Unfinished Business: One Student's Return to Graduate School

Andrea Peters
Andrea Peters
"It’s traditional for women in my culture to focus on motherhood and raising a family. I want the message to be that it’s possible to achieve an education and excel in your career." -Andrea Peters

Andrea Peters’ path as a mom delayed her graduate school goal, but never derailed it.

From full-time mom to grad student to professional, Andrea transformed herself in the Tech MBA® program.

Even as a young girl growing up in Ecuador, business has long been a passion for Andrea Romero-Peters. Inspired by her maternal grandfather, Luis, a self-made entrepreneur who helped raise her along with her grandmother, Andrea grew up watching her abuelo run his business. She witnessed his sacrifices and was instilled with a similarly
strong work ethic. “My grandparents were my support system,” Andrea says. “They supported me unconditionally, especially when it came to my education.”

In 2008, during her senior year as a business planning student at La Universidad Espíritu Santo, Andrea pursued a work-travel program, bringing her to the United States. “I told them ‘I don’t care where I go, I just want to make sure I learn my English,’” the native Spanish speaker says.

Andrea’s friends matched in New York City and Orlando. Her destination?

Copper Harbor.
(You can chuckle. Andrea did, too.)

While this remote region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula may not have been the big-business training ground she had in mind, the backdrop of falling snow did lend itself to falling in love. It was in the Keweenaw Peninsula where Andrea met her husband, Steve.

Andrea would go on to graduate, marry, and start a family, welcoming daughter Maia, followed by son Steven. A brief stint at local tech start-up ThermoAnalytics illustrated the type of role Andrea was interested in applying her marketing skills to. But for the time being, business pursuits were postponed—never pushed aside—as she devoted herself to her young family.

In 2013, together with her husband, Andrea helped launch Peters Building Contractors, crafting custom homes throughout the Keweenaw. She calls the experience of starting a family business “scary, but rewarding.”

By the time her youngest entered kindergarten, Andrea was ready for her next professional pursuit, working in the business development field for Pettibone. There, her passion for tech-focused business and strategic marketing grew, and as the industry had evolved, she knew she needed to get a handle on the latest trends. “What I learned in my undergrad 10 years prior was no longer applicable,” she says. “It felt terrifying coming back to work feeling like I was missing experience and education.”

Andrea had long pondered pursuing her MBA, and the need was now clear. Just as COVID was entering our daily vernacular, she spotted her window of opportunity. “I had always assumed I’d obtain my MBA little by little, class by class. At the start of the pandemic, I realized I could go all-in, full-time.”

She looked at other institutions and ultimately chose Michigan Tech because of its strong reputation and success stories from its graduates. “I felt an MBA from MTU would carry more weight, provide me more professional value.”

Getting into the program required conquering more fear and perceived hurdles. “The application process was intimidating—the GMAT, meeting the prerequisites, and completing everything in a second language—but everyone I encountered at Michigan Tech made it seem so possible that I began telling my mind I could do it.

“Jacque Smith [Graduate School] probably doesn’t realize the impact he had on me. And Dr. Mari Buche [associate dean, College of Business] was so nice and helpful from day one. She guided me through each step.”

Andrea’s motivation for pursuing her MBA? “It’s always been a goal. I enjoy business and marketing. I am driven. I want to be an example for my children.”

In September 2021, after her first year of the program, with just four courses left to go, Andrea felt ready to begin her job search. “I looked for remote jobs with regionally based heavy equipment and car manufacturers. I wasn’t applying just to get a job. I wanted something that really made my heart feel excited.”

It didn’t take her long to gain traction.

“In my first round of interviews with Caterpillar, I could see facial expressions when I mentioned Michigan Tech. The University was instantly recognized and the conversation quickly pivoted to my MBA program, where I shared how much I was enjoying Dr. Schmelzle’s supply chain course.”

"I had to learn to get over being afraid to ask questions. Chances are that if I didn’t understand something, others would have the same questions. If you don’t ask questions, you don’t learn."Andrea Peters

In early 2022, Andrea started her new career with Caterpillar as a market development consultant for North America and Latin America. Her role executes the tactical aspect of marketing campaigns in both territories.

“I have had this vision since the beginning, and Mari [Buche] helped me understand how I could achieve it, and I did.”

Andrea says working full-time while wrapping up her MBA is challenging, but not impossible. One of her letters of recommendation stated, “Andrea can do anything she sets her mind to.” And Andrea believes that to be true.

“This is temporary. I am so close to my goal. Some days are hard—it’s not all butterflies. I try to make sure I am taking a break for myself—go for a walk, work out, read…”

The Michigan Tech brand continues to pay dividends for Andrea. “Just today, I had a monthly team meeting where I introduced myself. One of my colleagues told me MTU has the best campus and wrote in the chat box, ‘Go Yoopers!’”

In April, Andrea’s long-awaited goal was realized: Andrea Peters, MBA. “Fear stopped me for so long, I cried tears of happiness receiving my diploma.”

There is an Andrea before the Tech MBA®, and there is an Andrea after. “Michigan’s Tech MBA® has created incredible opportunities for me, professionally and personally. It provides me with academic tools to feel confident.”

To inspire others, her graduation speech would go something like this, she says: “You made the best decision to stay home with kids. Career opportunities will always be available, and children will only be young for so long. It’s never too late. It’s okay if you don’t remember math. Set your goal in your mind. Work on what you love the most.”

As for her grandparents back home, whom she sees once a year, they are proud of their granddaughter. “My grandpa is so proud. And I will forever be grateful for everything they did for me.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.