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Most University of Maryland University College (UMUC) graduates can speak to the multitude of ways in which life punctuates the pursuit of a college degree with stops and starts that render the journey a syncopated dance toward completion.

You’ll find a link to additional UMUC Asia Commencement 2018 coverage at the conclusion of this feature.

Few, like Mizuru Tanikawa, can claim that an unprecedented act of nature caused their academic arrhythmia. He had always thought that having an MBA would not only help and expand his future career, it also would help him improve his facility with the English language.

So, in 2010, he enrolled at the University of Phoenix, the U.S. based school that was, at that time, offering classes at Misawa, Japan. And just as he was getting into the swing of things, the “Great Earthquake and Tsunami” of March 2011 stopped him cold. “I had to suspend my MBA,” he said.

After Tanikawa’s permanent change of station to Yokota in 2014, he tried to return to the MBA program offered there, but by the time the re-enrollment process was completed the university had closed its Yokota campus. “About a year later, UMUC opened an MBA at Yokota, so I took it. It [the schedule] was very comfortable for me.”

Like many adult students undertaking a graduate degree while juggling school, work and family after an extended absence from the classroom, Tanikawa said he worried about time management. “Actually, I sacrificed my time with family a lot,” he said, adding that he found the help he needed at UMUC to see the program through.

“Class members, faculties and office workers at UMUC Yokota were so nice. I really appreciate their support. I couldn’t complete my MBA without their support.”

Now with his MBA in hand, Tanikawa is looking to the future. “I would like to challenge further study that will help my career.”

Megan Rivera was clear about her way forward after filling up on business courses as an undergraduate student. “I wanted to further my business skills and become a more sought-after job candidate.”

She said she chose University of Maryland University College (UMUC) for her MBA because it offered a hybrid program. “I had only taken in-person classes before, therefore this was a good mixture for me to adjust to the online format . . . and I also love how the courses are project based.”

That project-based format is one of the big reasons why the program far exceeded her expectations, she added. “I figured it [the MBA] would mostly be a refresh of my undergrad business courses. It turns out that I learned so many new skills [and] I will be able to apply [them] to any business venture in the future,” Rivera said.

Of course, as with any adult struggling with life-work balance, time management was a “serious issue,” she said. “When I began the program, I was working full-time and I am also a mother. There were times I felt like I could not handle it all.

“In the end, I just reassured myself that the result would be 100% worth it. “

As for the future, Rivera said she hopes to follow her “entrepreneurial heart” to start her own business. Or maybe, she’ll set her sights on becoming a professor. “I absolutely love learning and would love to spread my love of the business world to others.”