After graduating with a Ph.D. in Psychology from Florida International University, Dr. Jessica Magnus planned to continue working in internal and external consulting for business organizations.
However, she ended up opting for the flexibility inherent in academia that the corporate world lacked.
“Teaching was a great way to do research that I wanted to do and not just the flavor of the month at a professional firm where they drive what kind of projects you get to work on,” she said. “This let me have a lot more ownership over the kind of problems I wanted to study.”
Corporate America’s loss is the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s gain. Dr. Magnus is in her 16th year as a full-time educator. She teaches behavioral management classes in the Master of Business Administration programs offered by UNCW’s Cameron School of Business.
The decision couldn’t have worked out much better for Dr. Magnus. She and her husband, Stacey, stay busy with three children — Coralee (13), Beau (10) and Haven (5) — whom she homeschools.
“I’ve always liked to teach,” she said. “I taught my first college class as an adjunct graduate student in 2000. I have been teaching at the college level since.
“I enjoy working with MBA students and helping them see how research can help us understand real-world problems a little bit better and make informed, evidence-based decisions. I hope they are able to take something useful back to the real world after taking my classes.”
Thinking Out Loud
Dr. Magnus is from St. Petersburg, Florida, and she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Florida (1999) and a master’s degree in applied psychology from Christopher Newport University (2000).
“I enjoy psychology, but I wanted something that was applicable to the real world,” she said. “I didn’t think I could cut it in a more traditional psychology role.
“I wanted to use psychological theories to help in the business realm with work-related issues. I started as an engineering major because I was good at it, but I didn’t love engineering enough to want to finish a degree in it.”
After working as a human resources manager and a consultant for a national firm, Dr. Magnus embarked on her full-time teaching career once she graduated from FIU in 2005. She became one of the first teachers in UNCW’s Cameron School of Business to offer online courses in 2010.
“The online format has come a long way,” she said. “I have learned a lot, which makes the experience much better for students than in the early days of online education. We have had some good success with the students who have been in these programs and been able to move their careers forward.”
Dr. Magnus believes that UNCW has one of the top MBA programs with the most affordable tuition in the country.
“We are a reasonably-priced program, and our quality is every bit as good as other MBA programs,” she said. “We are a highly qualified faculty, and our research is top-notch.
“Attending UNCW is a great opportunity for students. Unlike the faculty at huge schools, UNCW’s professors are more hands-on and involved here.”
Once the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, teaching online became a necessity for UNCW faculty. As a veteran user of the format, Dr. Magnus hasn’t missed a beat.
“I try to have a little bit more group engagements and video projects and use different mediums through which the online students can participate in a class,” she said. “It’s easy in an online class to be a passive recipient of education and not invest in the class, but I don’t think students want that.
“I genuinely believe they want to do more hands-on work, and they have to have an outlet for that. That’s my goal. We want our MBA program to remain high-quality.”
Outside of work, Dr. Magnus enjoys painting and boating. Her family also has a getaway house in the Tennessee mountains. She lived in several places before moving to Wilmington, including Galveston, Texas and Newport News, Virginia.
Sixteen years after she traded a cubicle for a classroom, Dr. Magnus still has a passion for teaching and loves passing on her knowledge to UNCW business students, which is a win-win for her.
“I try to make the courses as applicable to the real world as possible with every assignment and project I give them,” she said. “I want them to see the program as a value added to their careers. That’s why they’re coming back to an MBA — to improve their careers.”
Learn more about UNCW’s online business programs.