Meet Kristi Mercer: wife, mom and recently named Project Director of Development for the Institutional Campaign Priority Process at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. Before landing her current position, Mercer decided to go back to school to pursue a Master of Healthcare Administration from ACU Online, hoping to develop her expertise and increase her chances for elite roles within MD Anderson. Check out how Kristi’s experience with online education assisted her in reaching those goals and what influenced her to go back to school!
Encouraged to Pursue Higher Education
The Pasadena, TX native attended the University of Houston, where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration from their Honors College. Mercer started working for MD Anderson in 2004, and after a year, left to run a non-profit. After two years, Mercer returned to her MD Anderson family where she managed research operations and finances for almost seven years.
During this time, Kristi often considered going back to school to earn her master’s degree, but needed that extra push of encouragement to finally enroll. Fortunately, Mercer’s boss at MD Anderson was a big proponent of education and gave her the confidence boost Kristi needed. “I’m really fortunate to work somewhere that supports furthering their employee’s education and provides tuition assistance,” she said. After some convincing, Kristi began searching for a university that aligned with her personal and professional life, leading her to ACU Online.
Connecting with the ACU Community
Prior to enrolling, Kristi did extensive research to find the right program, comparing accreditation, flexibility and pricing between universities. On top of the technicalities of finding a school, the thought of going back always seemed intimidating to Mercer. “I thought I was too old to go back and was anxious about how changes in technology and communication could affect my experience,” she reflected. Mercer’s nerves quickly subsided after connecting with an ACU admissions advisor and having genuine conversations with the advisor to make sure it was a good fit for both her and the university.
Kristi believed choosing an online format rather than attending in-person classes created more enriching opportunities to learn. Her cohort included students from all over the nation with varying backgrounds, providing perspectives of healthcare that she had never been exposed to. In addition to peer interactions, ACU’s seasoned team of professors brought the curriculum to life through their real-world industry experiences which played a significant role during Mercer’s time at ACU. The professors’ practical expertise and application made the material far more personal to both Kristi and fellow students and they often engaged in conversation that went beyond their weekly reading assignments. Her professors’ intentional cultivation of a relationship with her and classmates, even online, stood out to Kristi as a distinctive benefit of ACU Online.
Opportunities for Advancement
After graduating in May of 2021 with a Master of Healthcare Administration, Kristi’s biggest accomplishment was seeing the proud look on her 9-year-old daughter’s face as she crossed the stage to get her diploma. “It was one of the best moments of my entire ACU experience,” she said. At that moment, all the late nights stressing over papers or feeling behind in reading were all worth it. She hopes by leading by example, her daughter will be encouraged to actively pursue her goals and never question if they’re possible.
In the last year, following her graduation, Kristi changed roles within MD Anderson and is now the project director of development for the Institutional Campaign Priority Process. She’d stumbled upon the job opening with no intention of leaving her previous role; but Krist soon found her niche within this new department which intersected with all her previous education, experiences, and passions.
In her new capacity, Mercer is actively helping MD Anderson change the way they distribute philanthropy funds and is creating a new process to evaluate who’s eligible to receive donations through research and fundraising. Kristi is thrilled to be able to serve MD Anderson in new ways that were made possible by her master’s degree.
Whether you have your dream job in mind, or want the flexibility to apply for more experienced positions in the future, earning your master’s degree could help get you there. For more information about our Master of Healthcare Administration, visit acu.edu/online or contact us at 855-219-7300 to find the program that’s the best fit for you.