May 25 • 8 min read

More than ever before, women are pursuing graduate business education and stepping into management and leadership roles, according to research from the Graduate Management Admission Council. Get to know four women from different backgrounds who earned a Fox MBA and imagine what a graduate degree can do for you.

Melissa DeFreece, MBA ’17, senior associate director, Annual Giving, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)

Melissa DeFreece

Because of my Fox MBA, I traveled to India, which was a life-changing experience for me.

Melissa DeFreece completed the Fox Executive MBA program while working full-time as a nonprofit professional and being the primary caretaker of her mother. “I said to people, ‘I’m giving birth in 16 months to an MBA; I can’t hang out,’” says DeFreece. “It was hard, but I had the support of my family and friends.”

The importance of education was instilled in DeFreece at a young age through her mother, father and grandmother. DeGreece and her older brothers all pursued college degrees and higher levels of education. “My family has always been about education,” says DeFreece. “We know education can open doors. The opportunities and connections will come through education.”

DeFreece’s career has taken her all across the U.S., including Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas, where she started her 18-year career in the nonprofit industry. She worked as a director of annual giving and special events at Liberty Lutheran when she considered starting an MBA program to expand her business acumen. “I felt like an MBA would give me a different and broader viewpoint of the business world,” says DeFreece.

She audited a class at the Fox School and by chance sat at a table with another nonprofit professional who became a mentor to her while she completed the program. “He would say, ‘You deserve a spot, and you can be successful here,’” says DeFreece. The guidance from her mentor and support from fellow members of her cohort were instrumental to her success in the program.

Instrumental to her success in the program was the guidance from her mentor and support from members of her cohort, including the women she bonded with. “I met some key women who will be in my life for a lifetime,” says DeFreece.

“As women in MBA programs and even in life, we have to be our best advocate for ourselves,” says DeFreece. “As a woman and a woman of color, I felt like I had to do this for myself as well as to show to others that you can get an MBA as a Black woman, as a Latina and as a kid from the Bronx. It is totally possible, and it can open so many doors.”

“Just do it. You are enough. You have to take a chance, bet on yourself, and make the investment in yourself.” 

Georgette Harrison, MBA ’20, senior consultant, EY

Georgette Harrison

Because of my Fox MBA, I was able to expand my knowledge base, network and worldview.

Georgette Harrison is the embodiment of Temple Founder Russell H. Conwell’s motto: Perseverance Conquers. She stayed committed to finishing the Fox Online MBA program in her goal timeline of under two years even after getting laid off from her employer, starting at a new employer and experiencing the complexities that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.

She currently serves as a mentor to seven students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a historically Black college from which Harrison holds two degrees: a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in industrial and systems engineering. She inspires through her commitment to education as well as her professional successes, including becoming the first Black female program manager at her previous manufacturing employer.

“It’s important to me that I give back and show the young ladies and men I mentor that so much is possible with determination, hard work and support from your family and friends,” says Harrison.

Her mentees call her “The Walking LinkedIn,” as she’s able to connect them with a wide array of professionals based on their goals and interests through her extensive network, which the Fox Online MBA helped her grow throughout her time in the program. “In addition to helping me attain the necessary business acumen to reach an executive level, my Fox MBA also provided me with relationships with classmates, professors and Temple staff that have been great for my network,” says Harrison.

Regarding her experience as a woman in an MBA program, Harrison was confident in her ability to succeed, just as she had been when she stepped into the program manager role at her old company. “I knew I was let into the program for a reason, just as I was appointed the first and only Black female program manager at my previous employer for a reason, so I took up that space and owned my spot,” says Harrison.

“My advice for other women is to own your credentials, your intelligence, your background and take up that space.”

Janice Patel, MBA ’16, senior director of Talent Management, Comcast NBCUniversal

Janice Patel

Because of my Fox MBA, I was able to successfully make a career transition and develop long-lasting relationships that have made big impacts on my life and career.

Janice Patel was already an accomplished woman with a law degree and several years of legal experience working in Philadelphia when she made the bold decision to pursue the Fox Full-Time MBA

When Janice explained to a partner in the firm that she had always dreamed of attaining her MBA, she was told in front of colleagues that she was making the worst career decision of her life. “Those harsh remarks did, for a time, make me question my resolve. Any seeds of doubt, however, were quickly erased once I began full time at Fox. I knew going in that business school was all about the relationships you build. Those relationships helped foster the culture, environment and career path I was looking for,” says Patel. 

She appreciated the various backgrounds of her classmates and the connections she made with the women in her program. “We all bonded quickly when we first started, and I remain good friends with many of them,” says Patel. “Among the women, we empowered each other. It was in those relationships that we all found support and learned to follow our instincts in pursuit of shared goals.”  

Among Patel’s most impactful experiences in the program were her global immersions to South America and India, where she felt grateful to have the opportunity to experience her own Indian culture through the eyes of others while also being able to immerse herself in other cultures. 

She accomplished her goal of attaining her MBA to go along with her JD and finished the program with a new career path and an expanded network. “Fox and the Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD) helped me keep an open mind and consider opportunities I wouldn’t have before. I truly attribute me being able to make a successful career transition into a different field to my MBA,” says Patel. 

“To women interested in pursuing an MBA: be bold, follow your instincts and don’t be afraid to pursue your goals. You will have times of doubt, you will face detractors, but at Fox you will find in your peers a network of support that you will be able to lean on throughout both your professional and personal life.”

Tarra Washington, MBA ’16, head of corporate healthcare relationships, HCA Healthcare UK, previous CEO of Kindred Hospital Morris County

Tarra Washington

Because of my Fox MBA, I gained experience and a network of individuals that allowed me to progress to a role that I set out for.

Tarra Washington proves women can do it all and then some. After working as a doctor of physical therapy for 13 years, she decided she wanted to move into an executive management position in healthcare and would pursue an MBA program to help her do so—all while being a mother of two boys and working a full-time job.

“I got a lot of pushback when I first told people my plan,” says Washington. “They would say, ‘You have a great career and two kids. Do you know how busy you’re going to be trying to get an MBA and in a management career?’ That was frustrating to me because I believe a man wouldn’t have received feedback like that, it would not have even been questioned.”

Washington resolved to not let other people’s fears and inhibitions be pushed on her. “I wanted more, so I had to shut out all that negative pushback and tell myself I could do it with kids while working just like anyone else could,” says Washington.

She went into the Fox Part-Time MBA program with the goal of becoming a CEO of a hospital, and she did exactly that. With a healthcare background in physical therapy, she knew she needed to learn more about the business side of the industry. “When I started my MBA with a concentration in health sector management, my eyes were opened to what I was missing when decisions came down from leadership. I got to learn about what the administration may have been thinking when making changes,” says Washington.

The most transformational experience for Washington was her internship with Temple Health. Her experience working in business intelligence transformed into a full-time position working under the CFO of Temple Health. Because of that position, Washington earned a fellowship with Kindred Healthcare that eventually led to her appointment as the CEO of Kindred Hospital New Jersey—Morris County. “I would have never succeeded in my job as CEO if I didn’t have that internship during the Part-Time MBA program,” says Washington. “I needed the MBA degree and the internship experience to be able to go to where I needed to go.”

To women considering pursuing MBA programs, she advises, “We can take on so much more than we or anyone else thinks possible. Don’t put it off. Reach out to other women and get mentors to push you along and keep you empowered.”

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