The MBA story: From Farm to Executive Table

MBA Student, Misael Rios, shares his reasons for pursing and MBA.

Growing up as the child of a migrant farm/ranch worker was fascinating.  I enjoyed being with my father as we rode farm equipment and tended to the animals.  As a child, I did not realize the physical abuse it had on my father and why he stressed the importance of an education.

My father’s desire for myself and my siblings to have careers better than what he had instilled a drive and passion in us.  We wanted to make him proud of our accomplishments and wanted to acknowledge the sacrifices he made to ensure our success.

My siblings and I are first born Mexican-Americans.  Navigating the public-school system was not difficult.  Our teachers wanted us to be successful and were able to guide us through the school system towards graduation.  My father was always helpful with answering questions about our homework.  If he was not able to answer questions, he always knew whom to contact to assist him with retrieving the answers. 

My school had a program which assisted seniors with college applications and completing financial aid forms.  I was accepted to Portland State University and like any college student, was excited to move away from home.  My first term at Portland State was, to be blunt, a disaster.  I had no idea how ill-prepared I was for college.  Of no fault of my father, we had no idea how navigate how the university systems in the United States.  My parents were high school dropouts from a foreign country.  After having a terrible fall term at Portland State, I withdrew from school and moved back home.  I felt defeated and was upset I disappointed my father.  Our drive home my father wanted to know how I was feeling.  I told him how sad I was about my failure and did not know what to do.  I was afraid my father would be disappointed and see me as an unsuccessful induvial.  The exact opposite happened, as he praised me for having the courage to do something no one in our family had done and did not see it as a failure, but as a life lesson to learn from and move forward.

Upon my return home, my father had a meeting set up for me to meet one of my former high school teachers who could help me navigate the university system.  I enrolled at the local community college and obtained an associates degree in Emergency Medical Services.  I retuned to school years later to obtain a bachelors degree in Radiologic Science.  My father was present for every graduation and has always been my biggest cheerleader. 

When I told my father, that I was considering going back to school for a Masters in Business Administration, I got a response that surprised me.  He said the life lessons he has taught me thus far in life would be a solid foundation for me as I dared enter the world of administration.  As I researched graduate programs, I discovered the Willamette University MBA program for working professionals.  They offered in class lectures two nights a week and had a cohort system.  Those two things really sold me on the program.  I learn better with in-person interactions and the cohort model would allow me to become intimate with classmates which would help me to become more successful. 

During our first semester, I had to write a paper on my ideal self.  This paper required me to look beyond the superficial desires of my career and really analyze who I wanted to become as an administrator.  This program has also helped me further develop of my soft skills, of which I can use to network with colleagues. 

As, I am nearing the end of my first year in the Willamette MBA program and I can not help but be tremendously grateful for my father’s sacrifice to make sure his children were successful and valued education.  My father, who began is his career as a ranch hand, paved the way for his oldest son to hopefully one day be fortunate enough to have a place at the executive table.

Misael (second from left) with his partner, parents, and siblings.