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May 10, 2022 Business Administration Student

Submariner Jasen Hicks works toward MBA when he’s not underwater

What exactly does a submariner do? And how does one earn their MBA while spending much of their time hundreds of feet underwater? Jasen Hicks, a naval submarine officer in his 19th year of service abroad in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan, knows a little something about that.

“Submarine officers maintain and drive submarines and everything that goes along with it. We’re firefighters, cooks, maids, housekeepers, teachers, students—we’re a self-contained fighting force where we train and learn from each other. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we go where the president needs us and hide with pride. We’re ready to do what needs to be done without being known we’re there, so it’s pretty vague, but that’s what we do by nature—we’re vague!”

After being stationed across both the United States and the world – from California to Washington D.C. and from Italy to Japan, Hicks will retire from the Navy next year. He is planning on capping off his military career with 20 years under his belt and an MBA from Gies College of Business.

Jasen Hicks“I chose to get my MBA now because my wife Rhiannon [Suarez]—who’s in banking—is actually in the iMBA program with me. We’d talked about getting our master’s degrees together for a long time, but as much as we move, both around the United States and abroad, it seemed impossible,” Hicks shared. “But the summer of 2020 came, and with it, a strict lockdown in Japan. The topic of the Gies iMBA program came up. My wife had done the research on what online MBA programs are like and so I said, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s apply!’

“It was both a spur-of-the-moment decision and the culmination of my years of service ending with my upcoming retirement,” he explained, “I know how much things are going to change when I retire, and I need to prepare myself for having a ‘real job’ for the first time. I thought having a foundation in business would make that process easier while broadening my skills.”

This MBA isn’t Hicks’ first foray into the world of business. He has been involved in various startups and owned a business of building, designing, and selling video game parts. Now, he is interested in possibly going into consulting or management.

“I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be going into after next year, which is scary! But I’m trying to keep my options open, which I think is something I can do because of the MBA I’m earning,” he shared.

Making the decision to pursue his degree online was also a brave choice for Hicks. He had tried out an online master’s degree program back in 2009, but he was unsatisfied by the poor level of engagement he felt. “I didn’t have a good experience with that,” he reflected. “I didn’t think online learning was for me until I started this experience at Gies with Rhiannon.”

The Gies iMBA program is built to suit the lives of its students, no matter where they live or what their work schedule is like. The program provides flexibility and accessibility by offering multiple live sessions throughout the day in addition to posted recordings. Faculty members are also available outside of class for virtual office hours. This system allows even a couple like Hicks and Suarez to stay engaged in their courses without sacrificing their careers.

“For the most part, we end up watching a lot of the recordings of live sessions because that’s how the timing works out with both of us working full-time,” Hicks said. “I think the professors do a very good job of bringing up what was said and discussed in the breakout sessions, so it doesn’t feel like we’re missing anything.”

Another factor that makes the iMBA program unique is that learners can pause the program at any time when life gets in the way. The iMBA also offers flexibility in the timeframe for completion. Most learners take between 24 and 36 months to earn their MBA. Hicks started the program in 2020 and will finish it in Fall 2022.

“Going through an established business school like Gies at a reputable university adds so much more value to the MBA,” said Hicks. “My job has also been very accommodating of the program. Our current admiral is very much a supporter of people getting a higher education, and they support us in any way we can.”

As the date of his retirement and receiving his MBA draw closer, Hicks feels confident that whether you’re leaving the military or staying, you can’t go wrong with earning your MBA. Being able to do so on your own time is just another benefit of the Gies experience.

“Do it! Set aside the time and do it!” he advises. “The lessons that you learn about management and leadership will really change the way you approach team culture and organization. Not all military leadership is right all of the time, so getting an additional perspective will help you and make you a better leader.”