Erika with her Tommy and Gabriela posing for a family photo on the beach.
Erika with her children, Tommy and Gabriela.

Master of Motherhood and Business Administration

By Erika Muñoz, BSBA ’05, MBA ’19

Life can take some unexpected turns. I found myself in my early thirties as a newly single mom on a brand new career path. I started my new job the same day my children began their first day of school. We were all a little nervous, but mostly excited to see what this new chapter would bring. With this newfound independence, I began to think about my dreams and aspirations.

More often than not, women put our interests behind those we love. This was also true for me, and for the first time in a long time, I focused on what I wanted out of life. I thought back to that young and naive freshman at the University of Florida, who watched the graduate students stroll around campus looking smart and confident. I decided I wanted that for myself.

Being a Gator undergrad, I first looked into UF’s South Florida MBA program. I wanted a program that allowed me to work full-time, and still participate in a traditional classroom setting. As I continued my search and compared all the available options, I felt the value of UF’s curriculum greatly outweighed the others. The Gator Nation carries a mighty presence, with its alumni present in corporations all over South Florida, a top-10 ranking among public universities and world-renowned faculty.

Gabriela and Tommy as young children dressed in Gator outfits.

Gators-in-training Gabriela and Tommy

I spent the latter part of my 20s in motherhood mode. Tommy was born in 2009, and Gabriela surprised me one and a half years later. I spent those early years going to every mommy-and-me class I could find, arranged play dates and set up adorable photography sessions every month. Yes, I was THAT mom. By the time I turned 30, I was a stay-at-home mother of two. Although I had been working in the family business for 10+ years, I welcomed hanging up my “working mom” title.

On top of being a young mom, Tommy was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of three. I was devastated. The years after the diagnosis were a blur, filled with heartache, doctor appointments, speech therapy, occupational therapy and lots of tears, mostly my own. I look back at myself during that uncertain and emotional time, and wish I could tell her, “Everything is going to be okay.” Although we still have some difficult days, Tommy is happy. He is progressing each day, continues to learn and brings so much joy to my life.

When they say “it takes a village to raise a child,” I have to agree. I could not have done this program alone. When I committed to the UF MBA South Florida program, my mom did too. She committed to taking the kids overnight so I could stay up late studying for finals and watching the kids on the weekends I had school. Thank you, Mom!

Every minute of my life is scheduled. I have a calendar filled with my kids’ school deadlines, Tommy’s specialist appointments, Gabriela’s ballet recitals, birthday parties, etc. I loved receiving my schedule for the entire two years at the beginning of the program. I think everyone I know received a copy. Birthdays, vacations, events, and even one of my best friends’ wedding revolved around the schedule. I found myself blocking off “family fun days” on my calendar around my school weekends. I am evermore present during those cherished days, knowing the responsibility of school comes the following weekend.

When deciding on taking the plunge on starting the MBA program, I asked myself: What do I have to gain? What do I have to lose? I would later learn in MBA terms that these opportunity costs would require me to lose time with my children, lose sleep, lose most of my social life and probably lose my mind a little. I knew I would gain one thing: a Master of Business Administration degree. What I didn’t realize I was going to gain was 40+ new lifelong friends and potential future colleagues, an unforgettable trip to Chile, and most of all, the skills, pride and confidence that I now carry.

Erika's daughter Gabriela's drawing of her mom receiving her UF MBA.

Gabriela’s drawing of her mom, Erika, receiving her UF MBA.

My favorite part of my UF MBA program is the dynamic structure of the interactive classroom setting. My fellow classmates are from different cultures and business backgrounds with a wide array of experiences. Learning to work successfully with new people is an invaluable skill. Throughout the two years, I have lost count of the number of presentations I’ve given to my cohort. The thought of speaking publicly no longer scares me. Midway through the program, I switched jobs. I felt assured and confident during the interviews. I thank the UF MBA program for that, and my current role as a Marketing Manager for Fortune International Group in Miami. I manage all the marketing aspects for a real estate development project in South Florida.

In my opinion, being a mom is the hardest job a woman will ever have. We can’t prepare or study for the obstacles we have with our children. In December, Tommy and Gabriela will watch me walk across the stage and receive my diploma. As they grow up and face life’s hurdles, I hope I was a good role-model of hard work and dedication. I hope the image of me sitting in front of my computer and every time I told them “I have to study,” stays with them and reminds them that they can do anything they put their minds to.

To any mothers thinking about going back to school, I say this: A graduate degree is easier than anything you’ve already accomplished. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

In honor of Mother’s Day, the Warrington College of Business celebrates all of the mothers among its students, alumni, faculty and staff.

For those interested in becoming a Master Mom of Business Administration, request information today about UF MBA’s program options and discover the one that’s right for you.