Unexpected paths culminate in memorable family milestone

Tuesday, May 14, 2024
Leni and Michelle Lemos sit outside of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.

Leni and Michelle Lemos sit outside of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics. The mother-daughter duo are both graduating from MBA programs at UNH and will walk together at the May 17 commencement ceremony.

When Michelle Lemos enrolled in UNH’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in the spring of 2020, she meticulously planned her academic journey, aiming for a May 2024 graduation. Little did she know her daughter, Leni, would be joining her at the ceremony –?not just as a guest, but as a fellow graduate from the full-time MBA program. ??

This unique dual graduation was sparked by an unexpected twist in Leni’s career plans. ?

“It’s definitely an experience,” Michelle reflects. “How often does a parent-child pair graduate doing the same thing? I think it's great.” ?

Two Different Paths to UNH ??

Michelle, who lives in Barrington, worked in administrative support at New Hampshire Sea Grant, located on the UNH campus, for more than 10?years and strongly desired to grow her career with the organization. ? ?

“I was at a place where I just kind of maxed out what I could do, and I didn't necessarily want to leave because I love my job. But I wanted to do a different kind of work, and I always gravitated toward?data, marketing?and reporting,” Michelle says. ??

She identified the information system and business analytics option within the online UNH MBA program and enrolled after discussing career growth with her boss. ??

Leni graduated from Middlebury College in 2023 with a degree in economics and a minor in environmental studies. She initially had a job lined up with an energy consulting firm in Boston, but her start date kept getting pushed back, and the opportunity eventually fell through. ??

“Since my mom was going to UNH, my dad suggested that I look into UNH programs, and I found the one-year MBA,” Leni says. “Economics is very interdisciplinary, and the MBA allowed me to focus on more business-specific classes. I wanted to learn more about business, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a master’s degree.”

Leni is also focusing on the information systems and business analytics option and is obtaining a UNH carbon footprinting certificate online. ?

Finding Their Place in the MBA Program

For Michelle, returning to school, even online, required a period of adjustment due to the intense study schedule.

“It was strange at first taking tests again and reading and writing papers,” Michelle says. “But I mostly enjoyed it. Probably because going back to school and learning was on my terms. No one forced me to do it. It was because I wanted to learn.” ??

Leni faced a separate set of challenges in the accelerated full-time MBA program. The pace was brisk, with four classes packed into shorter terms. ?

“It was an adjustment from my last semester as an undergrad,” Leni says. “I found the cohort model useful, especially the first term when we all took the same four classes. That allows you to bond with classmates and work in groups.” ??

A Unique Dynamic ? ?

As soon as Leni enrolled in the full-time MBA program, Michelle realized that their graduation dates would align, and it quickly became a fun discussion among family and friends. ?

“I think her first reaction was to roll her eyes,” Michelle jokes.?

Leni says the unique dynamic came up a few times in discussions with her classmates. ?

“We would sometimes discuss elective courses, and I would say, ‘Oh, my mom is in that class,’ or someone would ask me, ‘Is your mom’s name Michelle?’” Leni says. “Any time that I would mention that we were graduating together, the reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so cool.’” ?

Even though the pair were never in a class together, they still embraced a shared experience, often coming together to communicate about their workload, discuss their courses and instructors, swap books and carpool onto campus for work and school.

“I actually got to drive her to her first day of school at UNH, which was unique for us because I never drove her to high school because she was boarding at Phillips Exeter,” Michelle says. “We drove into school together the first couple weeks as she was getting acquainted with the campus, and then she made friends and didn't want to drive with me anymore.” ??

Leni credits her mother with a crucial last-minute save regarding her graduation attire. ??

“I missed the cap and gown ordering deadline, and she was able to pull through for me,” Leni says. “I heard that you could get some at the bookstore, so I texted her because I didn’t know where the bookstore was. She got it for me because she knew my busy schedule.” ??

Future Aspirations After Graduation ??

For the Lemos family, this year’s graduation is just one of several momentous occasions in a busy period. Last year, Leni graduated from college and her younger brother from high school. Next year, the streak will continue with her sister’s college graduation. ??

“We’ve had fun with it,” Michelle says. “For me, it was already going to be a major accomplishment. Having my daughter with me makes it especially memorable.” ??

Even though things didn’t work out as initially planned, Leni says she is grateful to have gone through this experience with her mother. She also acknowledges that things may have worked out for the best because she gained a more significant business understanding that she hopes will translate into a renewable energy and sustainability career. ? ?

Leni just started a seasonal job as the sustainability manager for Live Nation Entertainment at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, New Hampshire.

“With my high school and undergrad experiences, I was sort of only seeing this one path: you graduate, move to a city, and get a job in consulting and investment banking, and that's what I saw many of my friends doing,” she says. “But being at UNH opened my eyes to multiple opportunities. I could still work in a city, but there are also jobs in sustainability locally.” ?

Michelle is transitioning to a new role with NH Sea Grant, where she has taken on more responsibilities and is working closely with executives. ??

“Maybe we should go together to get our Ph.D's,” Michelle jokes. ??