Sam Lea is always striving to push open new doors of opportunity.

“Once I get one promotion, I start thinking about going for the next level and putting myself in a better position for it,” said Lea, a U.S. Army veteran who now works as a production planner for a North Carolina chemical company.

For Lea, the quest for self-improvement is joined at the hip to education.

“I consider myself to be a lifetime learner,” said the resident of Reidsville, N.C., a former outpost not far from the Virginia state line that grew into a small city with the arrival of the railroad and the burgeoning tobacco industry after the Civil War.

And so a mission that began with an associate’s degree has now brought Lea a Master of Business Administration with a Specialization in Management, which he earned 100% online from Florida Institute of Technology.

“I always dreamed of going away to college, so with the use of technology, I can do that and never leave home,” he said.

Attaining a graduate degree afforded him “a true sense of accomplishment,” Lea said a few weeks before receiving his diploma during the 2014 Fall Commencement ceremonies on Florida Tech’s main campus in Melbourne, Florida.

Lea spent four years with the Army in the 1980s, traveling to Germany and Panama among other assignments as he performed soil analysis work for road- and bridge-building projects. He said his military service has enriched his life; as a veteran, he also received a 10% savings on graduate tuition rates at Florida Tech.

In addition to financial support, Lea said another factor influenced his choice of grad school: The prestige of Florida Tech, including its consistent ranking as one of the nation’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report.

With diploma in hand, Lea hopes to become a more attractive candidate for promotion.

“In my career, I’ve noticed a pattern of my desire for career advancement exceeding my career progression. That’s why I keep returning to school.”

Lea spoke with us recently about his experiences at Florida Tech, his career goals and how he hopes to be a role model to his son.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your background.

The bulk of my work experience has been in manufacturing environments, with past positions including warehouse technician, facility supervisor and production planner. I consider myself to be a lifetime learner because I keep returning to school on separate occasions seeking a higher-level education. My venture with Florida Tech was actually my third quest for higher education, beginning at the associate’s degree level, moving on to a bachelor’s degree and now a master’s degree.

Q. Why did you decide to advance your education through a degree program offered online?

I earned my bachelor’s degree online and that’s when I became a fan of online education.  Technology allows a person to overcome a lot of boundaries and basically get an education from any institution in the world. The convenience of online education is the best thing since the microwave oven! I always dreamed of going away to college, so with the use of technology, I can do that and never leave home.

Q. What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?

Part of my decision was based on the accolades that Florida Tech has earned. It’s quite appealing being part of an institution ranked as a Tier 1 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report magazine, and named as one of America’s Best Colleges by Forbes magazine.  Additionally, I received a 10% discount on my tuition due to my military experience. So, theoretically, that was like receiving a small scholarship. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Q. What was your favorite class and why?

It’s tough to nail down one favorite class. If I had to pick one, I guess I would say it was Marketing Management simply because it was the course where I achieved my highest grade in the program.

Q. What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?

In general, I gained a broader understanding of business concepts while participating in this program. The thing that sticks out the most to me as a valuable takeaway was learning a little more about how activity is tracked online and how that activity channels marketing efforts. I understand a little bit more now the reasoning behind some of the emails and pop-up messages I see on the Internet.

Q. How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?

I certainly hope my MBA from Florida Tech will make me a more attractive candidate for career advancement in the job market. In my career, I’ve noticed a pattern of my desire for career advancement exceeding my career progression. That’s why I keep returning to school. So I hope this venture will open some new doors of opportunity for me.

Q. What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?

I would encourage other students to enroll in the program not only for the great convenience of online learning but also for the accolades that Florida Tech has received. A well-respected school with well-respected programs should equal a formula for success. For anyone on the bridge of making a decision, I say, ‘Jump right in!’

Q. Who or what inspires you to succeed?

I think success in itself inspires me quite a bit. Once I get one promotion, I start thinking about going for the next level and putting myself in a better position for it. Additionally, my son inspires me to succeed. I want to be a living example for him that it’s never too late to achieve a dream. Hopefully, my success will inspire in him the drive to survive and need to succeed.

Q. What is one fun fact about you?

Let’s see … I’ve been told I look like Montel Williams quite a few times. I’ve also been told I look like Barack Obama.

Are you a military student or graduate of Florida Tech’s 100% online degree programs? We would love to share your success story in our Student Spotlight series. Contact us at StudentSpotlight@universityalliance.com for additional details.

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