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Is Grad School Worth It? 3 Creighton University Success Stories

May 2, 2024
5 min Read

The prospect of earning an advanced degree is appealing for a handful of reasons. Statistics show that increased educational attainment often leads to higher earnings and more job opportunities, for instance. But, for many people, the answer to “Is grad school worth it?” depends on much more than salary and employment rates.

At Creighton, our graduate programs prepare students to not only do well for themselves, but also do good for the world around them. That mission is central to each of the 45+ graduate and professional programs we offer. Our nationally ranked, flexible degree offerings have helped thousands of grads work toward a career of purpose.

Let’s explore just a few of the many ways that Creighton alumni have unlocked their professional potential with a graduate degree:

How 3 Creighton post-grad alumni found purpose through education

Advanced knowledge and strong values come together at Creighton Graduate School. Students learn from highly respected and attentive faculty members as they work toward enhancing their skills and creating dynamic professional opportunities.
With flexible graduate program offerings, you can remain dedicated to preparing for what’s next in your life, no matter how busy you are now. That was certainly the case for the following three Creighton grads.

  1. Joe Billig, MD

    Executive Healthcare MBA

    An Omaha native, Joe Billig, MD is no stranger to dedicating himself to a goal and chasing after it with fervor. After earning a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering, he completed medical school at the University of Nebraska. He then went on to pursue a specialty program in anesthesiology from the University of Illinois-Chicago.

    After such an extensive history with education, one might think Billig would have been ready to move on from academia in favor of the day-to-day career pursuits he’d already worked so hard to solidify. But his commitment to unlocking his full potential led him to yet another opportunity.

    Billig currently works as a regional medical director with Colorado Permanente Medical Group. In this role, he is responsible for all aspects of quality, service, and affordability for the physicians and departments in his area. This includes vascular surgery, neonatology, emergency medicine, interventional radiology, and hospital medicine at four hospitals, two free-standing ERs, two ambulatory surgery centers, and six skilled nursing facilities.

    Even with his breadth of education, training, and experience, Billig quickly discovered he’d need to learn the administrative side of healthcare — an entirely new skill set — to become truly effective in this role.

    And Billig isn’t alone in this move from direct patient care to management. Increasingly, physicians and other providers are expected to take on administration responsibilities, even though their background is in science, not business. An Executive Healthcare Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree can provide the foundation needed to be successful. “I need to be able to communicate with administrators on their level, and the EMBA can help with that,” Billig says.

    Of course, as a busy healthcare professional, the idea of going back to school can seem impossible. Creighton University designed its EMBA with this in mind. The program is intended to accommodate busy professionals throughout the nation with its 18-month hybrid learning model — this means the curriculum includes a blend of online and on-campus learning, with four four-day residencies at the Creighton campus.

    “I chose Creighton because of its academic reputation, but I also appreciated the flexibility that the program afforded the students,” Billig explains. “The program content is quite interesting, but the biggest reward is learning from the collective experience of other students from across the country in my cohort.”

    As he works toward completing his EMBA, Billig is eager to use what he’s learning to make an even bigger impact in his role as medical director. “I procrastinated for about 10 years thinking about an MBA,” he says. “My only regret is that I didn’t start this earlier.”

  2. Charles Thomas Jr., MS, EdD

    MS in Negotiation & Conflict; Doctor of Interdisciplinary Leadership

    Growing up in Flint, Michigan, Charles Thomas Jr., MS, EdD learned the importance of a strong work ethic from a young age. He recalls his mother telling him, “Whatever it is you want to do, go out there and make it happen.” It’s a mantra he’s carried with him ever since.

    Throughout childhood, Thomas relentlessly pursued his passion for basketball and education. He attended the University of Notre Dame and walked on the basketball team as a freshman. By the next season, he was on an athletic scholarship. He graduated with a bachelor’s in business from Notre Dame and went on to earn an MBA from the University of Texas, San Antonio.

    But that was only the beginning. Thomas grew up understanding the value of community support, and he was hungry to further develop his knowledge and skills to maximize his capacity to give back.

    Upon learning about Creighton University, he felt a kinship with the institution’s commitment to community service and philanthropy. “I could feel it as soon as I stepped onto the campus and started interacting with people,” Thomas recalls. “There’s a high level of thoughtfulness. Everyone is encouraged to be the best at what they’re doing and pursue excellence.”

    He believes Creighton’s Jesuit values made all the difference. “The Jesuit education challenges you in how you think, how you engage, and how you treat other people,” Thomas explains. “It goes beyond the academic and professional realms — it teaches life lessons. The Jesuits talk about what it means to engage in the human condition. They discuss how the whole world is your house. That’s become my life mindset.”

    He earned a Master’s in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Creighton before continuing on to complete the University’s doctoral program in Interdisciplinary Leadership. “My first experience at Creighton was so powerful that I ultimately decided to stay for my doctorate,” Thomas says. “I felt connected to the University.”

    While he currently serves as the CEO and co-founder of cloud engineering company Clear Cloud, this is far from Thomas’s only focus. Within the non-profit sector, he works as a wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a mentor at Leadership Fairfax’s Emerging Leaders Institute, a nonprofit restorative justice organization that provides education to inmates so they can rebuild their lives once they leave jail. At Creighton, he is a member of the Graduate School’s Alumni Advisory Board and an adjunct professor at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.

    “For me, it’s about playing at the highest levels I can, whatever that may be,” he explains. “With whatever time we have on this planet, I think we’re obliged to give and be the best we can be, and Creighton will challenge you to do that.”

  3. Susan Toohe, EdD

    Doctor of Interdisciplinary Leadership

    As someone who has dedicated her career to teaching others, it’s no wonder Susan Toohey, EdD discovered ways to tap into her own potential through education. After serving for several years as the head of a Catholic all-girls school in Omaha, she felt compelled to hone her leadership skills. That’s what drew Toohey to Creighton University’s online doctoral program in Interdisciplinary Leadership.

    The EdD program is designed to help post-grad students examine and refine themselves as leaders with a curricular focus on ethics, social justice, organizational theory, and educational policy. Creighton’s focus on preparing professionals capable of making changes in themselves, their communities, and the world is what particularly resonated with Toohey.

    She and her cohorts worked alongside one another to become ethical leaders through the program’s values-based, practitioner-led learning approach. The transformative skills she gained were exactly what she needed to transition into the next phase of her career.

    Upon earning her doctorate from Creighton in 2013, Toohey helped launch Nelson Mandela Elementary School in Omaha, where she currently serves as head of school. The school offers free education in a high-poverty urban area. Its mission is to have all students performing at grade level in reading and math by the end of third grade, as this is a strong predictor of success at the high school level.

    But she also helps ensure that Nelson Mandela Elementary invests just as much in the social and emotional development of its students. “We are a year-round school so that children can be in a safe space all day long, all year,” she says. “We make sure our students know that every adult at school cares about them — not just about their academic growth, but their personal, social, and emotional growth as well.”

    The ability to earn her doctorate from Creighton one hundred percent online is what helped make this longstanding goal a reality for Toohey. “With my schedule, it was difficult to attend a class every Thursday night at 6 p.m., for example,” she says. “The flexibility was really attractive.”

    And today, the students at Nelson Mandela are directly benefiting from Toohey’s years of experience and her doctoral studies at Creighton University.

Make an impact with your education

Ranked among the best in the nation and rooted in strong Jesuit values, our graduate and professional programs are designed to equip you for a lifetime of making a positive difference, no matter your industry. We believe that whatever you study, it’s important to do it justice — just like the three Creighton alumni above.

Curious to explore pathways to your own post-graduate journey? Visit the Creighton Graduate School page for more information.

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Regardless of where you are in your journey, our admissions advisors are ready to help you take the next step.