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Tara Marks, co-director of public policy at Just Harvest, graduated with an M.B.A. from Point Park in 2009.

Tara Marks, a Point Park M.B.A. graduate who serves as a co-director for public policy advocacy, attributes her education and relentless perseverance for guiding her to where she is today.

Marks advocates for Just Harvest, a non-profit organization that at one time advocated for her. Based in Pittsburgh, Just Harvest promotes economic justice by working to influence public policy surrounding hunger and poverty issues

After unexpectedly becoming a single mother in 2002, Marks suddenly found herself on the brink of poverty, needing to access food stamps while earning her college degree.

"I know what it's like to go several days without eating much," she said. "Luckily, food stamps allowed for my son to eat."

This harrowing experience lasted for one year until Marks graduated from the Community College of Allegheny County with two degrees. Immediately, she began working with political campaigns and volunteering for Just Harvest.

During this time, she also took classes in the evening and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carlow University.

Work and family life were going well for Marks but she was eager to take the next step in her education.

"For every new job I was interested in, I had the experience but not the graduate degree," explained Marks. "I knew I needed a master's degree to back up my experience."

Choosing Point Park

Marks chose Point Park and the accelerated M.B.A. degree program track for a variety of reasons. "It offered the right timing, the right price and the right reputation," she said. "I also loved the urban environment and how Point Park was investing in Downtown Pittsburgh," she added.

Taking classes during the day on Saturday rather than in the evenings was also a major perk for Marks. "It still allowed me to put my kids to bed every night," she said.

To be accepted into Point Park's accelerated M.B.A. program, prospective graduate students must have earned a satisfactory G.P.A. in their undergraduate studies and should have experience working in business, explained Archish Maharaja, Ed.D., assistant professor and director of the M.B.A. program.

Professors and Classes

One of Marks' favorite classes was "Organizational Systems," taught by M.H. Sidky, Ph.D., professor of global management and organization. The class examines the interdependencies and complexities of organizational life in a dynamic and interconnected global system.

"In Dr. Sidky's class, I learned that if an organization cannot adapt to change, it will not succeed," said Marks. "I've been able to apply that philosophy to my current work."

"Ms. Marks is a highly intelligent and hardworking person," said Sidky.

Lori K. Molinari, D.B.A., assistant professor of business management, taught Marks in the "Quantitative Methods for Business" class. "Tara is a uniquely qualified person with a passion for learning, life and helping others."

"Dr. Molinari's approach to teaching adult students was great. She always applied real-life situations to her lessons," said Marks.

Graduating in One Year

Despite missing her first class to give birth to her daughter, Marks earned her M.B.A. degree in just one year. "I knew I was in the right school when the students, professors, and admissions department brought me up to speed the next week," she said.

Marks' graduate hooding ceremony in spring 2009 remains very special to her since her dying mother got to see her graduate. "I am the first in my family to earn a college degree. Having my mom there to see me get a master's degree was incredible," said Marks.

A few months after graduating, Marks was named co-director at Just Harvest. "My M.B.A. education has been so valuable to me. It has taken my passion and advocacy work to the next level by enhancing my skills in economics, accounting, budgeting, and strategic planning," she explained.

Future Goals and Advice for Students

Marks lives in Shadyside with her husband and four children. She plans to continue working in the non-profit sector and furthering her education.

When asked what advice she has for individuals looking to pursue Point Park's accelerated M.B.A. degree, she said: "Work hard and work smart. Do the assignments and you'll be fine."