Military Veteran Mike Van Sickle Sharpens Business Skills in Online MBA Program

When Mike Van Sickle concluded a successful five-year stint in the United States Army, he found himself in a different kind of company.

“As I was transitioning from my previous career in the military into this new world, I wanted to get a better understanding to fuel my success in a new industry and develop my business acumen,” he said. “That’s why I started looking at going back to school.”

Van Sickle wasted no time. He graduated from the online Master of Business Administration program at Boise State University in August 2020.

“I started working for Amcor, which is a global packaging manufacturer, after my Army career finished in 2017,” he said. “They have a program that takes high-performing military officers and gives them practical experiences in a three-year rotation. I did one year each in different critical roles.”

Less than one year after graduating from Boise State, Van Sickle started a new role as a marketing manager in the same firm and now lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

He moved several times because of the nature of the work program. He and his wife, Danielle, had their daughter, Blair (2), while he was in the online MBA program. They also have a son, Leonidas (4).

“There was no way I could go in person,” he said. “I had two little kids and a busy schedule, so I needed it to be flexible for me. That’s why I was looking at the online format.

“I landed on Boise State because I wanted a program at an accredited, major university that would be flexible, affordable and practical in the coursework. That’s how I made the decision.”

Fall In

Van Sickle grew up in a military family in New Era, Michigan. He followed suit by graduating with honors with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2012. He also competed on the Black Knights crew team.

“My dad, Jim, was a career Army officer who also went to West Point,” he said. “I have a brother, Jeff, who is 12 years older, who also went to West Point and into the military. I grew up looking up to both of them.”

After serving his country in Anchorage, Alaska, and Fort Benning, Georgia, Van Sickle landed a position as a process engineer at the Bemis Company, which was bought out by Amcor in 2019.

He could retain what he was learning in the online program because he could turn around and apply it to his job right away.

“In my coursework, the projects or topics I came up with on the discussion boards were relevant to my work and problems I was dealing with on a daily basis. It was very applicable,” he said.

Marketing Strategy was Van Sickle’s favorite course in the online MBA program.

“That course tied the whole program together for me and helped me understand that marketing plays a key role,” he said. “I moved into a marketing position a few months ago, so I chose to move my career in that direction for that reason.

“Design Thinking and Strategic Management piqued my interest in business strategy and thinking through the value chain model. Both Corporate Finance and Managerial Accounting were the nuts and bolts that helped me understand the business financial piece in greater detail and allowed me to be more successful.”

At Ease

Van Sickle, who enjoys playing rugby in his free time, continues to reap the benefits of earning an MBA online from Boise State. He is grateful for the support of his family and friends in his return to higher education.

He capped — and gowned — the experience by walking in the May 2021 commencement ceremony in Boise. COVID-19 led to the cancellation of last year’s ceremonies.

“If you are in a situation like mine, it’s important to have your spouse on board and have the right support,” he said. “It was a lot of work for my wife, too, but she was definitely supportive.”

“You also have to be disciplined. There is a lot of flexibility, but there’s also a weekly cadence of work. Most people looking at the program are working professionals, so time management is important.”

For Van Sickle, the ability to dictate his time to completion in the program was also a key to his success as an online student.

“I took one class at a time, which was the right workload for me as a working professional,” he said. “Doing it straight through worked for me — I didn’t take any major breaks.”

With an MBA on his resume, Van Sickle believes the sky is the limit in his career. He has no doubt that enrolling at Boise State was a four-star decision.

“Now that I am on the other side of it, I know that it was very worthwhile,” he said. “I got the education I wanted out of it, but it also advanced my career in the direction I was looking to go.”

Learn more about Boise State’s online MBA program.

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