When Ronald Patton checked a bachelor's degree off his bucket list, he celebrated by adding another goal to his lifetime achievement agenda.
The Spokane native followed through on that one, too, by graduating with a Master of Business Administration from Eastern Washington University in 2018. Patton completed the Bachelor of Arts in Marketing at EWU one year earlier.
"Earning a bachelor's degree was something I had to do," he said. "I put it on myself to be the bar for my kids — Joshua (29), CJ (20) and Garrett (17). My GPA was good enough in my undergrad that EWU came to me about enrolling in the MBA program. I debated it for a second and said, 'Yeah, that sounds like a great plan.'"
Patton became the first person in his immediate family to earn a college degree when he graduated with an Associate of Arts from Spokane Community College in 2003. However, he lost his job prior to enrolling at EWU, at the same time that his wife, Virginia, fell ill and could no longer work.
"I realized that I wasn't going to get a job that paid what my previous job did with just an associate degree," he said. "I had to do something. The undergraduate degree wasn't much of a decision — it was mandatory. I had to figure out how to make it work."
Four months after Patton graduated from the MBA program, he landed a job as assistant director of operations at Concentra Urgent Care in his hometown.
"There's no doubt the MBA helped me get my position," Patton said. "My friends and family were excited for me. I think it helped my oldest son a lot. He went back to school and is attending Eastern now."
X Marks the Spot
Patton started his career in the healthcare field in 1991 and never looked back. He has 20 years of experience in occupational medicine.
"I worked for a radiology group several years ago," he said. "My job was to hang X-rays for the radiologists to read. I basically learned anatomy by standing behind them and listening to them, and I got horribly addicted. Anatomy and physiology pulled me into healthcare."
Although Patton had been out of school for several years prior to enrolling in the bachelor's degree program at EWU, he stayed the course.
"I started with a statistics class on my first day of school," he said. "I walked back thinking, 'Oh, man. I am in trouble.'"
Because Patton has so much experience in his field, he was also thrust into an unfamiliar marketing role while primarily serving in coordinator and director positions.
"I had no idea how to market healthcare, so my direction was to learn how to do so," Patton said. "The program allowed me to learn how to identify a market, which I applied to healthcare. I learned to ask what kind of people are coming into the clinics and how to address each of them. That was the highlight of the program for me."
Fly Like an Eagle
In addition to gaining a vast amount of hands-on experience, Patton has earned several licenses and certifications, including certified drug screen collector, workers' compensation specialist and X-culture global collaboration.
"I absolutely got what I wanted out of both the bachelor's and master's degree programs at Eastern Washington," he said. "I walked the stage at both of my graduation ceremonies. That's the checkmark."
Patton loves reading, hobby electronics and playing guitar. Now that he has an MBA to complement his extensive experience, his career is on the rise.
"I'm looking for a position in upper administration," he said. "Becoming a director of operations or chief operations officer is my long-term goal, and I believe the MBA will help me achieve it."
Although Patton returned to school out of necessity, he is thrilled about how the experience turned out. Not surprisingly because of the path Patton took, he believes perseverance is the key to success in the MBA program.
"Keep going. Keep taking that next step forward," he said. "It is going to be difficult sometimes. The course load is pretty demanding. Even if it seems like you can't accomplish it, you've got to keep stepping and keep walking forward."
Learn more about the EWU online MBA program.
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