When Julie Sfanos and John (Jack) Surma enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University’s Part-Time Online Hybrid MBA Program through the Tepper School three years ago, they hoped to form bonds with their classmates despite the primarily online delivery mode.
And they did. Sfanos and Surma were married on July 16 — two months after Surma graduated, and one month before Sfanos would.
“My expectation was that I wouldn’t achieve that level of closeness with classmates simply because we were all located in different cities and doing much of class remotely, but I was wrong,” Sfanos said. “There is so much interaction … Everyone was eager to share knowledge and work together.”
“Tepper also made an effort to make sure we didn’t miss out on experiences that might typically be considered ‘on-campus’ activities,” Surma added.
The Part-Time Online Hybrid MBA provides working professionals with the advantage of an education from a top-ranked program delivered through a flexible format. One of the prime benefits is that it allows students to get to know their classmates through immersive, in-person Access Weekends, which occur in different cities every other month.
“When we started the program, Jack was living in Akron, Ohio, and I was living in Pittsburgh. We met at the very first Access Weekend in August 2013,” Sfanos said.
“I actually asked Julie out on the first day of school, but she said no!” Surma laughed. “We started studying together, and then hanging out as friends, including going to a Pearl Jam concert and a baseball game.
“We officially went out to dinner about four months after meeting. And the rest is history.”
“It was the best decision I ever made!” Sfanos added.
One thing the pair had in common right off the bat was a motivation to expand upon their education, combined with dedication to their full-time jobs: Sfanos, a territory manager at Johnson & Johnson, Surma, a senior project specialist at Lockheed Martin. Tepper’s hybrid program was the perfect fit to combine work and school.
“The benefit to me is all in the flexibility. I really wanted a top-tier MBA, but other part-time programs were nowhere near as flexible,” Surma said. “I could do all my schoolwork at once if I knew I had a busy week coming, or space it out if my job was light.”
“The benefit to me is all in the flexibility. I really wanted a top-tier MBA, but other part-time programs were nowhere near as flexible. I could do all my schoolwork at once if I knew I had a busy week coming, or space it out if my job was light.”
“I travel quite a bit for Johnson & Johnson, and my hours can be unpredictable. But I didn’t want that to restrict me from pursuing an MBA,” Sfanos added. “I was drawn to Tepper’s online program because it was the exact same curriculum as the part-time on-campus and full-time programs, but offered the flexibility that I could be anywhere and complete my coursework and attend classes.”
The newlyweds were married this past summer before jetting off to Italy for their honeymoon. Lockheed Martin offered Surma a Pittsburgh-based spot as a manufacturing program manager, and the couple settled in Pittsburgh.
The pair is eager to see how their degrees will help to advance their careers.
“I hope to advance within Johnson & Johnson,” Sfanos said, “and take on a challenging new role.”
The groom recently accepted a job offer from the financing and private equity firm Tecum Capital, where he will be an associate beginning in March.