Andrew Braugh has spent his career making a difference in the world while working for conservation-focused nonprofit organizations.
Now, the regional director for California Trout is deep into new waters. Braugh is enrolled in the Master of Business Administration online program at Southern Oregon University. He plans to graduate in 2020.
"I chose the MBA program because I love my job," he said. "I believe in California Trout, and I wanted to bring new, complementary skill sets to this great organization so that I could effect change on a larger level throughout the state."
Braugh has worked for California Trout since 2007. He spent four-plus years as a conservation manager before being promoted to director of the Shasta-Klamath Region in October 2014 in his second stint with the organization.
"I've learned over the years that translating charitable dollars into real, tangible, quantifiable environmental impact is challenging," Braugh said. "There are so many competing interests, not just for limited natural resources like water, but also for human resources and the committed individuals that have the wherewithal to create change on a large scale."
The effort to make those dollars the most effective spearheaded Braugh's return to higher education for a second master's degree.
"The MBA program at SOU is giving me the skills and the knowledge that I need to help build and run an organization that can address the environmental issues of our time, like water management, energy demand, and even climate change,'' he said.
Braugh, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, initially started the master's degree program on campus until it became available online.
"I have a full-time job and a family, so I needed that flexibility of the online program," he said. "It does an excellent job of providing all of the information, instructions and material that you need. It's all right there at your fingertips, and there's no wasted time commuting, getting to class or parking your car."
Making a Splash
After Braugh graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from Western Washington University, he earned a master's in nonprofit management from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Braugh went to work for California Trout as a conservation manager straight out of graduate school in 2007.
"I've always been fascinated with rivers and fish since I was a kid,'' he said. "In college, I traveled and became interested in policy and international economic development work. The work we do at California Trout combines my passion for policy, economics and conservation. Conservation work requires a deep understanding of how people interact with the landscape — economically, culturally and socially."
Braugh built his experience working for several other organizations before returning to California Trout. He considered several university options while researching MBA programs.
"I looked around the state and along the west coast, but the MBA at SOU is the best fit for me geographically and financially," he said.
He considers community involvement vital for nonprofit professionals.
"Going to a school that was in my community and in the geographic location where I try to solve problems was important to me," said Braugh, who lives just an hour south of SOU.
Not attending classes on campus saves Braugh travel time, but he still feels strongly connected to SOU through the online program.
"I found that the interaction with your professors and your classmates might even be better than it ever was before," he said. "It's an efficient and well-organized way to learn. The faculty responds immediately when you have questions. Students share ideas and work collaboratively on projects through discussion forums and interactive online networks. It's a great program."
Plus, the online format allows Braugh to do schoolwork whenever it best fits into his schedule.
"It's definitely something that you can do if you sit down and develop the discipline to study each night," he said. "It's also something that you can manage with your full day-to-day workload. It's a huge challenge but with objectives and goals, I have found it to be really rewarding."
So far, MBA 516: Managerial Accounting for Decision Making and MBA 585: Financial Management Practices have been the two most compelling and beneficial courses to Braugh.
"Coming from the nonprofit sector, if you don't know how to analyze financial statements and understand business processes, it's a huge disadvantage," he said. "The fundamental business skills of finance, marketing, and information systems have been applicable immediately in my line of work."
Although Braugh has several months remaining in the online MBA program, he already sees the significant impact it has made on his career.
"The nonprofit sector is filled with passionate, committed individuals who want to change the world," he said. "But we need the technical skills and business sensibilities offered through SOU's MBA program if we're going to get anything tangible done on the ground."
Braugh believes he has achieved a greater understanding of how to use those tools.
"If we really want to effect change on a meaningful scale, we need to think deeply about how we build organizations to attract the best people, to address the toughest challenges and to compete for the biggest grants to fund our work," he said.
Once Braugh completes the program, he hopes to continue enjoying the environment he has spent so much of his life protecting and preserving.
"Southern Oregon and Northern California are two of the most beautiful places on earth," he said. "I absolutely love living here. The community is fantastic. The natural resources are unparalleled, there are world-class fly fishing rivers everywhere you look. This region in particular generates a huge volume of source water from volcanic aquifers under Mount Shasta and Medicine Lake. How we manage this water affects people, industry and the environment throughout California. Thinking about water at this level is complex, but I am driven by looking for constructive solutions that balance the State's needs."
Braugh is already glad he committed to earning an MBA at SOU to continue making California Trout better.
"The program is a lot of work, and you have to be committed, but the way that it's structured and laid out, along with the guidance provided by the professors and the resources available, ensures that anybody can do it. Despite having a huge workload already, my experience has been really rewarding and meaningful."
Learn more about the SOU online MBA program.
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