Married … to the Full-Time MBA Program

Tamara and Albert Sonon, members of the Full-Time MBA Class of 2014.

This week I conducted my final leadership development experience (LDE) presentation.  At the end of the presentation, my Executive Partners (EP) asked, “Knowing what you know now, if you had to do it again, would you still choose Mason?”  Without blinking — without hesitation, I responded, “Absolutely!” The quality and breadth of the education here at Mason is unbelievable — I can follow discussions on CNBC now! The friendliness of the faculty and staff is breathtaking.  I really feel at home.  My peers — the wealth of knowledge and experience of my peers — the camaraderie … I can’t begin to describe just how wonderful this experience has been.

My EP’s followed up with another question, “Would you do it again with your husband, Albert?”   For that question, I hesitated, but quickly concluded that I would still do the program with my husband.  Doing this program together with a twelve month old (he was four months old when we started the program) allowed us to work as a team.  It solidified our relationship with each other and it solidified our faith in God.  So, how about some background?  How did Albert and I both end up in the program at the same time?

Albert and I are both Supply Corps Officers in the Navy.  In order to be eligible for the rank of Commander, you must have a Master’s degree.  You cannot obtain a Master’s degree until after you have completed a few requirements for the Navy.  Albert and I had completed our requirements, but had to wait since Albert was getting deployed for a year.  Fall 2012 was it for our schedule.  Okay, but what about the baby?  Terrible timing?  No, the baby was perfect timing too.  Again, really, it was the only time for both school and starting a family.  We just needed to figure out how we would get through the program.

Orientation week hit us like a Ford F-350 … Mod I — ha, that hit us like a Mack truck.  I didn’t feel the effects until Mod II though. Whoa! From the start, we established a good routine and our teams were very efficient with time and productivity.  We would complete our homework, study for any exams/quizzes and meet with our teams as necessary immediately after class each day.  Using the syllabi, we tried to work ahead, not knowing when or if our son would become ill causing us to miss class for doctor’s appointments or additional care.  During Mod II with all the team meetings, we weren’t able to work ahead anymore and the effects of waking up with a baby at night, leaving the house at 5:30 for an hour and a half commute and coming home between 6:30 and 7 …  So, we used winter break to ‘Ferberize’ our son.  He still didn’t sleep through the night, but after a few weeks and A LOT of rice cereal he began sleeping through the night … just in time for Mod III.

The first year was tough, but each and every step of the way … through every challenge, the, faculty, staff, and our teams were very understandable.  At Mason, everyone works with you. We weren’t thrown any softballs … we weren’t given any breaks.  However, when our son became severely ill just before mid-terms during Mod II, we were allowed to take our mid-terms at a later date which helped us focus on the most important issue, our son.  Given that we commuted each day and wanted to use our time at school to complete our assignments and study after class each day, Dana (Building Operations Coordinator) reserved a study room for us daily.  Each student is allowed to reserve a room for 2 hours; since Albert and I are both students in the program, we were allowed to reserve the room for 4 hours.  Before coming to Mason, I was contemplating the logistics of nursing a child while going through the program.  One day I called Amanda up and she reassured me that there wasn’t anything to worry about and that I could use the same room the staff uses.  I was able to nurse my son for eleven months while going through the program.  My team — phenomenal! We all accommodated each other’s schedule and worked incredibly well together.

We were attracted to Mason because of the diversity in the classroom.  Being in the Navy, we meet a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds, but we’ve never established any long term relationships.  At Mason, you get that opportunity.  And let’s just say it looks quite promising!

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Tamara Sonon

Tamara Sonon is a member of the Full-Time MBA Class of 2014 with the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary.

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