David Ousley holds a University of Florida pennant in front of a Gartner step and repeat

UF Master of Science in Management ‘the best risk I’ve ever taken’

By David Ousley (BA ’16, MSM ’19)

Having just completed my last module of the University of Florida Master of Science in Management (MSM) program, I find now as good of a time as any to reflect on lessons, challenges and blessings this program has given me this past year. My intent is that by sharing my personal experience, it may shed some light on a commitment I was apprehensive to dive into at first. Unlike the majority of students that attend this program, I came back to school after two years in the workforce. In order to properly explain how I found the MSM program, I’ll begin with the day I went to the first information session.

I was so energized after the MSM information session, I remember ranting to my family about it for two hours that evening. After the excitement lulled and I began to seriously consider going back to school, the fact of quitting my job and taking out more loans began to weigh on me. After two years of earning a consistent income and paying down student loans from my bachelor’s degree, I felt that I truly understood the value of what it would mean to go back to school. I’d have to wager not failing the program, learning valuable material and getting hired in a job meaningful to me as a direct result of the program. After about a week of weighing the pros and cons, I eventually decided that I couldn’t stay on the same track I was currently on. Leaving a steady paycheck and taking on more loans was a risk I had to be willing to take.

Before I knew it, it was August and the morning of the first day of orientation. Aside from my obvious excitement, I was also terrified. After all, I was a music/fisheries major walking into a graduate business program. I felt alone in my lack of business knowledge, and my insecurities ran wild for the first few minutes. Then there were two things that miraculously happened that calmed my nerves.

One was when everyone went around the room and introduced themselves and what they studied in their undergraduate degree. It might as well have been a random sample of majors from the entire university. From sports management, to engineering and even a few music majors. The diversity of academic disciplines immediately made me feel at peace with my unconventional background.

The second thing that happened was when Dr. Alex Sevilla, Associate Dean and Director of the Heavener School of Business, gave us a lecture on emotional intelligence by relating the topic to the character Michael Scott from the hit television show, “The Office”. From this moment on, I knew I had made the right choice to go back to school.

I melded well with my classmates over the next few months, and never felt like the odd person out. Having everyone come from a different background actually enriched the collaborative experience because everyone had distinctive skills to offer when completing group work. This aspect also bled into any sort of social gathering as well, and there were hardly any dull moments. I found myself looking forward to going to class every day and seeing my new friends, and soon began to see school in a completely different light.

If I was able to flashforward a year from that first rainy information session in February, I wouldn’t recognize myself. A typical day would be me waking up at 5:00 a.m. to exercise, then driving to campus while listening to various audiobooks from investment finance to sales leadership. There was never any need to swing by Starbucks because I had already made my own coffee and cooked a healthy omelet. I would get there anywhere from 1-2 hours before my first class and review any notes or coursework to prepare for the day, and then I’d read a book. I’d spend the rest of the day socializing with my fellow MSM friends, attending class and group studying for upcoming exams. I felt that my once empty days were now filled with genuine learning, quality and effective work that I enjoyed doing, and meaningful socialization with like-minded people that I enjoyed being around.

One of my fears about going to business school was that I would lose my sense of identity and my friends and family would think I had “sold out” to get a better paying job. This fear couldn’t be more irrational and further from what really happened. This program gave me the core business knowledge I needed to build a sound foundation, then later offered an array of electives so that I could follow my interests and curiosities. I was able to better identify and develop my strengths in public speaking, idea casting, and remote consulting in my entrepreneurship and consulting classes. I also discovered an unexpected love for finance that I never knew I had.

As for my background in music and natural sciences, I was able to work a semester at the Florida Museum of Natural History and teach underserved second-graders about Florida’s ancient past, I played in two classical music ensembles, one musical production and went on many scuba diving trips throughout the year while keeping up with my coursework. This program showed me that I can have a rewarding business career and pursue my other passions just as well.

It would be incorrect to say that I don’t know what I would’ve done without this program, because I know exactly where I’d be—stuck. I probably would’ve been frozen by inaction, and on the same career path that was wrong for me. I believe it was the famous regional manager of Dunder Mifflin, Michael Scott, that said, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.” Whether it was Mr. Scott who said it first or Wayne Gretzky is beside the point, but the quote is actually quite profound. Learning how to be more outgoing and take more chances has yielded great returns for me over the past year.

With the help of my amazing MSM peers and career coaches in Business Career Services, I was able to successfully land a job that I feel will be very rewarding. I cannot wait to see where this role takes me, and how it will ignite my career as a business professional. I also abolished my fear of the “hard work” that I had not been accustomed to in the world of business. Though the work was difficult at times, it wasn’t impossible. I found that when you’re seeking to understand something that is of true value, then hard work is just a side effect of the drive to learn.

The MSM program was able to transcend the basic course material and slowly develop me not only as a business professional, but as a more responsible human being. It wasn’t the program itself that passively did all of these things for me, but rather provided the space to explore a wide breadth of knowledge that caused a massive directional shift in my life—which turned out to be the best risk I’ve ever taken.

See why the UF Master of Science in Management is the most rewarding risk you’ll ever take. Request information about the MSM program today.