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Balancing life, work and the EMBA

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The Challenge of Returning to College

How am I going to be able to maintain balance between work, school and family? I remember asking this question as I was talking with Pamela Foster Brady, director of the Jindal School’s Executive MBA program. The workload of the program was daunting and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make it all work. My husband and I have two very active boys, ages 6 and 8 at the time I enrolled. I work full time as a sales executive at KERA radio and TV. Looking back, there were a lot of things that I had to rearrange, juggle and sacrifice, but there were three things I did that stand out that helped me keep my sanity, and get it all done.

It’s a whole family commitment.

When I talked with my husband about enrolling, we knew that it was going to be an adjustment. With Friday and Saturday classes, he would have to get both kids to two different schools and take them to all practices and social events on Saturday. He committed to taking on all the chores and cooking for 21 months. We also talked to the kids about mom going back to school, which they thought was so cool, and how I would need to be away more. When I needed to study, they would all shut the door and keep quiet. As we got into the program, we found our routine.

Set a schedule and stick to it.

After classes started, I found that I had to set a schedule for everything and stick to it. I tried to carve out at least two hours a day for schoolwork. I tried a lot of different routines, but what ended up working for me was to work through lunch. At about 3:30, I would switch to school until around 5:30. I got all the books read during the breaks between semesters, or got them on Audible. I listened to most of the reading in the car, or I had my book with me to read while waiting on a client or a meeting. We allocated 6-8 p.m. as family time and after that, I finished up what needed doing or discussing with my teammates. Sunday was family day, and no homework was allowed.

Raise your hand if you are not going to make it.

There were those times when I couldn’t get something done when I said I would. In my last semester, my husband fell and broke his shoulder. There were about two weeks when I wasn’t able to get to any work done because I was taking care of him after surgery. I let my group know well in advance of the deadline that I was struggling and I am so thankful I did. I am so thankful to them because they covered for me and I took on more work at the end of the semester.

I succeeded balancing work, school, and family by getting the commitment of my family, setting a plan and sticking to it, and asking for help when I needed it. Looking back, I was right that the time management of the program is a challenge, but not insurmountable. There is always a way to make time for what you want in life. I am very thankful to my husband, my kids and my professors – and my classmates -- who helped me to learn, grow and thrive.

Sarah Colmark

As an account executive, Sarah Colmark manages accounts and is responsible for over $500K in revenue generation for public media in North Texas. As a member of the corporate sponsorship team for KERA FM, KERA TV and KXT FM, this requires identifying potential corporate sponsors; developing relationships; and meeting company’s marketing objectives using public media.  


Prior to this position, Sarah served as the general manager of WRR 101.1 FM, the classical radio station owned by the City of Dallas, and as station manager of Classical 95.5 KHFM, the classical broadcaster for Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has over 10 years of business experience managing radio stations; setting programming strategy; directing sales efforts; and developing brand position in the media market.  


Sarah received her undergraduate degree in piano performance from the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music and received a professional certificate from the Conservatoire Nationale de Region – Perpignan, France. She is currently pursuing her executive MBA from The University of Texas at Dallas.    


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