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A Q&A with MBA almunus Matthew Folks

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

moving-van-2

With his wife, two dogs, three kids and a baby on the way, Matthew Folks pulled up his roots to move to Boston to start the next chapter of his life.

Matthew Folks

The Oklahoma State University online MBA graduate lived in a blue California home with his wife, Melissa, for seven years before deciding Harvard Law School was the next step in his journey. In his early years, Folks earned his bachelor’s from Brigham Young University, where he met his wife, Melissa, and served the Air Force through the ROTC program. Attending OSU gave Folks the motivation and confidence to pursue his law school dreams.

Read a Q&Amp;A from Matt Folks to learn about how OSU’s online MBA helped him on his journey:

         Where did you get your bachelor’s degree from?

I received my bachelor’s in communications from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. 

         Did you previously serve in the military?

I commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force through BYU’s ROTC program.  I served as a Space Operations Officer (it’s a thing!) for seven years, stationed at Vandenberg AFB, California (half-way between San Francisco and San Diego).  Vandenberg is a launch site for polar orbiting satellites (weather and reconnaissance primarily).  I monitored safety compliance for launch operations for the first few years and taught a “Space 101” class to new officers fresh from college who were also being assigned to the career field.

         Why did you choose OSU for your MBA?

I spent a lot of time searching for a school that was AACSB accredited, offered flexible courses online that would accommodate my work schedule, and that people wouldn’t see on my resume and think “Internet college huh?  That’s nice.”  When I called OSU, the staff were some of the nicest people I have every spoken to and the discounted military tuition was extremely generous.  

          Why did you choose to go the online route verses being a student on campus?

Vandenberg is more than an hour drive from the closest MBA program, a satellite campus of another university that charges more than $1600/credit hour in tuition.

         What was your goal getting an MBA? What did you envision yourself doing once you completed the program?

libraryAt the time, the Air Force expected its officers to earn advanced academic degrees for promotion consideration. But it was also just for me. Before joining the military, I had a sales and marketing background but lacked some accounting and management fundamentals. I think that OSU’s MBA filled in some of those gaps in my resume. I am now more confident in my ability to support businesses through mergers and acquisitions because I understand the financial underpinnings. 

         Where there any professors that had an impact on you?

Coach Rick, hands down, taught the most difficult course that I took was Rick “Coach” Wilson’s Quantitative Methods course. Before an assignment was due, I would take a vacation day from work, start in the morning and then tweak my excel calculations into the evening.  It probably makes me a nerd but I was so excited to see the outcome. I learned how to optimize business operations to increase sales, decrease man hours, and optimize daily output. I didn’t realize how much had stuck until I found myself tutoring a friend at work who was enrolled in a different University’s MBA program. Full disclosure though: I did watch all of Professor Wilson’s lectures on double speed.

Laurie Lucas’ business law course had an obvious impact on me. I took one law class during my undergraduate program but it was years earlier.  Professor Lucas’ class reminded me how much I enjoyed the law. We have kept in touch over the last few years and every time I see a big news story about one of the principles we covered in class, I shoot her an email. 

         You said you sold everything and packed up. Where did you move to, and from where? How was the transition? Where there any struggles you faced?

family-at-beach
Aaron, Ella and Lydia

In July, we moved from our home of seven years in California to an apartment outside of Boston, Massachusetts so that I can go to Harvard Law School.  I had been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time so we were as ready as we could have been.  We had been putting money in savings for several years and living within our means.  I am blessed to have served long enough to qualify for the GI Bill and an agreement between Harvard Law School and the Veterans’ Administration means that I will not have to pay any tuition out of pocket.  I have three kids, an anomaly at Harvard, and although they have been great sports about the move, my four-year-old daughter does still ask when we will be moving back to “our blue home” in California.  But, they are finding new friends, starting new schools, and we look forward to making new memories in our “yellow house” in Massachusetts. 

         Tell me a little about your family.

My wife, Melissa, and I went to BYU together and have been married for almost ten years.

Son: Aaron, 6

Daughter: Ella, 4

Daughter: Lydia, 2

TBD: 16 weeks in utero

A nine-year-old puggle, Molly, and an eight-year-old Shar Pei, Lucy.  Finding dog-friendly, child-friendly house with a yard within commuting distance to Cambridge, Massachusetts was a tall order. 

         Why did you choose Harvard for law school?

  1. It’s Harvard
  2. We had a saying when I worked as a salesman “all ships rise with the rising tide.” I wanted to go to the best law school because I can learn under the best faculty and work with the most talented law students in the world. I thought it would be intimidating; my classmates worked on the Vice Presidents’ staff, started non-profits in Puerto Rico, went to Ivy League Colleges, and worked as consultants. But they have been a pleasure to work with.  The eighty students in my section come from all over the world and we push each other—both in the academic sense but also in the sense of moving outside of our comfort zones. I haven’t crossed paths with many flute performance feminists from Oberlin College before and most of them have never worked with a thirty-year-old father of three (and a half) from Kentucky. I love it. 

         What difference has your MBA made for you?

An MBA is an interesting credential.  It doesn’t qualify you to see patients or design homes. It’s not a certification. But, it is a signal that you have foundational knowledge about how businesses function. It says that, while not an accountant, you understand balance sheets and income statements on top of management and strategy. 

When I took classes at OSU, I had been out of school for a while and wondered if I could handle homework and finals again. OSU gave me the confidence that “I’ve still got it.”

         What are your plans for the future?

canoe-trip-on-charles
The Folks took a canoe trip on the Charles

One of the benefits of attending Harvard is its network. Harvard alumni work at every big law firm all over the world.  One of the drawbacks is it will be so hard deciding where to go! During the summer months, I would like to intern at a large law firm and explore a path working in business law after graduation. One of my classmates already put me in touch with a former colleague who works with the federal government and aerospace corporations in determining appropriate export controls for international companies based in the United States. I would love to find a way to marry my unique background, education and legal credentials during the next phase of my career.  But, I am also interested in public service and legal clerkships. I am looking forward to using the next couple years to explore all of my options. Eventually, if the opportunity is right, I would love to get back into teaching. 

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