Fritz Porter would be the first to admit he's a man with lots of questions, but he just happens to have answers, too. Just 16 months after starting Southern Oregon University's online Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Finance, he'll complete the program in March 2021.
He has held a 4.0 GPA throughout the program. He also scored nationally in the top 7% on the MBA Major Field Test (MBA MFT).
"Many major MBA programs in the United States require their MBA graduates to take the test," Porter said. "It compares you against your peers, so you can see where you rank and how your school is doing. Apparently, SOU is doing something right."
While pursuing his degree, Porter is working in California as a quality manager for a custom engineering and manufacturing firm specializing in the design and fabrication of vacuum chambers and components for aerospace, research, semiconductor, and specialized manufacturing industries in the private and public sectors.
"I am busy, and I knew it would be difficult to make time for this, but I applied myself to the program and prioritized my learning. It taught me even better time management skills, which has made me more effective in both my professional and personal life," he said.
Friends and family questioned why he wanted to pursue another degree considering how busy he was, but he pointed them toward the old adage, "If you want to get something done, give it to the busiest person you know."
Path to Perfection
Porter grew up in a logging community in northern Idaho and initially went to trade school to become an HVAC technician.
"My dad is an electrician and an excellent one at that. I come from a long line of tradesmen and did not consider higher education as an option when I graduated from high school," he said. "I enrolled in a local trade school at a community college where I met an amazing instructor who opened my eyes to what other possibilities were out there."
After graduating from the HVAC program, he enrolled at the University of Idaho where he completed a Bachelor of General Studies with a minor in geology in 2011.
"I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I grew up," he said. "I did know that I would regret it if I did not pursue a bachelor's degree and always wonder, 'What if?'"
Having interned in area mines during his undergraduate studies, Porter became a geologist for a gold company. Despite completing a world-renowned training program and working for a reputed employer, though, he knew he was still yearning for something more.
"I had spent considerable time as a subject matter expert who specialized in contextual technical problems and found out that my real passion was in overall system improvement, strategic planning and some of the other more business-related pieces," he said.
His love of learning would lead him to become a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, a Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence (CMQ/OE) and a selected member of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners. But he felt there was still something missing: an MBA.
"I decided I'd like to validate my diverse experience and tie it all up in a nice package. So, I enrolled in the MBA program," he said.
He chose to focus on finance as his concentration since that was an area where he had a unique interest and the most questions. He chose the online program at SOU so he could keep working and focus on school over the weekends and at night. Since he was living on the West Coast, he wanted to go to a school that was local and well-known in the area.
Tough to Pick Favorites
As an online learner, Porter found his instructors to be responsive and helpful. He was able to start applying what he learned immediately in his role at work.
"Honestly, every professor I've had has been amazing. I have emailed my professors nonstop. I asked every question you can imagine. They've always made time to get back to me. They've taken a personal interest in my success," he said. "I was looking for an excellent MBA program to validate my knowledge and bolster my weak points, and I found a lot more at SOU. I mean it when I say that it has been a transformational experience.
"This program has answered those lurking questions that were previously my weak points. It's helping me so much in my current role. I've really grown in my business acumen and become a more effective and confident person."
There were numerous courses that he found pivotal, and he especially enjoyed the mentorship of Dr. René Ordoñez.
"He shared his impressive research and experience in MBA 514: Strategic Operations Management and continues to mentor and guide me with a genuine interest in my success as I near the end of the MBA program," Porter said.
Not Just About the Numbers
Working through the MBA program gave Porter a sense of purpose and fulfillment, especially while the pandemic slowed down other parts of his life.
"When you look at the return on investment of an MBA, you should never get stuck on the numbers. And I hate saying that as a soon-to-be MBA in finance graduate, but it isn't all about the numbers. The confidence you get out of it, the upward mobility you have in your current role, the ability to change industries, the ability to future-proof your career is just priceless," he said."It is knowing that you'll never have to be passed up for an opportunity because you don't have that MBA or the elusive and valuable knowledge held by those who have attained this terminal degree. You have it, and you earned it."
When Porter isn't working or studying, he and his wife, Robin, enjoy hiking. She inspired him to further his education and get his concentration in finance, as she herself is a successful financial analyst.
"My ultimate career goal is to still like what I do when I'm ready to retire and not want to retire," he said. "That's what I want. I want to not stop learning. I want to continue to generate value for me, for my company and for everyone whose life I touch."
Learn more about the SOU online MBA program with a Concentration in Finance.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.