April Piper Finds Community, New Interests in MBA Program Online

Written byZachary Schleter

"Whatever your situation is, online learning will make it easier; you just have to keep working hard. The best part about it all is that no matter where you live, you’ll get to be a Ragin’ Cajun."

April Piper
Graduation Year
Alexandria, Louisiana

April Piper is a proud Ragin’ Cajun.  

Despite never taking a class on campus and living more than an hour away, she makes frequent trips to Lafayette to visit the friends she made while earning her MBA online, and she loves a good crawfish boil or tailgate. 

Just a few years ago, graduate school wasn’t on her radar. But when she started feeling stagnant in her career, she knew it was time to go back to school to network and expand her skillset. 

So, she turned to everyone’s best friend: Google. 

“I didn’t really know anything about any graduate programs, but I went online and did some research and saw that UL Lafayette had a great MBA program that was offered online, too,” she says. “I applied, got accepted, and the rest is history.” 

That history included gaining practical business knowledge and making lifelong connections and friendships, all while maintaining her full-time job. 

A Flexible Education 

Approximately half of the students in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s MBA program come from undergraduate disciplines other than business.  

Piper, who graduated from the program in December 2023, was one of those students. She initially earned her bachelor’s degree in the social sciences in 2011, settling into her current role as an operations technician at a manufacturing plant in Pineville, Louisiana, in 2017. 

But after a while, she wanted to do more. 

“Going back to school was something I had to think about before doing, but I decided to do it mainly because I was unhappy with where I was in my professional career,” she says. 

As a plant employee, Piper doesn’t work a traditional 9-to-5 schedule. Her shifts are 12 hours long, and she switches between day and night shifts each week. 

When looking for degree programs, she needed something flexible, so she opted for the program’s online delivery option. Juggling her work and studies, Piper spent her days off completing schoolwork, dedicating six to 12 hours to her assignments and studying at a time. 

“As difficult as the program and courses were, it was convenient,” she says. “Every so often I would create a day off for myself, just to keep my sanity. Other than that, it was all school or work.” 

Crafting Her Curriculum 

Piper also found flexibility in the MBA curriculum itself; she had nine different concentrations to choose from, allowing her to craft an experience that fit her interests and goals. 

Initially choosing project management, Piper later discovered an interest in human resources. With permission from the program coordinator, she took extra classes to complete the HR management concentration, too. 

She actively applies her new knowledge in both project management and human resources at work every day.  

“My current role in the plant does limit me as far as what I’m able to do, but I still try to take what I’ve learned and apply it,” she says. “From a technical standpoint, I try to come up with different procedures to save costs with what I know from project management. And then, also, with my human resources knowledge, I know how to better communicate with people. I’m working with someone in HR at work right now to improve morale in my department.” 

And when the time comes for Piper to make her next career move, she’ll be well-equipped to handle the challenges that come her way. 

“My goal is to be a senior project manager, mainly because I want to stay in a hands-on role. I would also not be opposed to being a human resource manager or specialist or something in that area,” she says. “Whatever I end up doing, I know I’m going to try to be the best at it.” 

Making Friends Abroad 

Students in the MBA program online — and other online programs — can participate in the University’s study abroad program, allowing them to travel, gain unique learning experiences, and connect with their classmates in person. 

Piper chose to study abroad for the Summer 2023 term, enrolling in IBUS 540: International Business. 

“Studying abroad, for me, was the best part of the MBA program,” Piper says.  

During the course, Piper and her classmates spent 10 days in Costa Rica touring a variety of businesses, including a local coffee shop, a laundry detergent manufacturer, a medical device manufacturer, and a major international tech company. 

April Piper and her study abroad classmates pose for a group photo at Align Technology in Costa Rica. at
Align Technology, a global medical device company, was one of several businesses April Piper and her classmates visited while studying abroad in Costa Rica.

“It was great to see how they did things over there, in the sense of sustainability and things like that,” she says. “Every day, we had a reflection assignment where we wrote about an assigned topic and what we had learned about it that day. We had a good time and learned a lot.” 

And Piper didn’t just leave Costa Rica with a new business perspective, either. 

“It was so refreshing to be able to meet my classmates and my professor,” she says. “I made lasting friendships from that trip; that will always be the best part of the program for me.” 

Embracing the cULture 

As an MBA student, Piper also found community in the University’s MBA Association. MBAA and the Moody College of Business Administration host events throughout the year to engage with students, including virtual Q&A sessions and Zoom trivia nights for online students. 

Piper made frequent appearances at these events, virtually and in person. She often made the 1.5-hour drive from her home in Alexandria, Louisiana, to Lafayette to attend student tailgates, crawfish boils, and social hours. 

April Piper attends a homecoming tailgate with her friends in UL Lafayette's MBA Association.
April Piper, top right, attends a homecoming tailgate with friends from UL Lafayette's MBA Association.

“All of the events that MBAA did gave us the opportunity to get together and socialize and meet everybody,” she says. “When I come to Lafayette, it’s my friends from MBAA and from study abroad who I link up with. We talk regularly, sometimes daily.” 

And, luckily, her involvement in the MBA program isn’t over just because she finished her degree. UL Lafayette MBAA members are considered members for life, and Piper has no plans to step back or step away from the connections she’s made.  

Her advice to students in MBA program? Work hard and get involved, just like she did.  

“Whatever your situation is, online learning will make it easier; you just have to keep working hard,” she says. “The best part about it all is that no matter where you live, you’ll get to be a Ragin’ Cajun.”  

Level up your business knowledge and make lifetime connections through UL Lafayette’s MBA program online, designed for working professionals like you.  

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