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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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March 30, 2016

Wally Ward: From Alaska to Nebraska with an Online MBA

Wally Ward wanted to find a way to contribute more to his team while working in the oil industry. Living in Kenai, Alaska, he decided to pursue an online MBA program. By opening the whole country to his selection process, Ward discovered Nebraska, where he found the perfect combination of a great school and educational value.

“In looking at online options, rankings were important,” Ward said. “I wanted a school that was well regarded, and professionally let me move into financial management. My undergraduate degree in engineering was great on the technical side but extremely light on finance.”

He also explored the value of an MBA from Nebraska versus earning a master’s degree in engineering.

“Engineers told me they never got back the wages they spent in the two years it took them to get their master’s in engineering. I earned my MBA from UNL while I was still working,” he said.

Ward in his home state of Alaska
Ward in his home state of Alaska
Ward thrived in local coffee shops in Kenai and neighboring Subotna during the two years he earned his MBA. He stayed late at work to get everything completed but enjoyed himself at the same time.

“As undergraduate engineering students we had a chip on our shoulder because our workload seemed greater than anyone else,” he said. “The MBA workload ended up being tougher than I expected but it met my expectations by being fun and challenging. It was different than my regular work I’d been doing in the oil industry.”

His greatest fulfillment came when his studies in the MBA program suddenly came to life in his job.

“Before my MBA experience at Nebraska, all my focus had been on the engineering side of things,” Ward said. “Then, one day I was sitting in a budget planning meeting looking at our assets for the next year. I had an aha moment where I could finally see the big picture and consider things from which projects add the most value. Seeing that the first time was very cool.”

Ward is certain his 2012 MBA degree was instrumental in helping him obtain his current position of senior facilities development engineer with ConocoPhillips in Anchorage, Alaska. He believes he now has a better understanding of corporate strategy and the importance of project economics in this financially constrained world.

“I’m currently on a team that preps project economics and takes them to the decision board to get the thumbs up or thumbs down,” he said. “The engineers in our group do a fine job, but having the finance background helps me understand things better by seeing the big financial picture.”

Ward, who was named Top 40 Under 40 in Alaska by the Alaska Journal of Commerce, has only one regret -- never having had the opportunity to visit the UNL campus.

“The people at Nebraska are topnotch. It made for a very collaborative online experience where I learned a lot about many fields of business. If I lived closer to Lincoln, I’d definitely want to spend some time on campus,” Ward said.