Sean Boles Travels the World While Enrolled in Online MBA Program

EWU MBA Grad Sean Boles

Sean Boles on graduation day at Portland State University in June 2019.

Sean Boles is earning a college degree on the go.

“I travel for fun,” he said. “I do all of my homework while I’m traveling — on an airplane, in an airport. I have been to 77 countries total. In the last three years, I have been to about 30 new countries — all while going to school.”

Boles is enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration with a General Business Concentration program at Eastern Washington University. He is on track to graduate in June 2020.

“I love the online classes because of the flexibility they provide,” he said. “I remember doing conference calls when in Lima, Peru, and on my way to Machu Picchu, Thailand and Vietnam. I was recently doing my homework on a cruise.”

Although Boles worked in the travel industry for more than 15 years, he is concentrating on wrapping up the master’s degree program while working part time.

“My partner, Tony, makes a good income, so he is able to support both of us,” he said. “The online MBA program at Eastern is affordable and fast. Many of the programs take two years or more.

“I could do this program in less than one year. It was attractive because it was affordable, the time-to-completion was quick, and I could go full time.”

In fact, Boles has been in college for the last four-plus years. He graduated with an associate degree from Portland Community College in 2017, and then a bachelor’s degree in human resource management and leadership in management from Portland State University two years later.

“After I finished my bachelor’s degree, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “I found Eastern through a Google search. I contacted four schools — two in Oregon and two in Washington. I chose this program because it was new, the most affordable and the fastest.”

Taking Off

Boles grew up in Wagoner, Oklahoma. He attended Rogers State University for two years before entering the workforce as a customer service director for United Airlines in 2005. Hello, travel bug.

“The pay wasn’t great, but the benefits made it worthwhile,” he said. “I got to see a lot of places at almost no cost. My severance package from United also paid off my bachelor’s degree.

“My dad got a degree in photography in the 1970s. My mom never finished college. I am one of six kids, and I am the only one to get a degree. It was a big deal. My family and friends are happy for me.”

Especially since Boles loves to travel, he has always preferred online education to a classroom setting.

“I haven’t done an in-person class since the first time I went to college in 2002,” he said. “My first term, I did some classes on campus at the school in Oklahoma, and I hated those classes. They were so restrictive.

“I wanted to work and do other things. I did two-and-a-half years of the online classes at that school. When I decided to go back, I only considered the online classes.”

Since enrolling at EWU in September 2019, Boles has been taking two courses per term and focusing on completing his electives.

“On average, I spend 25-30 hours per week on the program,” he said. “I am pretty quick and efficient. If you do two classes at a time, you should treat it like a full-time job.

“I have a 4.0 GPA. I sit at home doing homework when I am not traveling, so if I don’t get an ‘A,’ that’s not acceptable. I have all of this time. I should be able to figure it out.”

Although Boles is putting some travel plans on hold due to COVID-19 concerns, he believes earning an MBA leaves him in a good position.

“Especially with the pandemic that’s going on, there has been talk of layoffs,” he said. “To be competitive, the MBA could seal the deal on the next job opportunity. It’s a very affordable degree for the amount of value and return.”

Prime Opportunity

EWU MBA Grad Sean Boles and family

Sean Boles with his family — Isabella, Lucy, Tony and Mateo — on the Oregon coast.

With graduation day right around the corner, Boles is homing in on potential career routes.

“I tend to look for jobs in operations,” he said. “I prefer the travel industry, but there aren’t a lot of those types of jobs here in Portland. I have to extend my reach a little bit.”

Boles has worked part time for Amazon since January 2020. He is considering the possibility of becoming a full-time employee.

“Amazon is an excellent company,” he said. “They have several facilities here to choose from. A lot of it is internal operations. That’s one of the reasons I took the job — I would have six months of service by the time I got the MBA, and I would be able to look for an internal position.”

Now that Boles is closing in on completing his third college degree in as many years, he believes being an adult learner is more manageable than attending college at a younger age.

“I knew what I wanted to do, and I actually wanted to do it,” he said. “I had life experience to back up the theories and the things we were learning along the way.

“I used to own a business with my ex. I had a ton of experience interviewing people and training employees. I was afraid of going back to school as an adult, but it was much easier than I expected.”

Plus, Boles believes EWU has helped by making the process as manageable as possible.

“The instructors have been great. The students have all been great. The website and the format are extremely easy to use,” he said. “It seems like the instructors are on the same page with the type of program and assignments due.

“There’s consistency, which is nice. I have had the same instructor twice and have her for a third class. This program is an excellent way to go because of the flexibility.”

Learn more about the EWU online MBA program.

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