Jessica Cokins ’06 sees light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn’t a train.

Jessica Cokins with husband, Tom, and sons, Zac and Tommy.

Jessica Cokins with husband, Tom, and sons, Zac and Tommy.

The wife, mother of two, full-time employee and part-time student is nearing the end of a 2 ½ year journey of multi-tasking, candle-light studies, late dinners and an occasional date night with her husband.

The Charleston native’s reward is a master’s degree in business administration from Clemson University, and knowing her family had her back as she juggled many roles along the way.

“This is without question a family MBA, because without their support, I couldn’t have made this happen,” said Cokins. “My husband, Tom, and mother, Diane, were more than supportive, they were my lifelines in keeping me motivated and on track.”

Jessica is the marketing and communications director for SCRA (South Carolina Research Authority) in Charleston, a state agency which fosters the innovation economy by supporting start-ups, academic research and industry. Her MBAe track has an entrepreneurial and innovation emphasis, which has brought immediate benefits to her current role.

“The MBA made perfect sense for me. Not only does it give me a competitive edge in the marketplace, but it expanded my knowledge in so many areas that are important to what I currently do. It aligns perfectly with my responsibilities at SCRA. I understand better what entrepreneurs are going through and now I’m looking at my own work from more of an innovative perspective,” she said.

Jessica’s MBA capstone project was directed at an issue she had experienced in the workplace and thought needed to be addressed.

“University tech transfer offices house the research that is conducted on campuses, and some of it has great potential to provide a product or service that would benefit society,” she said.

Her idea is to pair researchers with MBA students, who analyze the research to determine how it could be utilized from a business perspective. In turn, the researcher’s work could potentially turn into an entrepreneurial venture.

“There’s a lot of research that comes through SCRA that would benefit from an outside analysis like this. Often, the value proposition of the research isn’t realized. By having an MBA student look at the research from a different perspective, they can determine its business potential and maybe even identify grant opportunities that would put this research into practice.”

Wearing many hats while pursuing the MBA made Jessica very efficient with her time, including with Tom, and children, Tommy, 6, and Zac, 1 ½. Time management is a trait she learned from her mother, who worked full time while raising her family.

“She was always the standard for me. What a great role model I had growing up. I learned a lot from her not just in managing my time well, but she was a shining example of prioritizing work-life balance.”

Jessica also says the MBA experience will have down-the-road benefits for at least one of her sons.

“Zac is too young, but Tommy should remember this part of his life and the sacrifices that were made to accomplish this goal. I hope he sees me, and women in general, the way I view my mother, as a role model.”

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