After more than 15 years in the Idaho Air National Guard, Jason Thomas hopes to transition into a full-time position in the private sector. So, he enrolled in the Master of Business Administration online program at Boise State University and is on track to graduate in December 2019.
"The main reason I wanted to go back for an MBA was to optimize my career potential and develop my future professional impact," Thomas said. "I wanted to increase my career marketability and, obviously, to learn."
Thomas has already done plenty of those things. The Rigby, Idaho, native recently participated in the Annual Google Veterans MBA Summit, spending two days at the company headquarters in Mountain View, California, in August 2019.
"It was a great experience," Thomas said. "There were 47 people who attended — all veterans and MBA students. Google held Q&A panel discussions and had a career fair. We were also able to tour the amazing Google Campus. I applied to this opportunity on my own. I saw it and said, 'I am going to put in for it. You never know.'"
The trip provided Thomas with a firsthand look at a possible career path in the technology sector to take after graduation. He also completed an internship at Zions Bank in Boise while enrolled in the online MBA program.
"I don't have a specific role that I am looking for," he said. "Banking and finance would be great, but the tech spectrum is something I would also be interested in doing. I am primarily looking for an organization and culture where I can bring value and impact with my experience and education."
Thomas, who is on hiatus from teaching in the basic skills education department of the GED diploma program at the College of Western Idaho (CWI), has also seen his knowledge base rapidly expand in the online MBA program.
"The most interesting thing is obtaining a broad overview of the different subjects and being able to understand how those relate to on another in a business setting," he said. "I was taking a flight to Italy and ended up sitting next to and striking up a conversation with a vice president of Truckstop, an local IT software service company.
"I didn't have in-depth knowledge or experience with a software services company, but taking the MBA classes, reading the material and understanding it, I was able to have meaningful dialog about the company and what the vice president's role is. Being able to understand all aspects of business is a great part of this MBA program."
The MBA will be the third college degree Thomas will have earned in the last three years. He graduated with an associate degree in economics from the College of Southern Idaho in 2016 and a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership from Idaho State University two years later.
"My family and friends are excited for me earning an MBA," he said. "My wife, Jessica, was a little apprehensive about my decision to go back to school. She said, 'I am not going to see you much,' but she is excited and has been supportive. I have enjoyed taking on this new challenge."
Although Thomas could have enrolled in most any online MBA program, he found everything he was looking for locally at Boise State.
"One of the main things I liked was that it's here in my hometown," he said. "It's also AACSB accredited and offers a competitive price for what the program offers. The overall value of education and opportunity is unrivaled for BSU's MBA program, in the end it was an easy decision.
"Boise State is a reputable school. Throughout my MBA experience I have felt highly connected to the program, other students, faculty, course coaches and my advisor. BSU does a great job at creating an inclusive program with many avenues of student support."
So far, BUSMBA 545: Legal Issues in Business is Thomas' favorite course in the online MBA curriculum.
"I enjoyed the methodology of the course and the pace," he said. "I have not taken a law course previously, but it's something I enjoyed and connected to. The instructor did a great job explaining the material. The reading was insightful on how law is a major component to business and life in general."
The flexibility of the fully online format helps Thomas maintain a busy schedule and make time for schoolwork.
"It's been good to have the flexibility to work, read, watch the videos and do all of the coursework when it works best for me," he said. "That's been phenomenal. My set routine changes with each course block."
Thomas began teaching at CWI in July 2018, while maintaining his positions of training manager, human resource adviser and munitions craftsman in the Idaho Air National Guard, where he has served since 2003.
"I enjoy teaching and being able to pass on my knowledge and experience — especially with the basic skills education students, they are so eager to learn and succeed."
No Doubting Thomas
With graduation day on the horizon, Thomas believes the sky is the limit for what the future has in store for him as an MBA holder and military veteran.
"The information in the program is highly applicable to any industry," he said. "No matter what course it is, you're learning not only the process, but also the result and how it is relevant to the organization and industry on a global scale.
Although Thomas hopes to use what he is learning to forge a new career, he might not be completely through with one of his current roles.
"Those kids that I teach in the GED program need for someone to believe in them and help them," he said. "Further down the road — maybe in 10 years — I might go back into the teaching realm."
For now, Thomas is focused on completing the online MBA program, working full-time and enjoying camping, rafting, skiing and spending time with his family in his free time. It's clear he made the right choice by enrolling at Boise State.
"I 100 percent think this degree will open up a lot of opportunities," he said. "The MBA degree is marketable in any arena of business. I would tell anyone considering the program that they can do it. Be committed and embrace the challenge with a positive attitude. I have gained so much more from the program than I could have ever expected."Learn more about the Boise State online MBA program.
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