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Master of Her Future

A one-year master’s program was a career-launching ‘perfect fit’ for this post-grad

Photo of Isabelle Valdez seated at her work desk
Photo courtesy of Isabelle Valdez

Like a lot of college students, Isabelle Valdez, MSM ’23, took some detours on her educational journey. En route to earning her bachelor’s degree in history from California State University, Fullerton, there were the usual changes of mind and major and, in her case, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It got pretty crazy there,” said Isabelle, a longtime Fullerton resident. “But I’ve loved my path, and I found my perfect fit.”

On Friday, Aug. 11, after a year at California Lutheran University in a fast-track online post-graduate program that included a paid internship, Isabelle earned her Master of Science in Management degree.

The following Monday, Isabelle began her management career as human resources coordinator for the property management firm where she interned, Trinity Property Consultants in Irvine.

“I’m very happy,” she said, “and I’ll always be grateful to Cal Lutheran.”

The path she took
Isabelle’s journey to her master’s degree started in high school at Orange Lutheran, where she graduated in 2018. She applied that year to Cal Lutheran but ended up taking a softball scholarship to the more local Vanguard University in Costa Mesa. She attended Vanguard until the pandemic sent her online and ultimately to Fullerton for her last three semesters. Along the way, she changed her major from business to history, planning to take her history degree into a teaching career.

After graduating from Fullerton in 2022, Isabelle realized she’d been right in the first place. She’d loved her business classes. And having worked her way through college as a restaurant server and manager, she knew she loved management. She knew she didn’t have the prerequisites for an MBA, but wanted to explore her options, with Cal Lutheran at the top of her list.

“I contacted Cal Lutheran, and they were immediately responsive, encouraging and supportive,” she said. “They said, ‘I know you applied as a senior in high school; why don’t you apply again?’ They specifically mentioned the (Master of Science in) Management program.”

“It was music to my ears,” she says. “Not needing a business background but hitting all those notes was all that I was looking for.”

The program didn’t require five years in the workforce and it was doable in half the time of the typical two-year MBA program. It also helped that Isabelle knew her preferred study area was management.

“As someone who was 22 and didn’t want to take a break and who had the right background for it, I fell in love with the description of the program,” she said. “It was really that simple.”

Fast forward through a year of online learning. In May of 2023, Isabelle visited Cal Lutheran’s Thousand Oaks campus for the first time — to walk in her graduation ceremony. A couple of summer online classes later, she had officially earned her master’s degree.

Defining the program
Seemingly made for Isabelle, the Master of Science in Management (MSM) curriculum is right for a lot of grads, program director Kyle McIntosh said.

“It provides students with a solid foundation in business concepts,” he said. “It’s perfect for someone like Isabelle, who graduated with a liberal arts degree and wanted to start her career in business.”

He added: “While some students in her position might seek an undergraduate business minor, a minor will only get you three to four basic business classes. Our MSM program is more comprehensive, with 10 graduate classes and 31 credits, to give students a much stronger foundation as they enter the workforce or develop themselves for management roles.”

Courses in the MSM program include foundations of accounting, financial principles and policies, organizational behavior, macroeconomics in the global economy and strategic decision making.

To complete their programs, MSM students can pick from six capstone courses, including international travel, executive roundtable or internships, as Isabelle selected. As part of her capstone, Isabelle completed a useful project on improving the background check process at Trinity, which hires dozens of people each month.

Isabelle credits her graduate education at Cal Lutheran with creating a strong foundation for the future. When asked where she sees herself in five or 10 years, she didn’t hesitate: “I see myself being director of operations … whether in property management or somewhere else. … I see a lot of doors open to me across a broad range of industries.”

Learn more about the Master of Science in Management program at