Rutgers University–Camden PMBA Graduate Goes Back to School to Learn the Language of Business

Dan Zuccarello will earn his PMBA from Rutgers University-Camden on May 21.

Dan Zuccarello will earn his PMBA from Rutgers University-Camden on May 21.

Dan Zuccarello has just four words to say when asked about his decision to enroll in the professional master of business administration degree program at the Rutgers School of Business–Camden.

“This is my time,” he says, emphatically.

Thirty-five years after earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Delaware, Zuccarello, a Hightstown resident, will graduate from Rutgers University–Camden on May 21 with his PMBA. Zuccarello began to pursue a master’s degree at Rutgers University–New Brunswick shortly after starting a career at General Foods in the 1980s.

“This was 1984-85 and because of my job, family, and kids, I put my degree on hold,” Zuccarello says. “I thought I’d clear some hurdles before I went back to complete my degree. Needless to say, 30 years later, I still hadn’t done that.”

Zuccarello is a manager of the quality control laboratory at global pharmaceutical company Daiichi-Sankyo in Bethlehem, Pa. Despite his success, there was always a missing ingredient.

“I always felt my career was limited because I was only a scientist,” Zuccarello says. “I had no business background and all of my education was in biology and chemistry. I was an analytical chemist for 35 years, but was running a business. I was being asked to handle finance, accounting, and human resources, and I had no background in it. I wasn’t a fish completely out of water, but I wasn’t comfortable.”

Two years ago, Zuccarello received a mailer advertising Rutgers–Camden’s PMBA program.

“Like most people probably do, I just tossed it on the dining room table. It caught my eye one day when I was cleaning up. I read it and saw that the program was one day a week on Saturdays, when I’m usually home by myself anyway. I guess it was a perfect storm,” he says.

Zuccarello attended an information session and was instantly sold on the program by Rutgers School of Business–Camden Dean Jaishankar Ganesh.

“You always wonder if you can do it,” he says. “But I wanted to be part of it. You’re walking into class for the first time in years and you’re wondering if your brain has completely gone to mush. Can you compete with these young professionals? I was like a sponge. It was all new to me and I tried to absorb everything.”

Instantly, Zuccarello began to excel and started to apply what he was learning in class to his everyday job while also becoming a leader to the other professionals in the cohort.

“They never made me feel like the old guy and we could relate to each other as peers,” Zuccarello says. “I don’t have 30 years to look forward to. I’m at the end of my career, so for me, it was about sharing my experience and trying to keep them as motivated as I could.”

He continues, “We were taking classes on business practices and skills, and I was able to go downstairs onto my manufacturing floor and watch it take place in real time. I was able to talk the talk. I was able to say, ‘now I know what that is.’ I wish I had gone back for my degree earlier in my career, but I have a different perspective now that I’m a little older. I probably wouldn’t have gotten as much out of it 30 years ago. It makes sense now.”

Zuccarello says the PMBA experience has opened new doors and after commencement, he hopes to work on an international assignment for his company, which has been a goal since his career began. He also hopes his story inspires other later-career professionals to pursue their master’s degree.

“I’m not done by any stretch of the imagination,” he says. “It was always about the ride, and I’ve enjoyed the ride. I’ve had a blessed time. I’m excited because now I can talk the language of business.”

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