BVU Employees Reflect on Benefits of Master’s Degree

As nearly 200 Buena Vista University master’s degree recipients gathered for Commencement in May, three graduates celebrated mere feet from where they work each day.

Emily Heitman, Ashley Hunter, and Brandy Ripke earned a tuition grant toward their master’s degree in organizational leadership, a benefit offered to full-time BVU employees.

“The benefit of continuing my education at no cost has been truly amazing,” says Heitman, BVU Human Resources Payroll Accountant and HR Generalist. “Receiving the employee tuition grant shows me that BVU is willing to invest in my education and my potential.”

Beyond the tuition grant, there are other very practical benefits to enrolling in BVU’s organizational leadership graduate program, according to Hunter, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications. Theories examined in coursework and research allowed her to build on concepts that pay dividends for her team at BVU.

“We had a class on managing change in an organization and it aligned with the timing of our office restructure,” Hunter says. “The experience motivated me to think of other ways I can apply my learning and research in best serving our organization.”

Heitman concurred. “I was able to match the curricular to things I see at work, making it much easier to grasp the material while also being able to give more input at work,” she says.

Ripke started on her master’s in January 2021. She found the timetable for the 10-course regimen doable and the professors responsive and encouraging.

“If a professor ever sees a student struggling with anything, they reach out and say they can connect to go over something,” says Ripke, Assistant Director of Admissions Operations. “They’re available whenever you need the help.”

Plus, the online delivery of BVU’s organizational leadership master’s made perfect sense. Cohorts often paired or teamed up for feedback input while individually tackling reading and writing assignments where they made the most sense amid one’s weekly schedule.

“The format was convenient, similar to how I finished my undergraduate work at BVU in that it was all online,” says Ripke, the mother of a three-year-old and a newborn.

“The flexibility of the organizational leadership program allowed me to further my education without becoming overwhelmed,” Heitman says. “Not only has the curriculum given me the skills to be a leader, the challenge of balancing work, school, and life taught me how to better prioritize and work efficiently.”

Ripke, a first-generation undergraduate student when she earned her bachelor’s degree from BVU in 2020, says she became just a bit emotional while looking into the crowd upon earning her BVU master’s degree.

“As a first-generation college student, I’m aware of everything my parents taught me while instilling the values of hard work,” she says. “Seeing our daughter, Breckyn, in the crowd waving at me had me thinking about our family and how I want Breckyn to know that she is capable of accomplishing anything she sets her mind to.”



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