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by Elsy Ocejo

When I started the Executive MBA Program in my early thirties, I had no idea how much and how fast my life was going to change. During my first year of completing the program, I had changed jobs, moved from Knoxville to Chicago, adopted a new citizenship and found out I was pregnant – all within the span of two months.

Looking back, the thought of being pregnant while juggling everything else that first year had never crossed my mind. I had talked to many prospective and current female students about their experiences getting pregnant before or after the program, but never about being pregnant during the program.

Kellogg EMBA Event on 2.25.17 at the Allen Center. Photos by Nathan Mandell
Kellogg EMBA Event on 2.25.17 at the Allen Center. Photos by Nathan Mandell

When I found out that my due date was almost three months before my graduation date, I began to doubt if I’d be capable of completing the program and graduate with my cohort. Some of my closest friends recommended that I postpone my MBA; there were too many changes going on in my life and I needed to “hit the brakes” before I burnt out. When I reached my breaking point, I realized exactly how determined I was to finish the program with my cohort, and knew it was possible with the help of a great support system.

Having one study group for the entire two years of the Executive MBA Program meant I had a steady group of people I could rely on throughout all of these changes; it would have been very difficult to continue the program without them. Outside of the study group, my cohort was also a significant help. In this program, each of your classmates wants you to be happy and to succeed in life, and will lend their support whenever you need it. I also knew that I could work out my schedule with the administration to take as many classes as possible before my due date and graduate with my cohort.

So, after speaking with my husband, my study group and the administration, I decided to continue with the program. I recognized that I should not be afraid to ask for help and support if I needed it and that I was not alone. The most important priority was to be healthy for my baby.

Courtesy Elsy Ocejo

These support systems helped me stay focused and organized in order to meet deadlines at work and at school. At home, being present with my family and friends provided balance to my busy schedule. I took six classes in two months, traveled to Dusseldorf, Germany during my pregnancy for two electives and also took Game Theory as an elective while pregnant. (No time for pregnancy brain!)

It has been incredibly hard, but feasible and extremely rewarding. Going through so many changes in a short period of time has made me stronger. I have changed as I am more insightful when making decisions, I accept feedback more openly and I am more confident. I have embraced change and I have welcomed every bit of it. I couldn’t have continued without my husband, my study group, my cohort and the administration. The Kellogg EMBA Program accelerated my changes in life and also provided a support system to continue my journey.