A Rewarding Journey: Nia Henson's Pursuit of an Early-Career MBA

Getting an MBA is a considerable career decision, and Nia Henson made the decision to attend SMU Cox. Find out more about her journey, and how you can start yours.

Headshot of Nia Henson

This blog post was originally published in June 2021, and was revised in June 2023.

Nia Henson faced big changes at a critical period in her life that would eventually help propel her career and build self-motivation. She was raised in Queens, New York, but had to relocate with her family to Atlanta, Georgia while a junior in high school, one of the more formative teenage years prior to attending college. To most juniors studying for state exams and preparing for an SAT this would feel like an impossible transition, but Henson saw her family’s 900-mile journey as a metaphor for her own inner drive toward success. Her natural impulse to lead, work hard and be ready for change shifted into high gear. Her eventual pursuit of an MBA - in the Dallas area - at an early age began by embracing a challenge and not getting too comfortable staying in one place. She had other steps to take first.

After high school, Henson attended Alabama State University and received a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2019. She landed a sales internship position with Altria, a Fortune 200 company that emerged from the Philip Morris rebrand in 2003. Altria brought her on full-time and she now serves as a Territory Sales Manager, overseeing 200 stores across the Atlanta region.

Acknowledging that while she’s certainly comfortable with her role right now, Henson made it clear that she wants to take on more professional challenges long-term and is driven to give back to those that have helped her along the way. “I wanted to make sure that if the opportunity presents itself, for either advancement or to move to a different company, that I meet the requirements,” she said. “I’m motivated by family, and I want to make sure my family’s in the best position in the future. I’m thankful that I’ve had mentors and people who believed in me and pushed me.”

An MBA is a considerable commitment and career decision, but Henson was excited to tackle a challenge which yields long-term benefits for her futureThe MBA Direct at SMU Cox is designed for recent college graduates and offers leadership training, analytics skill development, and exceptional networking opportunities through experiential learning. The degree’s potential drove Henson to pursue an MBA at SMU Cox. She’s committed to staying competitive in the workplace while applying the lessons and insights she gleaned from her professors and classmates throughout her time in the program.

Henson has already taken advantage of the many resources available to her as an MBA Direct student. The program recently paired her with a mentor, a Cox alumni who she says provided excellent feedback and advice and helped her manage work-life balance. She’s found these connections—with her mentor, fellow students, and professors—to be incredibly encouraging and uplifting since starting the MBA Direct program in 2020. Having the advantage of being offered online, the convenience of the MBA Direct enables Henson to work full-time and still attend office hours and request tutoring when needed. She found class discussions and study groups with her cohort to be beneficial to her career, and when a classmate shares a resource or valuable piece of insight, she passes the information off to her team at the office to motivate and drive them toward their sales goals.

Looking further into the future, Henson sees herself leaving the corporate world and becoming an entrepreneur because she’s passionate about sales and helping others grow a business. The MBA Direct’s curriculum teaches students to be a leader in any environment. Henson is learning how vital communication can be when considering her path forward and selling in new models for thinking innovatively to manage cross-functional teams. She’s excited to hone and apply her new business frameworks and see what the future has to offer.

The MBA Direct Program at SMU Cox provides young professionals and recent graduates like Nia Henson the opportunity to earn an MBA earlier in their career and accelerate reaching their goals. For professionals already well into their career, The Online MBA at SMU Cox is designed to transform students into business leaders. With the Online MBA, you don’t have to leave your current job or relocate to access SMU Cox faculty. At SMU Cox, connection is at the forefront of our top online MBA programs. Make your first SMU Cox connection by contacting our admissions team to discover how an SMU Cox MBA can help you achieve your professional goals.