Ben and Jordan Cassidy have grown accustomed to sitting in their living room and working on their laptops, with the sound of a children’s cartoon playing in the background.
They occasionally must step away from their schoolwork to get one of their sons – Brayden, 2, and Miles, 8 months – some juice or a snack from the kitchen.
As much running around as they do, Ben and Jordan find time to work on their assignments for the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)/Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Health Management program at UNC Greensboro.
Jordan tends to wait until her kids are taking a nap to write papers for her online nursing classes. Ben does homework during his breaks at his job as a clinical manager for a medical device company covering North and South Carolina. The couple studies together for their business exams.
“I’ve always been interested in nursing administration. I’ve also been interested in business,” said Jordan, who, like her husband, is a graduate of the UNCG School of Nursing with a background in critical care. “I remember this program from when I was an undergrad and always being interested in doing it one day.
“I think it just goes to having both sides of the health care picture. There is a lot you don’t know about the business side as a bedside nurse, and I also know I don’t want to be a bedside nurse forever.”
Ben and Jordan have learned to juggle being in graduate school while married with two young children. Since he travels four days a week for work and she has her hands full with their children, they appreciate the flexibility of the MSN/MBA program.
The husband and wife take their nursing classes online and then come to UNCG’s campus one night a week to attend a business course. They live in Greensboro, so it’s a short commute for them, and they only need to hire a babysitter for a few hours.
“Moving forward, we are happy to share that now the MSN/MBA program is 100 percent online,” said Dr. Peggy Trent, clinical assistant professor and interim MSN program director in the School of Nursing. “We believe being online will make the MSN/MBA program even more accessible for our students.”
The program is so flexible that Ben and Jordan had their first son during their second year of graduate school and then their second son last May – only a few days after they took their final exams. They’re scheduled to graduate in May, just as their son, Miles, celebrates his first birthday.
“We knew we wanted to have kids, and we knew it was going to be a struggle after we did have kids. So, we did as many classes as we could in the winter sessions and the summer sessions,” Ben said. “We went to school for 24 months straight without any breaks. We did two summer classes. We did winter classes and the regular semesters to try to get as much as we could done before we had our first kid.”
Ben and Jordan arrived at UNCG as freshmen interested in earning their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. They first met volunteering to help with cervical cancer screenings and began dating after running into each other at a party. Ben graduated in 2011, Jordan finished her BSN one year later, and they married in 2013.
However, the couple started discussing going back to school after a few years of working as nurses. They realized they had too much free time, and they wanted to help advance their careers in health care by earning an MSN/MBA.
“I never would have gone back for any school, I don’t think, except for her because she’s such a determined person,” Ben said of his wife. “She has a determination that I definitely don’t have, but once I’m in it, I do it. So, she definitely helped me start the program.”
Of course, they’ve benefitted from going through graduate school together.
Jordan, who works “relief” as a nurse supervisor at Cone Health Wesley Long Hospital, is strong at writing papers. Business courses come easier for Ben. They’ve also provided emotional support for each other while chasing after kids and doing schoolwork every night.
“It’s a difficult program, but it’s very doable. It’s very rewarding,” Jordan said. “You just have to be determined and have a lot of perseverance to get through. We’re very excited we did it. We’re very thankful that we did it. We’re also very excited to be done.”
Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Videography by Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications