Audra Rutherford is used to being a trailblazer.
Not only is she the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, but she is also the first graduate of Florida Tech’s Fast Track Program for the online program, which combines any online bachelor’s degree in business with an online MBA.
“The Fast Track program is an absolute wonderful endeavor that I cannot recommend enough. It creates an effective and smooth transition between undergraduate and graduate programs. By replacing two undergraduate courses with graduate level ones, not only are you cutting tuition costs, but it also shortens the time it takes to complete a graduate degree, giving students a head start in their careers.”
Rutherford graduated in December 2016 with her BA in Business Administration/Management with a minor in Human Resource Management, summa cum laude. Upon completion, she continued with her MBA in Management, which she graduated with in August of 2018.
Rutherford works for and is a successor to the family business. She plans on applying what she has learned in both her online business programs in her role as Executive Operations Manager.
We spoke with Rutherford about being a Double Panther, her academic experience and more.
Q. Tell us about your background.
I am from Mayo, FL, a small, one-red-light town where I graduated from Lafayette High School in 2014. I am married with a child and work with my family. My family owns Bass Assassin Lures, Inc. where we manufacture and distribute soft plastic fishing lures as a globally-recognized organization. As a successor to the family business, I am completing my degree in business administration in preparation for taking over in the future. As the Executive Operations Manager, it is my goal to take the education I have received from Florida Tech and apply it to my small business management career.
Q. What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?
The most important factors in my decision to choose Florida Tech were the need for flexibility and convenience. My original intentions were to attend a four-year university in a physical location but found an online environment more accommodating to my career and home life.
The flexibility that Florida Tech offers is truly phenomenal, and having it 100% online has provided me with the opportunity to not only work full-time, but to also raise a family at the same time. Over the course of my college career at Florida Tech, I have taken care of my husband through five major surgeries while also caring for my daughter, all while working full-time. Without Florida Tech, obtaining my degrees through all that would not have been possible, nor would it have been possible to maintain a 4.0 GPA either. While it did not come without its difficulties, I truly give credit to Florida Tech for their superb online business program and their true passion for helping their students achieve their goals.
Q. Are you excited to become a Double Panther?
I am ecstatic to become a Double Panther simply for the accomplishment itself. When transferring into the graduate program, the process was effortless and efficient. To be able to effectively earn two degrees from Florida Tech gives me great pride in not only myself but also in the school for the many efforts that they put forth in bettering their students.
Q. How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?
My Florida Tech degree will make a difference in my career in how I am able to advance my family business to another level. I will take what I have learned in my degree program and apply it to my business to reach new strategic and operational goals, increasing its global competitiveness and overall performance. Through the degree I earned, I will be able to make a difference in not only my career, but also in the lives of the rest of my family.
Q. Do you have any future plans now that you have your degree?
Now that I have my degree, I intend to teach undergraduate courses to further my own knowledge and impact the lives of other students like my professors and classes have impacted mine. In the future, I plan to return to Florida Tech to complete an MBA in Finance, with the eventual prospects of obtaining a doctorate. I plan to reside in my current position career-wise.
Q. What surprised you most about taking an online program?
What surprised me most about taking an online program was the flexibility it offered and finding my inner discipline. Students in this type of program must have the perseverance and determination necessary to master its many requirements. Through extensive self-accountability and the drive of professors to ensure their students are succeeding, the program was the exact environment that I needed to be successful.
Q. What was your favorite class and why?
My favorite class was Production and Operations Management, mainly because of its direct relation with my position within my organization. As the Executive Operations Manager, I am responsible for the operational performance of the company, and this class provided useful and necessary guidance to help me further succeed in this position.
Q. What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?
My most valuable takeaway from the program is not only the education that I gained, but the proof that anyone can complete what they set their mind to. This program helped me achieve my educational goals in a way that a traditional university would not have. With a family and a full-time job, the program fit my schedule perfectly and provided flexibility exactly where I needed it.
Q. What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?
The advice that I would give other students who are considered enrolling in the program would be to absolutely go for it. If students have the necessary discipline needed to complete an online program effectively, enrolling in the program is a given. Find a program path that fits your educational goals, trust your advisors and meet your goals. Take part in the Fast Track program to replace two undergraduate courses with graduate ones to get done early and get your dream career started earlier.
Q. Who has been your support system?
Absolutely, hands down, my husband. From the very beginning, he has pushed me to do my absolute best. Anytime that I needed to complete school work, he was right there to take care of our daughter so that I could do my work without interruptions. He has never complained, not one single time, and I cannot thank him enough for all that he has done for me. I have told him several times that he deserves an honorary degree for helping me get mine. My mother has also helped me in ways that I cannot repay. In times of need, she was always there to help in any way that she could. Support systems are the absolute most critical part of getting an education.
Q. What was the most challenging part of your student journey?
The most challenging part of my student journey was the group projects that the program required. Not being face to face with teammates created many challenges, but in today’s time, this sincerely helped in developing the skills necessary to effectively work with others. For every group project the program required, I was always the team leader of my group and learned many valuable lessons and skills from them, despite their challenges.
Q. Who or what inspires you to succeed?
First and foremost, my daughter has been my drive to succeed and gain my education for her betterment. However, I have always strived for success since an early age, especially knowing I would be the first in my immediate family to obtain a college degree. Living in this great nation and being afforded the opportunities that I and many others have, I am inspired to gain an education that I can use to contribute to this country’s success and to give back to others.
Q. What is one fun fact about you?
I bought a house before I graduated high school, graduated, and then became engaged at the age of 18. I got married at 19, had our wonderful daughter at 20, graduated with my bachelor’s at 21, and will graduate with my MBA at 22. I graduated from both programs with a 4.0 GPA.