By Griffin Moores
David Wright and his wife, Kathy Wright
When David Wright decided he wanted to go back to school and get an MBA while working full time as a financial services executive, he knew that having his education interrupt his family life wasn’t an option.
He pitched it to his wife, Kathy Wright, like this: I’m going to do this when everybody is asleep; I’m not going to let this get into family time; I’m not going to miss my kids’ games or practices.
Their two sons were 10 and 14 at the time, and David wanted to be present.
Starting his search
Beginning to sort through all his options, the number of choices were overwhelming, but he realized that the time commitment for an on-campus program, with commuting and set class times, would be too difficult to juggle with all his other responsibilities.
“That really left me only one choice,” said David, deciding that he’d have to find an online program capable of meeting his needs.
David was ready to try online classes, but he had questions: Will I learn as much? Will I really be part of the class? How will my school support me?
“I wanted the same degree that everyone else got,” he said.
Applying that standard, the list started to become shorter, and soon he began to focus on Colorado State University. When he asked his questions, the College of Business had answers.
“What was superior was the delivery model, actually viewing lectures – not everyone offered that – being able to see professors, see students,” David said. “I wanted it to be as real-life-classroom like as I could.”
With classroom video capture, strong support from faculty and staff, as well as comprehensive career services in addition to a rigorous and respected degree program, “little by little CSU emerged as the best one,” said David.
Section coordinator Todd Baechle talks with MBA students during an orientation event in August 2016.
The section coordinators for each Online MBA class – made up of Ph.Ds and MBAs with industry experience – stay in constant contact with students to provide fast service to the hundreds of people who can be in each course.
“We take this very seriously, and very personally as well,” said Todd Baechle, who serves as a section coordinator, and received his MBA from the College of Business as an online student in 2010. “You're not going to get someone who's not familiar with the material and the coursework and applying it in real life.”
Getting their rhythm
As classes kicked off, David began to fulfill his promise to Kathy and their children. After dinner, as everyone else in his family was winding down, he would go into his office to watch lectures, study, and take conference calls with his group project teammates.
David went into his first class worried if he could keep up, not having been a student for over 10 years. The course got moving fast, but halfway through he started hitting his stride, settled in, and knew he could get the work done.
Their family maintained strong communication, and support from the college helped lighten the load.
“He was just great about doing his studies,” said Kathy. “If you didn’t know him, you would never even know he was going to school.”
David Wright stands for a photo with his sons during a skiing trip to Crested Butte, Colorado.
“I’m a big believer in being organized,” she said, echoing the same advice she gives to clients in her work as a health coach. “It’s like anything; I think you just have to have a structure.”
When David attended his sons’ football games, that time was his family’s, and he made sure to be present, not glued to a phone or rifling through class notes.
It took a lot of effort, but he never expected it to be easy.
“When you want something bad enough you figure out a way,” said David. “An MBA is not something you kind of dabble in.”
However, help was always nearby.
“I had a terrific section coordinator,” said David. “She was very good at explaining things and breaking those concepts down in a simple fashion where I could get it.”
Putting it into practice
Once he started getting deeper into the curriculum, the connections to his job and industry experiences began to shine through.
In his business development position as a senior vice president, David’s responsibilities range from selling directly to clients, planning strategies to market products, and developing financial models.
The broad scope of the MBA let him tie his existing skills together in a way that he hadn’t been able to before.
“I could do the work and apply it the next day.”
He became the go-to for complex accounting issues and developed competencies most people in his field didn’t have.
“I had a part in really developing some expertise and getting it throughout the organization.”
The last steps
When graduation rolled around, David and his eldest son traveled to Fort Collins for the ceremony, though his wife and younger son were unable to make the trip. Befitting of his degree, they were able to stream the video of the ceremony from their home in Dallas, over 700 miles away, and take comfort in feeling like they were there.
Graduates at the Colorado State University Spring College of Business Commencement in 2016
When David first sought information about the online master’s program he was relieved to hear that his degree wouldn’t say “online” because of how he’d heard people talk about distance education as being less valuable than an on-campus experience.
But after completing the degree he understood why it looked the same as what people who sat in class received: He was there with them, taking part in the same discussions and learning the same material, just from a different perspective. So why would his degree be any different than theirs?
Even though he’s done with classes, things haven’t slowed down too much for David, who’s finding new ways to contribute and be of value to his company.
“I think online had a stigma at some point. I don’t think it does anymore,” David said. “I just wanted to prepare myself for the next step whatever that may be.”
And now he has.