Joni Wynecoop’s Determination Leads Her to an MBA

EWU MBA Student Joni Wynecoop

“Giving up” is not in Joni Wynecoop’s vocabulary.

Wynecoop has overcome some tough challenges on her way to a graduate degree. She credits the support and encouragement of her family, plus her own determination, for reaching her goal of earning a Master of Business Administration online from Eastern Washington University in June 2020.

A resident of Wellpinit, Washington, Wynecoop lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation where she works for the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance (TERO). Her relationship with EWU began early, but she took a few detours on her academic journey.

“I initially started college in 1994 after I had my oldest daughter. I was 18 at the time, and EWU is relatively close to where I live,” Wynecoop said. But going to school with a baby was tough.

“My mom basically told me, ‘You’ve got to find a job,’ so I quit going to school about a year after that,” she explained.

After a stint working as a laborer, Wynecoop found herself back at Eastern Washington University’s doors.

“I did a lot of construction work. Then, I worked for a local company here on the reservation. From there, I started working within the natural resource department, in limnology,” she said. “We often worked with EWU. I’ve always had a connection with the school.”

Overcoming Challenges

The path back to Eastern Washington University also brought some difficult personal struggles including depression and a battle with alcoholism. Wynecoop believes her family helped her overcome these challenges and restart her education, as she rebuilt her self-esteem along the way.

She said, “My oldest daughter moved away and went to college in the Midwest, but she contacted me every day, just giving me positive affirmations whenever she could.”

Wynecoop re-evaluated her life when she stopped drinking. As she took stock, her oldest daughter made her aware that children of parents who earn a college degree or learn a vocational trade are statistically more likely to follow suit.

“My two younger kids are 13 and 14, and I also have custody of my greatniece and greatnephew,” she said. “So, I took everything into consideration and I just thought, ‘Why not?'”

Once she’d made up her mind to go back to college, Wynecoop said there was no question that she would return to EWU.

Life Lessons

All the obstacles did not disappear once Wynecoop decided to return to college, however. Naysayers who felt her age was reason to drop her academic goals only spurred her on.

“That fueled my fire. I thought, ‘I’m going to go ahead and do this.’ I finished my bachelor’s degree, and then the MBA, and in between, I battled breast cancer.”

Wynecoop believes the encouragement from her mother and her children, and the support at EWU, played a key role in her educational journey.

“Ultimately, that’s why I chose Eastern Washington University,” she said. “The people there helped me go through the process. They helped me get everything going, and I never looked back.”

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in Indian Studies in June 2019, Wynecoop started the online MBA at EWU in September and completed the program in just nine months. Her academic accomplishments are impressive, as is her recovery from breast cancer.

“I’m three years cancer-free at the first part of September in 2020,” she said.

Grad School Takeaways

The flexibility of the online format made studying while handling work and family responsibilities doable. Wynecoop was also thrilled to see the faculty’s commitment to online students.

“I really liked the finance classes: Corporate Finance [BADM: 530], Financial Statement Analysis [BADM: 531], and International Financial Management [BADM: 532]. I do my own budgets at work so I was really engaged in those classes. The professor was amazing. If I had questions, she would call me late at night to help me get through something that was due by midnight. They’re all super helpful.”

The coursework Wynecoop took enabled her to complete the requirements for three MBA concentrations: General Business, Global Business, and Finance.

Based on her experience in the EWU online MBA program, Wynecoop has some advice for potential students.

“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “If you’re not used to fast-paced work, take one class at a time until you get into a rhythm with it and then add a class in a month or two. EWU has a well laid-out program, from the advisers down to the professors, and they’re all there to help you and will work with you every day.”

Helping Others

Once she completed her MBA, Wynecoop wasted no time in putting her new degree to use as tribal employment rights director for the Spokane Tribe.

“Essentially, I represent the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within the tribe, and I deal mainly with construction. I also oversee the Basic Food Employment and Training program from the State of Washington.

“We’re able to assist the small demographic that is underserved through TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] services. We’re able to provide training opportunities and help dependents of the tribe with any barriers to get them back in the workforce.”

Wynecoop said the education she received in the online MBA program at EWU opened her eyes to many opportunities and boosted her abilities to assist in small business and workforce development.

“I’m content where I am now,” she said, “but I see my daughter making big moves in the world. She’s been to 18 countries in the past five years doing research. There’s a whole world out there outside of the reservation boundaries.”

To better prepare for those career pursuits, Wynecoop recently enrolled in yet another graduate degree program. She is working on her Master of Public Administration (MPA) at Eastern Washington University, and nothing can get in her way.

“If I could be working with the EEOC or a state program and be able to help my tribe at that level, that’s kind of my goal,” she said.

Learn more about EWU’s online MBA program.

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