A New Dream: Former college athlete aims toward MBA after earning UF business degree

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Growing up, Kyle McLaughlin loved baseball more than anything. So he was overjoyed at the news of being awarded a full-ride baseball scholarship, straight out of high school to be a pitcher at Division I Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

“My passion and priority was baseball,” said the recent UF graduate who earned a degree in business administration through UF Online. “That was my dream all along.”

Unfortunately, McLaughlin’s celebration was short-lived due to a preseason injury in his freshman year that resulted in a torn labrum in his shoulder.

“It’s a pitcher’s nightmare. It’s not something you’re really able to come back from, competitively at least.”

This forced him to sacrifice his dream of having a baseball career. But while some may lose all hope and quit, McLaughlin saw this as an opportunity to build up his resume and reputation for the betterment of his future.

”I experienced a paradigm shift and I was able to focus on my life and my career besides sports,” he said.

Having always been interested in business, McLaughlin worked in operations throughout his college career. He transferred to the University of Central Florida for his sophomore year. Through hard work and determination, he was named to the President’s Honor Roll with a 4.0 GPA in his Spring semester. Afterward, McLaughlin transferred his studies to the University of Florida Warrington College of Business via UF Online, believing it was the right path to take towards completing his business degree.

“As soon as I heard about (UF Online), I knew it was a home run for me,” said McLaughlin.

With the flexibility that the UF Online pathway offers, McLaughlin was able to work full-time while taking a full UF course load of 12 to 15 credits a semester. Working in operations for companies in Palm City and in Texas meant that McLaughlin also had to travel. But with good time management, he was able to succeed. He was nominated to join the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success, and was selected to serve as a UF Student Panel Mentor, counseling incoming students to UF Online’s business program.

Still, a schedule of working and studying wasn’t easy. “You can’t really take a day off,” he said. “You have to stay on top of it.”

McLaughlin’s most difficult course also became his favorite – business finance taught by Dr. John Banko, Wells Fargo Faculty Fellow and Senior Lecturer. While he said advisors discouraged him from taking the course while working and taking other classes, McLaughlin said he was up for the challenge. And, he proved that he was by successfully passing the course.

McLaughlin said UF professors were helpful and accommodating. “Everyone has been willing to put in the time to help me succeed as a student,” he said. “I’ve built some strong relationships with a few of my professors and would consider them mentors.” McLaughlin also made the four-hour trip to Gainesville a few times to meet his professors in person, a practice which he recommends for students with the option to visit campus. One of those mentors is Dr. Brian Ray, Director of the Poe Business Ethics Center and a Senior Lecturer of Leadership and Ethics at the University of Florida.

Ray said UF Online was designed for individuals such as McLaughlin, who pursued excellence both professionally and academically.

“Highly successful in his professional career, Kyle simultaneously wanted to pursue a nationally-ranked undergraduate business education,” he said. “Regardless of endeavor, academic or professional, Kyle clearly demonstrated that concurrent success in both arenas is achievable with hard work and a high degree of motivation.”

Dr. Banko also recognized McLaughlin’s commitment to academics. “Kyle did well by allowing the entire UF Online community assist him in earning his degree. Kyle’s hard work and dedication, along with communicating when needed, lead to his success.”

The diverse group of UF Online students with different ages in McLaughlin’s courses also gave him a variety of perspectives while doing group work and in discussion forums, he said. Some people had extensive work experience while others had none.

McLaughlin’s UF academic advisor and the Associate Director of the Warrington College of Business’s online program, Kari Shattuck, said McLaughlin’s “greatest attribute is the value he places on building personal relationships.” “This was evident in the time and energy he spent getting to know me, his professors, and classmates --- he made multiple trips to campus to visit us in person and volunteered as an online mentor to our incoming students despite his busy work and travel schedule.”

Choosing the online pathway to earn his degree was certainly challenging, but McLaughlin said he would do it all over again. “I’ve had the opportunity to accumulate four years of work experience and to mature as a professional. I feel like I’ve pushed myself ahead of peers my age,” he said. “I would have done it earlier if I could have.”

Now a proud graduate from the University of Florida, the academic adventure continues for McLaughlin, who has applied to MBA programs at Columbia University and Rice University.

“It’s a great achievement,” he said. “But I haven’t reached the finish line yet.”

McLaughlin plans to continue working full time while he pursues his MBA and after he graduates, he plans to work in management or logistics, or perhaps move toward entrepreneurship. But wherever he goes in life, he’ll go as a Gator graduate.

“I’m really fortunate to be a Gator. It’s been a great experience.”

Photos submitted by Kyle McLaughlin.


With a UF business administration degree, you will be equipped with the knowledge you need to succeed in graduate school as well as a wide array of business-related careers. Learn from some of the nation’s top professors at the nationally recognized Warrington College of Business, ranked 17th in the Best Undergraduate Business Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2017.

Ranked among the top 5 online undergraduate programs in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, UF Online offers 20 majors across a variety of disciplines, seven minors, and dedicated academic advisors to help students design their own academic pathway. Degree programs are continually being added. Visit our Degrees page to learn more about our degrees. Apply now and start your journey to graduation.