses and have been in their shoes,” Barnett says. “I can relate to their experiences, and I share their passion for higher education and advancing their careers.”

Barnett challenges students to be highly engaged in the learning environment and to exceed expectations. If their work does not meet her expectations, she tries to provide meaningful feedback to help them develop higher skills and knowledge. She ties her personal experiences in executive leadership and examples of real decision-making scenarios or projects she faces every day directly to the course content.

“Knowing I have made a difference or had some positive influence on students is tremendously fulfilling for me both personally and professionally,” Barnett says. “I see myself as a mentor for the students in my classes, and it is my role to help them be successful.”

Learn more about the WSU Online MBA.