Shannon Italia, MBA
President, Junior Achievement of North Florida
Master of Business Administration (MBA), 2012
As a working professional, what advice would you give incoming students?
I'd encourage you to be honest with yourself about the time and dedication that will be necessary to complete your degree program - your life will change while you are in graduate school. Have conversations with your employer, family, and friends to clarify expectations and get their buy-in on the flexibility and sacrifices that might be needed on their part for you to get through the program. It's not easy to excel at your job and your personal life while simultaneously pursuing a graduate degree. There will be times where you are overwhelmed, and you can't see the finish line; commit to staying the course and don't drag things out. Jump in with both feet and make the most of your time in the program; completing a graduate degree program is an investment in your future and one you will be glad that you made when you walk across the stage at the hooding ceremony.
What drew you to choose the UNF program for your graduate studies?
In full transparency, I was employed at UNF while I was a graduate student. The program was very convenient for me and made it easier for me to manage work and school simultaneously. However, the program had a strong regional reputation, so I didn't "settle" by choosing the UNF MBA program.
Completing the UNF MBA program was a great way to hit the refresh button on my career; I was energized by the faculty, the coursework and by my classmates. I also developed a greater sense of confidence in my abilities by completing the program.
What have you been up to since graduation?
I spent a few years working in the field of investment banking, which was a huge change for me. I obtained my Series 79 and Series 63 licenses and leaned into some of what I had learned in my MBA coursework to be able to pass those tests. It was a great experience and one where I added some new tools to my toolbox. I'm now the President of a local non-profit and feel that my career experience and business acumen help me to be a solid leader of the organization and confidently engage with our stakeholders to make the greatest positive impact that we can make in the region.
What impact did the UNF MBA have on your career?
I was an older professional when I decided to pursue my MBA; it had been close to 20 years since I had completed my undergraduate business degree. Although I had always been a good student, a lot had changed since I was last in school - especially technology - so I was a little unsure about my abilities. I worked hard and ended up doing very well in the program. But I also enjoyed the program and the camaraderie with classmates and faculty. Completing the program opened doors to new opportunities that I don't think would have opened without the MBA credential and the relationships I made while in the program. The program developed a curiosity, confidence and drive that is still with me to this day.
What is it like for you at your current position? What do you love about your work?
I currently lead a non-profit that has a mission to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. The inspiration piece comes from community volunteers who not only deliver our lessons but share their experience. In the process, these volunteers serve as role models helping to positively impact young people's perceptions about the importance of education, as well as critical life skills. Preparation involves our proven lessons that promote financial capability, work and career readiness, and business ownership. I love our mission. I love getting to work with leaders from the business community to help make a positive impact in our region. We are effectively an economic development organization that starts at the ground level with K-12 students to shape their futures and as a result the future of the region. This role addresses many of my personal passions and leverages my greatest strengths. I feel very lucky to be in a role that seems custom made for me at this time of my life.
What drives you?
I want the world to be a more just and equitable place - every person matters. As the President of Junior Achievement of North Florida, I have the great opportunity to make a difference in the region and drive economic empowerment via education.