Forging a new path after an early disappointment
Lars-Christian Berg-Hanssen seemed destined to become a professional footballer. Both his father and uncles played professionally in his native Norway, and he was well on his way to joining them. But when Lars-Christian was an academy player for his local club, his career came to an abrupt halt – before it had even begun.
“I have a dad and uncles who all played professionally and for the Norwegian national team,” he says. “That’s also what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t able to. I had to quit a little early because of some heart problems, unfortunately.” (01:20)
Undeterred, Lars-Christian set about forging a new path for himself. He completed an undergraduate degree in journalism and briefly worked in the industry, but “got tired of writing about what other people did, instead of doing something myself.” (01:44)
His next step was a leap into the unknown. Looking to merge his interest in sport with a developing business acumen, Lars-Christian sought advice from SONOR (Study Outside of Norway). SONOR is an organization in his home country that – you guessed it – helps Norwegians to study outside of Norway. His criteria was simple: a university with a good sports management program, a good business school, and good weather.
From the Arctic Circle to the Sunshine State
SONOR came up with an option that seemed to tick all of those boxes: The University of Tampa. It was such a perfect fit that within a month, Lars-Christian had accepted an offer from the university. He was going from the Arctic Circle to the Sunshine State.
After arriving in the United States, he found a large and diverse group of international students at the university. It really helped him to settle in during his first few months.
“The main part where I really had to challenge myself was to adapt to the culture when I first got here. And it took me a while. A lot of the people that I first started spending time with were other international students, because there’s a big group of international students at the University of Tampa, and they do a really good job of integrating them,” he explains. (04:20)
Lars-Christian moved away from home at the age of 18 and has since lived in various cities across Norway, so he’s used to new faces and new environments. But he maintains that having a strong support network was a big reason why the transition from Norway to the USA was a smooth one.
“I talked to my family at least every other day…[so] for me, the transition wasn’t as hard as it might be for other people,” he tells us. “But as I said, I have some great support at home and found some great friends, and it worked out well for me.” (05:07)
An MBA that doesn’t require any work experience
One of the unique features of the Tampa MBA is that students don’t need any work experience to be accepted into the program. That makes it more comparable to a business master’s degree – such as a MiM – in terms of entry requirements. Lars-Christian sees this approach as proof that the school invests and believes in its students, comparing it to professional sport.
“It really feels like to get into an MBA program, you shouldn’t have to have work experience,” he says. “You should be at a program that invests in you and believes in you, and believes that hey, even though you don’t know these things right now, we can teach you.” (08:48)
“[It’s like] football, or American football, or basketball,” he adds. “They can’t teach you to become tall or the strongest person in the world, but they can teach you the fundamentals and the basics and how to succeed. I think that’s [how] the University of Tampa views it as well.” (09:07)
An inclusive MBA that’s open to all
By removing the need for work experience, the University of Tampa is also removing one of the biggest barriers to doing an MBA. But its commitment to an inclusive MBA doesn’t stop there. The program is also highly flexible, allowing students to fit it around their other commitments in life.
“They let you pick and choose based on what kind of run you want to go through with the MBA program, to tailor it to whatever needs you have. Also, if you have certain responsibilities outside class, they tailor it to make sure that [it fits around your schedule],” Lars-Christian explains. (11:56)
Unlike most other MBA programs, the Tampa MBA doesn’t have a fixed cost. Instead, students take between eight and 14 credits per semester, depending on the modules they want to study. It means that the program can vary greatly in price. Eight credits costs around $5,000, while 14 credits cost roughly $9,000.
“The way they set up the school fees is that you pay for every credit you take…for me, [my final semester] is going to cost me a little bit north of $9,000, so it’s cheaper than the undergrad program that I took. It’s actually one of the most affordable and better MBAs you can take,” Lars-Christian says. (19:50)
Lars-Christian’s journey to business school may not have been a traditional one, but this isn’t a traditional MBA. It’s an MBA disguised as a master’s. By believing in the potential of its students, the University of Tampa is breaking down barriers that might have prevented people like Lars-Christian from studying here.
His journey demonstrates the value of investing in your students. Although his destiny may once have seemed to be in professional football, the new path he has forged shows it’s never too late to change course.