In today’s society, you are always hearing about the disadvantages of women in the workforce. While many women view the “glass ceiling” as a symbol of defeat, others like Annalise Smith use it as motivation to break through and achieve their full potential.
Instilled with a strong work ethic from a young age, Smith, who grew up in a small suburb 30 miles northwest of Boston, Massachusetts, yearned for experiences and opportunities that existed outside her small town. Attending Florida State University from 1991 to 1995, she pursued a bachelor’s degree in family, child and consumer science. She also pledged Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and participated in various on-campus activities.
“After graduation, I worked two full-time jobs to be able to support myself and stay in Florida. I eventually worked my way through several jobs in long-term care and earned a promotional opportunity that moved me to the Tampa area,” she explained.
Meeting her husband Brent in 1996, the two married in 1998 and moved to Naples, Florida, in 2001. Working as a community relations coordinator with American Retirement Corporation for three years, she started to look for greater opportunities. In 2003, she accepted a position as vice president of business development for Sunshine Pharmacy, Inc.
Establishing herself within the health care field, Smith’s experience in business, marketing and sales led her to accept director and regional director positions at various companies throughout Florida; however, opportunities for greater advancement were not available.
“I have worked very hard throughout my career with constant drive to advance to higher positions. After earning VP positions with multiple companies, I realized higher-level executive opportunities would continue to elude me unless I had a master’s degree. I had hit a glass ceiling,” she said.
Pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at another school, Smith realized she needed a program developed to meet her needs, so she transferred to Hodges and enrolled in the Master of Health Services Administration program in 2015.
“Hodges had a good mix of operations, marketing, human resources, strategic planning and finance courses that allowed me to gain a well-balanced education,” she said. “The program allowed me to reflect on my experiences to date and immediately apply everything I was learning to my current work situation.”
As a busy professional, mother and wife, Smith enjoyed the fully online program, saying, “I found it to offer the flexibility that allowed me to manage my time effectively.” From the comprehensive syllabi provided by her instructors, to the engaging dialog among her classmates through discussion boards, Smith never felt a “lack of interaction.” Although she was unable to participate in campus-based clubs and organizations, she did take advantage of other learning opportunities on campus.
“I did attend several educational programs through the [Frances Pew Hayes] Center for Lifelong Learning as well as the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. Both offered additional opportunities for personal and professional growth,” she said.
While balancing a full-time job, school and family, Smith sought encouragement and support from her husband and two children, Tyler and Lydia. “We all kept perspective that this journey would only be two to three years, and we could sacrifice what was needed to get it done,” she said, and in August 2016, she completed her program and earned her master’s degree.
With one more degree to add to her resume, Smith is prepared to take on new and exciting opportunities. As the vice president of business development at Avow, she has spent the last five years leading the organization’s marketing and outreach professionals. “It is important to me to have a good understanding of all aspects of the business so that I may identify opportunities to support the work of others through my knowledge, experience and extensive network,” she explained.
Since graduating from Hodges, Smith has reconnected with former professors and assisted a Hodges student with a project that enabled him to work with Avow and earn credits toward his master’s degree. This opportunity, she admits, “was a great way to advance my own professional development as well as to mentor another student and give back to the university in some small way.”
“Hodges has prepared me to look beyond the scope of practice I have become very comfortable with throughout my career… My confidence has been boosted, as I know my resume now bears a level of education that will allow future employers to consider me for positions at any level of the hierarchy. Hodges helped me break the glass ceiling that was holding me back.”