Marla McGuinness, BA Business Administration/Management, Class of 2017

Marla McGuinness was overjoyed to be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration/Management with a minor in Human Resources. Traveling from Maryland to Florida Tech’s campus in Melbourne to attend commencement, her excitement was contagious.

“The most rewarding part of this journey is being here. My husband flew me first class all the way here to Melbourne. And I’ve got the cap and gown. And I’m doing it. The most rewarding part is gonna be getting that diploma, and having my aunt and uncle by my side, and all my kids, knowing that I’ve accomplished this. I feel very proud.”

She credits the support of her student services representative, Malaney Hupp, in her academic journey. Hupp encouraged her to go beyond her associate’s degree and finish her bachelor’s.

“She was there every step of the way. She made sure I had the right classes for my degree and followed up with a smile and great advice.”

The two have grown close, even becoming friends on social media. It was an emotional moment for both women when they met at Grad Bash.

“Marla’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.” Hupp said.“It’s been an amazing journey. I’m so happy she’s been able to get through it.”

Hupp and McGuinness offered the same advice to current and future students: “Don’t give up.”

Florida Tech Student and Representative

McGuiness and Hupp pose together on commencement day.

McGuinness stresses balance as the key to success: “The online program, one of the things you have to do is you have to have a balance. If you can balance your life and your schoolwork, and hopefully you have support from your people who are behind you, you can accomplish anything. You can do this – you can work full-time, you can go to college and you can still have a family life.”

McGuinness’ husband, a retired Naval officer with 35 years of experience, inspired her to go back to school, as he had earned his bachelor’s online. McGuinness was able to use the G.I. Bill to continue her education. “He is my hero,” she said.

With 20 years of experience as a supervisor and manager, McGuinness was looking to break into the human resources field, which ultimately pushed her to finish her education: “In this day and age, you have to have a degree.”

We spoke with McGuinness more about her educational journey.

Q. Tell us about your background.

Initially, I am from Quad Cities, Illinois, but the Navy has moved me to many different locations. I am married and have four children, three dogs, six grandchildren and six grand-dogs.

I worked for the Navy as a Supervisor Recreation Specialist in Virginia Beach, VA. We would host tournaments, parties and events, and ran shuttles for trips to local events in the city. I stopped working when we moved to Maryland in 2015 and was a full-time student. I have 20 years of experience as a supervisor and manager.

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

I am changing from one career to a job in human resources. It did make a difference to my children. They saw that I could do it and two of them began college at the same time I did.

Q. What surprised you most about taking an online program?

How much time it takes. You have to be dedicated to the classes, write down when your homework is due, and then make it happen. Read all of the professor emails and discussion threads, and know that you have to answer one peer or two in the discussion thread. 

Q. What was your favorite class and why?

Effective Training. There was a group study, and we had to discuss the training needed for different scenarios.

I also enjoyed Business Plan Research, another group study, where we created a business plan. The professor was wonderful. It was a 54-page report. He was looking for a leader, and so I asked him, “Well what does it include to be a leader?” And he said, “Well, since you asked – you get to be the leader.” So I took on this task of being the leader of this, and I guided these five other people, and we completed our plan. We got an A on our business plan. We learned a lot.

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

Don’t give up. There are times where you may get upset with a grade or a class. My class happened to be math. I wanted to get the math classes over with, but I did not quit.

You can’t leave your homework out. You can’t wait until the last minute to do your homework. You have to get it done and make dedicated time for your homework, and then go out and do whatever it is that you want to do. Everybody who waits until the last minute and just does their homework on Saturday or Sunday is not getting the education that they should. They need to take that extra time, get the homework, find out the research – not just type out words just to get it done – find out, get the education, absorb the information.

You also have to have a balance. A balance of life, a balance of school and a balance of home. Don’t forget the “you” time.

You have to have a support system. If you don’t have your spouse or your significant other behind you. It’s not that you’re going to fail, but you’re gonna struggle. And that’s not what you want to do. You want to continue and have your significant other really help you through the journey.

McGuinness at commencement.

Q. What about online education worked for you?

The reason is that I like to do online classes it that I can do it in my pajamas! I didn’t have to get up and have a scheduled time where I went Monday, Wednesday and Friday to a class, and get all dressed up. I could sit there with my dogs and type away and do my homework. If I wanted to get up and I had a brainstorm at one o’clock in the morning, I could do that. I could get it done, turn it into the professor. Online classes are challenging – you’ve got to make that dedicated time – but if you can do that, you can be successful. And you don’t have to get up and go to the school.

Q. Who has been your support system?

My family. My husband has been my rock through this whole journey. He has stood by me every time I’ve had a homework assignment, every time I did a program part of it, when I had to do a report at the last minute – he was there. My husband tells me how proud he is that I have accomplished my degree. My husband is my biggest fan.

My kids. I have four beautiful children, and they have supported me throughout this too. All of them have said, “Congratulations Mom, you’re doing awesome.” Two of my children started college shortly after me, and so we went through it together.

Q. What was the most challenging part of your student journey?

Math classes and being away from my family because of homework. My husband called himself a college widower. Also, time: you never feel you have enough time in a day.

Q. What is one fun fact about you?

I have a love for dogs and so do my children. At one time, I had all nine grand-dogs for a week.

Are you a 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 for additional details.

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