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Life-long learner finds home in York after earning MBA from York College

January 23, 2018
York-College-Natalee-Colon
Natalee Colón ’09 earned a bachelor’s degree in Marketing then later returned for her MBA from the Graham School of Business.

Natalee started as an undergrad at York College of Pennsylvania in 2005. So did her identical twin sister, Natasha.

The pair knew wherever they went to college they wanted to be together, and York College’s small class sizes won them over.

For four years, Natalee and her sister commuted from Harrisburg in their ’94 Toyota Camry. They killed time singing and making each other laugh and managed to make it through without their forest green car ever breaking down.

In 2009, Natalee graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing, and her sister earned one to match in Accounting.

Unfinished business

After school, Natalee worked in retail management, then as a manager at a staffing agency. But it wasn’t long before that familiar desire to learn returned.

“I’m a little nerdy,” says Natalee. “I just like to learn.”

In January 2011, she went back to York College to earn her MBA from the Graham School of Business.

She didn’t have her Camry anymore, but she was still living in Harrisburg, and returning to York College meant a return to that commute.

Natalee didn’t want to earn her degree online, though. She wanted that same experience of small classrooms and professors who care about their students that she’d had as an undergrad.

“I like the personal interaction,” Natalee says.

Her professors were flexible, she says, and easy to find for one-on-one time.

 

Making it easier

After her first semester, Natalee started working at The York Water Company and took advantage of their tuition reimbursement program. That eased her financial burden, but it was still a balancing act to earn her master’s and work full time.

“It was short term pain for long term gain,” she says.

There was personal sacrifice, forgoing social activities and spending weekends doing homework.

Her professors didn’t take it easy on her, she says, but they would meet with her and work within her schedule. And they taught in a way that was applicable to the real world.

“I think a lot of what helped me while going through the program was the way the courses were being taught,” Natalee says. “I could relate it to the work environment. I could see it in action and then it all made more sense.”

Life after school

When she was in the thick of it — commuting, working full time, and earning her master’s degree — Natalee didn’t really think about all the work. But, looking back, she’s proud of what she did.

Anyone who goes back to school while working full time has to have grit and determination, she says.

Graduating from York College for a second time felt different to Natalee. It had been really hard trying to balance everything, but she’d done it. Her family was there to celebrate with her, and wearing that cap and gown again she allowed herself to really soak in what she’d achieved. It was a proud moment for the life-long learner.

Staying in York

After graduating, Natalee finally bought a home several miles north of the campus in Manchester Township.

“Commuting got old,” she says.

York is just the right size for her. It’s a small, close-knit community. And she loves that when she walks down the street, she recognizes people.

“You don’t get lost in the crowd in a community like York,” she says.

She works alongside other York College alumni and still maintains friendships with classmates. Speakers and art exhibits bring her back to campus, now a much shorter drive from home.

But perhaps her closest reminder of her YCP experience is a new MBA program York Water Company is taking part in with Shipley Energy. The program is structured around the utility industry and students not only receive education in how to run a business, but will learn industry-specific skills.

"Universities in the country have been leaning toward this type of structure, giving a more concentrated approach for professionals and York College is kicking it off in this region with about 10 students," Natalee says. "With several alums at the York Water Company, we love the idea of supporting others in this innovative approach to earning their MBA from York College."

It's just another way Natalee sees the York community grow and change.

“You feel like you’re part of something here,” she says.

 

Click here to learn more about the Graham School of Business at York College

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