Joseph Lucas became a graduate student and an entrepreneur at the same time.
The Charleston, South Carolina, native started a consulting business and then landed a media management position after enrolling in the online Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Cyber Security Management program at St. Thomas University (STU).
"I have always had a passion for business," he said. "Both of my grandparents, Joseph Williams Sr. and Albertha Aiken-Williams, owned their own businesses. They did it without an education.
"They always wanted me to go to school and get my MBA so I would be better equipped to help with family affairs. They have both passed away, but they were alive to see me enroll in the MBA program."
Two years ago, Lucas started Pierian Productions, specializing in digital media marketing. He also became an advertising media manager for the re-election campaign of South Carolina state legislator Marvin Pendarvis before graduating in May 2021.
"When I was looking for a school, I looked up some of the St. Thomas professors," Lucas said. "Their educational background astounded me. The online MBA program was also flexible with my schedule of working full time up to 60 hours a week.
"Finding something I could do online and not having to be there in person attracted me to the program. Plus, I know a couple of alumni who told me about the MBA program, which helped me make my decision."
Lucas graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and government from the University of South Carolina with a leadership distinction in professional and civic engagement in 2018. He served as chaplain of his fraternity during his undergraduate days.
"I was also the social media coordinator, putting together fliers and posting in group chats," he said. "That's where I met Marvin Pendarvis, who is also in my chapter. I began working with him as a page in the state house. He eventually asked me to take on a bigger responsibility and help with his marketing."
Since Lucas was already enrolled in the online MBA in Cyber Security Management program when COVID-19 hit, he did not miss a beat.
"It was weird being in the degree program during the pandemic, but it worked out very well for me," he said. "Doing it online around my schedule made it manageable."
Business Data Analytics, taught by Dr. Jose Rocha, was Lucas' favorite course in the MBA program.
"Being able to understand prescriptive analysis and predictive analysis was big," he said. "Dr. Rocha's class was a bit tough, but I learned so much from him.
"It helped me be able to pick apart an industry and figure out where someone fits in within a market and what they may need to do to be more successful. That has also helped me a lot."
The information that Lucas learned in the program was immediately applicable to his work, which also includes some consulting with a manufacturing company.
"It definitely optimized my personal business," he said. "It started off as a side hustle in 2019. Then, it turned into something I was doing a lot more frequently because of my work for Marvin Pendarvis.
"I have a couple of clients — also politicians — who referred small businesses to me to help them out with advertising. I create digital and print ads, campaigns for businesses all the way down to business cards, T-shirts, hats or anything that could benefit them and get their motto or message out there."
Lucas wrapped up the online MBA in Cyber Security Management program with a trip to Miami Gardens to walk in the commencement ceremony.
"It was fun," he said. "I had been on campus a couple of times before that, but it was great to be part of the ceremony and meet my professors.
"My family and friends were happy for me — especially because I am a first-generation college graduate. A lot of them have not had an opportunity to get their degree."
Although Lucas completed the higher education journey that his grandparents envisioned, he is far from finished with college. He plans to return to graduate school and work toward his dream of becoming an attorney.
"I like to be in business and deal with transactions," he said. "I want to draw contracts and provide articles of operation for small businesses. I have dealt with that sort of thing for my grandparents for a long time."
Lucas, who enjoys exercising and working with youth groups at his church in his free time, looks forward to applying his knowledge to all his jobs. In fact, he's just getting started.
"The MBA will absolutely open up career opportunities for me," he said. "You have to be ready to absorb all of the information that they are going to provide in the program. It's a wonderful opportunity."
Learn more about STU's online MBA in Cyber Security Management program.
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