Mastering first-generation education

When it comes to pursuing passions head-on, Jonathan Heiberg is at the top of the list.

Jonathan is working toward his master's degree in healthcare administration (MHA) at Minnesota State University Moorhead. What makes his graduate pursuit even more meaningful is the extension of his education as a first-generation student.

Jonathan knew college was the best way to equip himself with the education needed to make a difference for his future.

“My greatest inspiration to attend college was my desire to better myself,” he says. “My teachers and counselors encouraged me based on my grades and school performance, but I really wanted to do what I could to ensure I was using my skills for the best possible outcome.”

During his last semester working toward his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at NDSU, Jonathan worked at Family HealthCare in Fargo. He joined the agency full-time after graduation, working as an administrative project coordinator scheduling mobile clinical events around the area, offering medical, dental, optometry, and immunizations to schools, companies, and homeless/underserved populations.

Jonathan’s supervisor, Kory Wolden, “was a great motivator to obtain my master’s degree at MSUM because he is a recent graduate and encouraged me that this was the next step in my professional career.

“Healthcare administration is a great choice for me as I want to be involved in healthcare without being on the clinical side like I had previously thought,” he says. “This career path is where I want to be and aligns with my strengths as an administrative professional.”

Jonathan considered other graduate programs at other universities but found “MSUM was the better fit for me and my career goals,” he says. “I appreciate the MHA program’s online flexibility, easy access to asynchronous courses, the great reviews and its accreditation. I was worried about my work-school-life balance, but MSUM helped alleviate my concerns by offering courses fully online and allowing me to work as I am able with preset deadlines and learning at my own pace.”

He says the best thing about his MSUM experience is the real-life application of coursework into his daily work. “I learn a lot in my courses and have many assignments that make me do things I might do at work anyway, which improves my skills and boosts experiences when I am going through them.”

While first-generation college students may face challenges, Jonathan believes pursuing higher education is nothing to fear. He’s found MSUM professors and peers to be flexible when life gets in the way. "Everyone is willing to work with you if you communicate and are open about your situation," he says.

His advice to other first-generation college students? “Don’t be afraid of going above and beyond what has been done in your family. It might be scary and uncharted territory, but it'll make your future much better and more fruitful than you could imagine.”

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)

Continue your education in healthcare administration through MSUM's master program.

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