Just a ‘couple’ of MBAs: Stafford’s Holts juggle family, jobs to earn graduate degrees

by | May 11, 2024 | ALLFFP, Events, University of Mary Washington

As she pursued her masters in business administration from the University of Mary Washington, Patricia Holt had to juggle classes, her full-time job as a recruiter and parenting three children — including a newborn who arrived midway through her time in the graduate program. 

The one thing she didn’t have to worry about? Finding a partner for group projects.  

For that, Holt could depend on her husband Alex, who pursued an MBA right alongside her. The Stafford couple — who also celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary recently — crossed the stage in close succession Saturday during UMW commencement as the culmination of their shared academic journey.  

“It was kind of like having a built-in study buddy,” Alex Holt said. “When I didn’t understand something, Patty typically had a pretty good grasp of it. So we were able to bounce ideas off each other.” 

Patricia Holt had always wanted to pursue an MBA, and after she gained acceptance into UMW’s program, Alex approached her with a tempting hypothetical: “What if we did it together?” 

The Holts started UMW’s MBA program in early 2021 after working out agreements with their respective employers to pay for the advanced degree. They took one class at a time, with their studies consisting of a mix of asynchronous and in-person instruction at UMW’s main and Stafford campuses. 

The couple’s shared household responsibilities extended to the academic realm. When taking an asynchronous class, they’d take turns watching the kids and watching Zoom videos. Then, once bedtime passed, they’d compare notes.  

On nights when the couple had to be on campus, Alex’s parents provided childcare. 

“It was a lot of time management,” Patricia Holt said. “Keeping in mind we have a goal, we have obstacles, how are we going to work around this and remove obstacles?” 

One previously unforeseen challenge arose when Holt became pregnant last year. Perhaps her most vivid memory from the program has her standing in front of an information management systems class to make a presentation while nine months pregnant. 

“One of my classmates took a picture,” recalled Holt, “She said, ‘You’re going to want to look back at this.’” 

Zach Fox met the Holts during a Thursday evening in-person class that ran from 6-9 p.m. 

“Which is kids’ bedtime,” he noted. “I can’t imagine.” 

Fox said the Holts, with whom he quickly became friends, “were always together. You’d never see one without the other.” 

That was also the case on Saturday morning, as the couple finished what they started how they started — together. Neither Holt divulged plans to start a family business anytime soon, though each said the experience will aid them in their current roles, leading either to promotions or future opportunities.  

They left Fredericksburg on Saturday afternoon with a pair of shared keepsakes: photos for the family album and matching lines on the education headers of their resumes.  

“That’s definitely an accomplishment to look back and say we did it together,” Patricia Holt said. 

Added Alex: “It was hard work, but it’s certainly rewarding work. Just being able to have the kids see that we can be this busy and still accomplish something.” 

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