Collaboration, perseverance drive Gonzaga student’s MBA success

October 11, 2021
Luke Modugno ('22)

SPOKANE, Wash. -- As a student, one can only dream of a program that allows you to excel inside and outside the classroom while also forging meaningful connections with instructors. Lucky for her, Ciera Thornton lived the dream at Gonzaga University this summer as she completed her Master's of Business Administration degree.

Originally planning to attend medical school following her undergraduate education, Thornton had a change of heart and chose the MBA program at Gonzaga to deepen her knowledge of business. It would mean she would be working full time at Umpqua Bank and being mom to a 3-year-old daughter while pursuing her graduate degree.

“Sometimes I was like ‘OK, I’m going to put my homework down and stay up super late tonight so I can go play with my daughter,’ ” Thornton said. “I’m also a salaried employee, so there’s an expectation that if something needs to get done, I will get it done. So I really had to develop a willingness to be flexible in my own time so that I could make sure my family’s needs were taken care of.”

Navigating those challenges looked different nearly every day. With her husband helping out by picking up their daughter from school, cooking dinner or simply helping her study, she was able to focus on excelling in the classroom and at her job.

“I’ve been impressed with her hard work and perseverance to excel, as well as by her grace,” said Mirjeta Beqiri, MBA programs director and professor of operations management.

Thornton developed a close relationship with Beqiri.

“She’s so infectious. My first experience with her was during the application process when I expressed a lot of trepidation about my ability to juggle everything, and she always told me ‘You got this,’ ”Thornton said. “You couldn’t ask for anything more in a program director. She’s an amazing ambassador for it.

“She was so available and open to answering questions. When she kept saying ‘You got this!’ it mattered. It gave me confidence and faith in myself.”

Besides furthering her knowledge of business administration, Thornton learned a lot about herself as a student and the advantage of using the assistance provided to her as a Zag.

“Gonzaga has tremendous resources, especially around the Spokane area as the name is so well-known. I’ve already secured a job because of the fact I was in the program,” Thornton said. “If you’re willing to engage and put yourself out there, there’s a lot to gain.”

Although Thornton noted that she cared deeply about her grades, she chose to measure her success outside the classroom.

“Integrating what I learn into what I already know and to push my own boundaries, that’s what success looks like to me,” Thornton said. “The program has helped me grow so much in my work and in life.”

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