Hometown: Gonzales, Texas
Undergraduate University: Texas A&M University
Class Year: 1998
For Kara Fino, earning her master's degree was always a long-term goal. Time and place were the key factors leading to her decision to attend William & Mary's Full-Time MBA program. A military spouse of 17 years with a successful career in retail and marketing, Kara had previously started two master's programs. But because of the demands of her husband's Air Force career, she was unable to complete them.
"I have 20 years of work experience, almost ten of that was with a company by the name of Neiman Marcus. I started with them as an assistant buyer through their executive development program, was an assistant buyer, and then transitioned to the stores," she explains. "I was ready to make the next step and be more than just a department manager. I wanted an executive-level position."
The key to achieving that next step was earning her MBA. After moving to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, Kara looked at her timeline and realized that her husband's two-year military assignment lined up nicely with enrolling in, and finishing, a full-time MBA program.
"I looked at all of the area programs and obviously William & Mary is the best," she says. "I have always wanted to attend William & Mary. When my husband was stationed here at Langley 17 years ago, I always had this idea in my head that one day I would come here and get my master's."
Now in the program, Kara highlights the collaborative nature of the program as the pinnacle to her experience.
"I like working with people. Anything that has to do with our learning team, team problems and cases, has been a very enjoyable experience," she says. "Everybody thinks differently and everybody is motivated by different things. I've learned that if you can figure out what motivates someone and understand how they think, then everyone can choose what they're good at and what they enjoy to make a final product that is very successful."
Initially Kara came to the program with plans to specialize in marketing. But her exposure to the varying topics in the core curriculum as well as the opportunity to take some electives has led her to her shift focus to consulting. She interned with Deloitte in the Federal Human Capital Practice in Washington, DC over the summer before returning to Williamsburg to complete the full-time program.
"I have grown with this program," she says. "It was been a great transformative experience for me."
Kara hopes to share her experience of earning an MBA through a residential, full-time program with other military spouses and hopefully inspire them to pursue advanced degrees at William & Mary like she has.
"It's doable. Going back to school sounds very scary when you haven't been to school in 20 years like myself. But I'm talking to them about setting themselves up for the future," she says. "Working has kind of been my identity. It's what motivates me. Many of the spouses I know do have business backgrounds and they run their own businesses. So many of the classes offered here at William & Mary would help them with their own personal businesses."