Success through Collaboration and Perseverance

October 11, 2021
Luke Modugno ('22)

As a student, one can only dream of a program that allows you to excel inside and outside the classroom, while also forging meaningful connections with instructors. Lucky for her, Ciera Thornton lived the dream at GU this summer as she completed her Master's of Business Administration (MBA).  


Originally planning to attend medical school following her undergraduate education, Thornton had a change of heart and chose the MBA program at Gonzaga to deepen her knowledge of business. Along with the demands of completing her MBA, Thornton is also the mom to a 3-year-old daughter and works full-time with Umpqua Bank.  


“Sometimes I was like ‘okay, I’m going to put my homework down and stay up super late tonight so I can go play with my daughter,’” said Thornton. “I’m also a salaried employee, so there’s an expectation that if something needs to get done, I will get it done. So I really had to develop a willingness to be flexible in my own time so that I could make sure my family’s needs are taken care of.”  


Navigating those challenges looked different nearly every day. With her husband helping out by picking up their daughter from school, cooking dinner or simply helping her study, she was able to focus on excelling in the classroom and at her job.  


“I’ve been impressed with her hard work and perseverance to excel, as well as by her grace.” Dr. Mirjeta Beqiri said. 


Thornton has developed a close relationship with Dr. Beqiri. “She’s so infectious. My first experience with her was during the application process when I expressed a lot of trepidation about my ability to juggle everything and she always told me ‘you got this,” Thornton said. “You couldn’t ask for anything more in a program director, she’s an amazing ambassador for it.”  


Beqiri and Thornton first connected during Thornton’s application process, where she almost put a pause on her pursuit of an MBA. “She was so available and open to answering questions, I initially expressed a lot of trepidation about my ability to juggle everything,” said Thornton. “She kept saying ‘You got this!’ and it mattered, it gave me confidence and faith in myself. She’s more than a great director, she’s an amazing ambassador for the program.” 

Besides furthering her knowledge of business administration, Thornton learned a lot about herself as a student and the utility of using the resources provided to you as a Zag. “Gonzaga has tremendous resources, especially around the Spokane area as the name is so well-known. I’ve already secured a job because of the fact I was in the program,” said Thornton. “If you’re willing to engage and you put yourself out there, there’s a lot to gain.” 


Although Thornton noted that she cared deeply about her grades, she chose to measure success outside of the classroom. “Integrating what I learn into what I already know and to push my own boundaries, that’s what success looks like to me,” said Thornton. “The program has helped me grow so much in my work and in life.”

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