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.

5 Ways a MBA Program Has Upped My Social Game

Organizational Network: The Social Impact of an MBA by Michael Cooper

1. An effective organizational network breeds inspiration

If you ask me, I’d say I’m paying for inspirational moments that I wouldn’t have experienced if I hadn’t pursued an MBA. This is an environment in which you are listening to multiple perspectives, and it can have a huge impact on a career path.

2. You will meet professionals that work in multiple different industries

The value of meeting people who work across multiple industries which include healthcare, accounting, government, and supply chain management is extremely educational in itself. Every night in class, I have a chance to understand these different perspectives on the course material, and because of this it’s like having multiple professors teaching me at one time.

3. When everyone on the team wants to learn, you have a winning team

My environment is what influences me to be the person I am, and by surrounding myself with an eclectic organizational network of professionals that want to be educated, I’m building an unbelievable foundation that I can always fall back on.

4. Constructive criticism is a great way to learn

In our cohort we challenge each other. We are constantly in situations where we have to compare performances with one another whether it be related to presentations, group work, knowledge of the material, or more. Being critical is important to grow, and as long as you have an organizational network that wants each other to succeed, there is no reason that criticism wouldn’t be constructive.

5. Ultimately, you’re making life long friendships

This is going to sound corny, but we’re more than just a network. We’re a family. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses, and an effective organizational network knows how to utilize each member to the best of their abilities.

Michael Cooper resides in Portland, Oregon but calls Saint Louis, Missouri home. His undergraduate degree was obtained at Westminster College and he is currently completing his first year at Willamette University (MBA). He enjoys learning about global business, traveling, and hiking.

Interview with Ashley Nixon, Ph.D., SPHR: Tips for finding your ideal self

What are the challenges people face when attempted to identify their
ideal selves?

Biggest challenge – Making themselves do it. Most students tell me they resented having to go through the analysis, dreaded it, avoided it, but then were appreciative for the insights after they had finished. It is not necessarily natural or comfortable to be that introspective.  

What are some tools that can be used to help someone track their
progress towards this ideal self (e.g. vision boards, flow charts,

Whatever tools work! I’m a big advocate for doing something, and incrementally improving until you have a plan that works for you. Also, Re-doing the analysis every few years can help you identify and incorporate changes. 

I imagine there are some folks who would argue, “why do I need to find
my ideal self, I know who I am!”  How would you address an individual
in this category to help them see the importance of the exercise?

If you know who you are, then this should be an easy exercise! I tend to see more half-hearted analyses than verbal complaints about the exercise. That’s a bummer, I’d rather have the opportunity to help someone find a way to make the exercise valuable than to see it become a missed opportunity.  

Have you ever written about your ideal self?  Did it change the
direction you were headed?  Be that career changes, personal changes,
and/or any effect on interpersonal relationships?

Yes! I did mine several years (I should probably update it at some point, but I do reflect on it every time I teach LEAD). I found some of the exercises very challenging, others unexpectedly insightful. Completing it had a very positive impact on my career confidence. Particularly as a young faculty member, it was great to see results that supported my career choices. It has also been helpful when new opportunities arise – does this align with my ideal self? Does is augment what I’m currently doing, or does it detrack? 

Is it ever too late to find your ideal self?

No – and it evolves as we do, so the joy and reward can be in the pursuit.  

Supposing there are long term goals that need to be worked towards,
how do you stay motivated in attaining your ideal self, are there any
tricks you can share?

One, long term goals always require short term goals so we can team an exciting visions with regular victories. Things that I try to do regularly: acknowledge and celebrate what I have accomplished (even if it’s not as much as I would have liked), be kind to myself when I fail to live up to my expectations (berating myself accomplishing nothing – concentrate on what to do differently next time), be okay with revisions (hopefully, we find new things in life to be passionate about as we experience it), and think about what I am grateful for and excited about everyday (you be surprise how much energy and joy this can create).

Lastly, any general advice you would share to those engaging, or
thinking of engaging, in an Ideal Self exercise?

Develop a purpose that is uniquely your own! Do the exercises, integrate them, and be accountable to someone for the analysis – the real rewards are in integrating those results into a full picture. Use that to come up with a development plan, so you can start taking small steps to get to where you want to be.

Ashley Nixon is an Associate Professor of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior at Atkinson Graduate School of Management. She teaches courses in human resources and organizational dynamics, HR principles and practices, training and development, and compensation and rewards.

Wall-ee visits the Willamette MBA Portland campus

The cuddliest dog in Portland’s Pearl District visits with MBA students as they attend a Tuesday evening corporate finance class.

First, Wall-ee is provided a warm welcome by MBA student, Misael.
Wall-ee prepares for the night’s lesson by skimming the assigned reading.

Wall-ee listens intently to the lecture with his new friend, Lacie.
Time for a break. This seems like a good spot!
Wall-ee explains how to calculate net present value to Carla.
Class is over-time to hit the books!

Finding Your Ideal Self

Imagine your ideal self.  Without Googling what that means, what does that mean to you?  What do you see of your ideal self, what are your values and vision?  What do you think of where you are now?  Where do you want to go?  Have you reached your ideal self, or is there much more work to put in?  And, if so, where and what work do you need to put in to get there?

              Sometimes thinking about who you are and where you want to go is a difficult task to undertake.  No one likes to criticize themselves, let alone recognize and acknowledge you are not where you want to be. 

              This brief set of links serve as an introduction to a formal paper that most business students create during their studies.  These questions and more to help you in the exercise of finding your ideal self.  At the top of each section header you will find links or information that will better inform your input.

Who, Are, You?:  Get to Know Yourself!

Personality Tests: Find time in your day to take the below personality tests, even if you have taken them before, do it again, it’s always good to get a new baseline:

DISC Test:

16 Personalities:

Create A Bucket List: Take twenty minutes and create a bucket list, a great template and site can be found below:

Answer these question:
if you won the lottery today, what would you do in the span of one week; in one month; one year; five years; ten years?

Why might these items be important to finding your ideal self? Comment below with your thoughts!