Michael Alexander had his eyes set on attending Texas A&M University in College Station for a long time. It was a winding road that ultimately would take him there, resulting in a transformational journey and an entirely new career path.
Alexander chose Abilene Christian University, his other top pick, for his undergraduate studies. He first majored in accounting – he received a scholarship – but found mass communication as a more compatible major.
And then he entered the media industry and explored a variety of roles, in radio as an on-air personality, in production as an assistant technical director for a local theater, and in television as director of morning news and commercial editor for the local ABC affiliate. Along the way, he kept his future educational plans in sight. Read more...
“I always knew someday I would get a graduate degree from Texas A&M,” says Alexander, now assistant dean for graduate programs at the Mays Business School. A job at a national cable company brought him closer to his goal. He joined SuddenLink Media as a production assistant. In just over a year, the company promoted him to production manager, eventually landing him in College Station, Texas, home to Texas A&M.
“I moved here to College Station in 1997, and around that time, I inquired about the MBA at Mays Business School at Texas A&M,” he says. At that time, his only option was the full-time MBA, which required him to quit his full-time job, a move he wasn’t ready to make.
Fast forward 10 years later, though, and it was a different story. Alexander had accumulated more experience as manager of business development for SuddenLink Media with responsibility for three revenue categories. He served as a member of the senior leadership team. And, also significantly, Texas A&M now had an Executive MBA Program.
“Ten years later, I was ready,” he says. “At that point, I had enough experience, enough responsibility at the company. I was being groomed.”
The EMBA experience literally changed his career path. “It was earning my MBA – and then seeing what the MBA did for me and to me – that inspired me to take a career turn into a path that I never would have comprehended before.”
As an alumnus, Alexander wanted to stay involved with the EMBA Program and Texas A&M. He spoke at information sessions and volunteered to serve on a committee to build a new facility. One of his professors approached him with an intriguing proposition – encouraging him to apply for a position as director of the school’s new Professional MBA Program.
While drawn to the job and the opportunity to help change others’ lives the way his EMBA experience transformed him, he also weighed the decision to leave his company.
“I knew this was a big one. I worked for the company for 17 years. I had a past there. I had a future there. But I also felt as though I’d accomplished most of what I wanted to accomplish in the advertising industry.”
He carefully weighed the pros and cons, and in the end, it came down to where he could have the most positive impact and that meant switching to a new industry.
“Earning my MBA gave me the confidence to try it and the resources to do it,” he says. It helped him stay open to learning and growing in a completely different industry.
He started at Mays at Texas A&M in the spring of 2012 with only a handful of committed students and a goal of 35 students by program launch in fall 2012. With a background in sales early in his career, he asked for the lead list and he and two other staffers called everyone on the list to better understand their needs. The program enrolled 36 students for its first cohort.
There was another wrinkle as well. On his third day of the new job, his boss came with a large roll of blueprints and a new task – oversee the construction of a new facility in Houston for the Executive and Professional MBA Programs. He managed the completion of the 24,000-square-foot educational facility on time and under budget.
He also accepted a challenge to develop and teach a leadership and development course for the Professional MBA Program. In recognition of his achievements, he received the Mays Star Performer Award in 2016, the MS Business Most Outstanding Faculty award in 2018, and the Mays Staff Achievement Award in 2020.
Whether inside or outside the classroom, Alexander values what professional students bring to the classroom and how the educational experience changes them.
“It’s what they bring to the classroom and what they can take out immediately.” They bring their life experiences, and they take what they learn and immediately apply it, he says.
Students will say they come to the program to broaden their knowledge, but Alexander believes there is more to it. “This is an inflection point for them. It’s all about change.” They are transforming during the program. “As a program director, you see the change often before students recognize it.”
In February 2021, he became assistant dean for graduate programs with responsibility for six degree programs, directing the day-to-day operations of the graduate program offices and supporting the program directors, staff, and faculty who are working to strengthen offerings.
Early in his journey in higher education, he discovered EMBAC through a colleague and quickly forged valuable relationships. He attended his first regional meeting in Dallas during the summer of 2012. There, Monica Powell from the University of Texas at Dallas and Marci Armstrong from Southern Methodist University greeted him and introduced him to others, many of whom he still calls close friends and collaborators in the EMBAC world.
Alexander appreciates the selflessness and the passion of EMBAC members. “The organization makes us want to help each other.” He presented at numerous conferences and was elected to the EMBAC Board of Trustees in 2021.
“I have always appreciated the value of EMBAC. I have always appreciated the space it creates and the people who want to be in that space. I just want to be part of it. To contribute.”
Alexander also shared the following insights with EMBAC Voice:
- My hobbies include: “Woodworking, RVing, learning a lot by reading, working in the yard, and playing with grandkids.”
- My favorite city is: “Buonconvento, Italy in Tuscany.”
- I'm most proud of: “My grandkids, just them being them and because of that we are special together.”
- I'm reading: “Life is Messy, by Matthew Kelly, The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead, and a book on becoming a deacon.”
- I’m passionate about: “People who recognize the change they are going through, recognizing change when it occurs, embracing change, seeing change as an opportunity.”
- My next project is: “Onboarding a new associate dean for graduate studies at Texas A&M.”
- You may not know that: “When I was young, I was a mountain guide and a radio DJ.”
- When I think about the Executive MBA Council, I think: “Of people, of individual people and the value of them and my appreciation for them.”