Couple tackles MBA program together — and with some friendly competition

Drs. Celeste and Ronson Hughes and their daughter, Isabelle, along with their dogs.
Drs. Celeste and Ronson Hughes and their daughter, Isabelle, along with their dogs.

Motivated by a healthy dose of spousal rivalry, Drs. Celeste and Ronson Hughes worked through Mercer’s Master of Business Administration online program together. Graduating with honors on May 15 in Atlanta, the couple’s newest degrees will open the doors to many possibilities for their careers.

Married for nearly a decade, the pair initially met at a trendy Atlanta restaurant, where both were dining alone and ended up sitting together. That dinner led to another date, and they were married less than a year later. They have a daughter, Isabelle, who is now 7 years old, and still live in Atlanta.

The Hugheses are both medical doctors, with Celeste on the research side and Ronson on the patient side. Celeste earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry at Georgia Southwestern State University before going to medical school at St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine in the Philippines. She later completed a Master of Science in Health Informatics and Analytics at George Washington University.

Drs. Celeste and Ronson Hughes and their daughter, Isabelle.
Drs. Celeste and Ronson Hughes and their daughter, Isabelle.

Ronson attended Tulane University for undergrad, majoring in biology, and then Morehouse School of Medicine. He completed a residency in emergency medicine at Emory University and practiced in that area for 15 years before going back to train in surgical critical care at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Pennsylvania. Altogether, he has treated patients in hospitals for more than 20 years.

For Ronson, the MBA degree was a longtime goal. With a father who was a college professor, he grew up loving books and school and always wanted to learn and do more. 

“My intention with the MBA is to make my pivot from being a clinician at the bedside to being a clinician who knows about the bedside well and can translate what doctors at the bedside need into the business world and vice versa,” Ronson said. 

In his research of institutions with MBA programs, it was the price point, location near home, name recognition, credentialing and MBA specialization options that made him choose Mercer. Meanwhile, Celeste thought she was done with her post-graduate work, but Ronson’s interest in an MBA and Mercer led her to apply as well. Celeste had wanted to transfer to Mercer as an undergraduate student but didn’t get to, and she finally had her chance to be a Bear.

“Since day one, the innate nature of being competitive came out,” Celeste said with a laugh. “It became a competition between me and him.”

Upon being accepted to the program, the couple set a challenge to graduate with honors, and both succeeded. Celeste and Ronson were in the same cohort and, therefore, all the same online MBA classes, which were synchronous. Ronson appreciated the accessibility of the professors and the overall presentation and relevancy of the material throughout the program. Celeste said all the classes were applicable to real life and what was happening in the world. 

“I have never looked at the business aspect of things formally,” she said. “It’s always been from a science and health care (standpoint). This was a 180 for us, to learn this part of the world. It was difficult, it was challenging, but we really welcomed the knowledge.”

“The courses themselves, I found that they built on one another, and I think foundationally, I’m seeing things with different eyes that I didn’t have before,” Ronson said. “I’m thankful for that.”

An added bonus of Celeste and Ronson going through this program together is that their daughter has witnessed their educational pursuits firsthand. 

Drs. Ronson and Celeste Hughes and their daughter, Isabelle, by the Jesse Mercer statue.
Drs. Ronson and Celeste Hughes and their daughter, Isabelle, on Mercer’s Atlanta campus.

“Seeing my husband and I work at it, long hours in the night, typing away, studying, doing homework … she really sees how we both appreciate education and how important it is for us,” Celeste said. 

They introduced Isabelle early to academia and travel, taking her to tour their alma maters. She loves school and wants to be a doctor when she grows up. And while Celeste and Ronson have participated in graduation ceremonies before, they wanted to march in the Mercer commencement, so Isabelle could watch them and have those memories to carry with her, Ronson said. 

Now that the Hugheses have completed their MBAs, they will be taking some time to consider their options for the future. For Ronson, that could mean doing consulting work as well as patient care in the hospital, but he hasn’t quite decided yet. Celeste said her master’s degree combined with the MBA should prove beneficial in her job search. 

The beauty of medicine and my medical journey, there are over 135 specialties in medicine. You can almost in real time reinvent yourself in medicine. So, the question is the reinvention. What will it be and what will it look like?” Ronson said.


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Andrea Honaker
Andrea Honaker is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She writes feature stories for The Den and creates and maintains content for primary University web pages. She also plans and executes campaigns for the primary official Mercer University social media accounts.