Spring ushers in a season of celebrations – from holidays like Easter, Passover, and Ramadan to milestones like Commencement. And while we’re all celebrating a little differently this year, this season is a reminder to cherish those we love the most, including our mothers.
Since President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure in 1914, Mother’s Day has been celebrated the second Sunday of each May. This year, two of Miller Hall’s own will be celebrating a little differently – one as a first-time mother, the other as she anticipates the arrival of her first girl.
Brittany Rakestraw MBA ’20 and Judith Morgan MBA ’20 came to the Raymond A. Mason School of Business through two very different avenues. Rakestraw, a psychology undergraduate major, was employed by the Mason School and saw the innerworkings of the full-time MBA program first-hand as the first-year experience coordinator.
“I really fell in love with everything our students get to do, the conversations they had, and the things they learned,” Rakestraw explained.
Morgan entered the full-time MBA program through the Major General James Wright fellowship program, an accelerated 13-month experience in which active-duty servicemembers earn their degree through a partnership between William & Mary and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
“I was very fortunate to be chosen for the opportunity. It will help me to make myself more marketable for promotion and for when I retire out of the military,” Morgan said.
Despite the differences in their backgrounds, both Rakestraw and Morgan excelled in the full-time MBA program. They bonded over their respective pregnancies and the balance required to maintain a rigorous academic schedule with their expanding families.
“Through it all, I embraced the challenge,” Morgan said. “Balancing a hectic schedule comes naturally to me. Thankfully, I have great teammates to work with. I’m happy for the opportunity to earn my MBA and I’m really excited about having a daughter.”
Morgan relies on the resiliency she’s built over the course of her career as an active-duty army logistics and supply chain officer. She is also not new to parenthood; she and her husband have two sons, ages sixteen and five. She, like many other parents as a result of coronavirus school closures, is homeschooling while finishing the MBA program virtually and waiting for the big day in May.
“Transitioning into an online environment, and trying to learn and teach my sons their lesson plans has been an experience,” she laughed.
Rakestraw, however, became a first-time mom to a baby girl in March.
“There’s never really a good time to expand your family,” she said. “But we had financial stability and planned to stay in the Williamsburg area where we have a strong support system.”
In the early months of her pregnancy, Rakestraw was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum and its effects caused her to shift the way she balanced school and her role as the MBA Association President with her personal life.
“I needed to step back and ask for help in a way that I never needed to do before,” Rakestraw explained. “It helped me to become a better leader and manager because I learned how to delegate and trust the people around me. I had to build up the people around me in order to get things accomplished and figure out a way to explain my strategy and vision on what I wanted and let someone else run with it.”
Rakestraw says she received a tremendous amount of support not just with the MBA Association but personally as she fought through her condition. Morgan says she did as well, from their fellow classmates and faculty to staff and administrators at the Mason School.
“Everyone in the whole building was so supportive and thoughtful,” Morgan said. “I really felt like I had a strong support system.”
With graduation – and Mother’s Day – nearly upon us, Morgan and Rakestraw are planning quiet celebrations at home until social distancing measures are lifted. Morgan will return to active-duty service after she completes the Major General Wright fellowship capstone project over the summer. Rakestraw looks forward to starting her career in marketing and showing her daughter how to be a strong female business leader.
“Before I was a mom, I wondered can women really have it all?” Rakestraw said. “I think yes, we can. We totally can but not necessarily ‘all’ at the same time. You have to have support around you and prioritize what’s most important to you.”
The Mason School family wishes a huge congratulations to the Rakestraw and Morgan families, and a Happy Mother’s Day to all of our Tribe mothers celebrating around the world this year.