Vince Monks always relied on God's timing as he kept the faith he would someday return to college to earn a graduate degree.
"When I finished my bachelor's degree in 2000, I was going to go back and get a master's degree, but I was also married and had a baby while working full time and going to school full time," he said. "That was one of the most stressful periods of my life."
That's saying something considering Monks now has five teenage kids and is also enrolled in the Master of Business Administration online program at Northern Kentucky University. He is on track to graduate in late 2021.
"I always wanted to go back to school," he said. "I started to look really hard at what I wanted to do and what graduate degree I wanted to pursue about eight years ago. The MBA kept popping up."
Monks is a manager of the distribution water quality program at Louisville Water Company, where he has worked for nearly 18 years. Along the way, he opened a couple of companies that came and went.
"I kept my day job so I didn't mess my family up, and I started to understand that I probably needed a little bit more in-depth understanding and knowledge in the world of business," he said. "I looked at multiple programs over time."
When the online MBA program at NKU came onto his radar, he knew it was time to take the leap of faith and go back to school. His company also has a tuition reimbursement program based on grades, making his return to college a win-win.
"When I looked into the Northern Kentucky University online MBA program, it checked all of the boxes," he said. "It was highly flexible – you could do it within a year or stretch it out. It was purely online, and you had a lot of contact with the professors. There were assignment due dates, but you weren't fixed at a certain time of day to do it. It fit everything perfectly."
Monks grew up in Louisville and initially wanted to become an architect. He married his high school sweetheart, Kelli, and decided to work in engineering while earning a bachelor's degree in geography with an emphasis in urban and regional analysis from the University of Louisville.
"We were working full time and we were planning to get married and start a family, so I didn't have time for engineering school," he said. "I worked in the consulting engineering world, which has the potential for contraction or expansion. I saw that it was too volatile for me. I had a young daughter and another one on the way. I started to look for opportunities for stability."
Fortunately, Monks applied for a position at Louisville Water Company on a recommendation from his father. He still works there while raising Abby (20), Efrata (18), Gracie (17), Yonas (15) and Yosef (13) with Kelli, his wife of 22 years.
"I got the job in January 2002 and have loved it ever since," he said. "My degree got me in the door, but through self-development, self-education, networking and learning the business within the organization, I moved up throughout the company."'
Monks is also an investor and co-owner of DanVince Poultry, a company in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he and Kelli adopted three of their children in 2010. They met a local resident who wanted to start a poultry stock and supply company while there.
"In 2012, he reached out to me, and we gave him a micro loan for the business," he said. "He has been able to manage it and grow the business. The former Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia is buying some land there and consulting with him on how to get their chicken business up and running."
Monks and his family even took on a sixth child of sorts. His business partner's sister, Hiwot, came to the US as a diversity visa immigrant and lived with the Monks family for two years while becoming acclimated and self-sustainable.
"She has been on her own for three years now and doing well," Monks said.
Now, Monks is connecting the dots by learning the fundamentals of running a business after gaining plenty of real-world experience.
"All of these little things connect," he said. "Why the MBA? I wanted to improve and increase my business acumen, rather than just trial and error, the way I was doing it before."
Online, Any Time
The fully online format allows Monks to make time for his family and maintain his full-time job while working toward that coveted MBA.
"To say the program is purely easy — no, it's not," he said. "I am able to manage my time. I am an organizer and planner by nature, so that's worked to my advantage. I chart out my week. Each class is a five-week accelerated program. I devote 15-20 hours a week to the program because I have to get an A for my tuition reimbursement. Maybe some people could spend less time on it – 10-15 hours per week.
"Simply because it's an online program does not mean it's not going to be challenging. Time management has been my greatest asset. Understanding you are going to have to manage your time well has been the key."
So far, Monks has completed four courses in the online MBA program. Although he is partial to MGT 605: Managing in Organizations, he has found all of the courses interesting and beneficial.
"I have been able to capture two or three elements that I have really appreciated and enjoyed and utilized in my existing work from each of the classes I have taken," he said. "I enjoyed them all.
"I was a little bit anxious about it because I had never done an online course. I had been around computers my entire life, but I didn't know how the learning aspect would be. NKU's modules are exceptionally well done, from registering for class to paying to doing the actual class sessions."
Monks' return to school has his family and friends excited to see him fulfill his goal of earning a master's degree. He relies on foundational faith in Jesus Christ, personal responsibility and personal development to live his life and guide his family.
"It was one of those things where they said, 'We knew you were going to do it. It was just a matter of when,'" he said. "I am a continuous learner. I read a book that said the only sustainable competitive advantage is continuous learning. I take that pretty seriously."
Learn more about the NKU online MBA program.
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