From teacher to student, MBA candidate Brooke Walters embraces new path

 

Brooke Walters is wrapping up her final semester as an MBA student at The University of Tulsa and searching for job opportunities in Denver, where she will soon relocate and begin her career in business.

Walters came to TU while working as a teacher for Teach for America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing educational inequities in low-income communities. As an undergraduate at The Ohio State University, she majored in political science and international studies, with minors in English and Asian American studies. Walters entered Ohio State with sophomore standing from high school transfer credits, but elected to stay an extra year to augment her political science degree with other areas that interested her. She initially wanted to head to law school right after graduating, but changed her plans.

“I got to work with a wonderful women’s club during my time at Ohio State,” she says, “which instilled in me the love for working in service. I wanted a break and thought, ‘why not work in service?’” While Walters never intended to teach — and had to quickly learn a new skillset — she says that working to serve her students and their families was inspiration for her newfound profession. 

She spent two years in the classroom at McClure and Bell elementary schools, teaching language arts and math to fifth and sixth graders. “It was an enlightening experience,” she says. “I hadn’t spent a lot of time with kids before that, but I came to love being around 12-year-olds.”

Walters wanted to continue her own education and took advantage of TU’s Educator Tuition Scholarship, which waives two-thirds of tuition expenses for qualified Oklahoma elementary or secondary school teachers who enroll part-time in a graduate program. Additional scholarships covered the remainder of her tuition. She enrolled in TU’s part-time MBA program in the fall of 2015.

Soon after, Walters switched roles and began working in administration for a charter school. While the promotion was a good professional move, it also meant she lost part of her scholarship funding. “It was devastating,” she recalls, “but Patty Kitchen and everyone in the graduate advising office worked tirelessly to find other funding.” Walters unenrolled for a semester and was elated when a graduate assistantship made it possible for her to return to TU as a full-time MBA student.

Enrolling full-time afforded Walters the opportunity to secure a summer internship in China. “I applied for a few things locally and out of state, but nothing piqued my interest,” she says. “I reached out to a former professor at Ohio State who had traveled frequently to Asia and told him I wanted to go to China.” Her professor put her in contact with his friend and business partner, who helped Walters find an internship with a company specializing in cultural exchange programs. She worked in a Montessori school teaching pre-K and kindergarten English and also worked with school administrators to develop a process to bring additional English teachers to China.

This semester, Walters is refining her entrepreneurial skills by participating in the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup, a statewide collegiate business plan competition. She and teammate Ryan Bailey developed SkillCred, a platform for technical skills-based testing. “People lie on their résumés all the time,” she explains. “This platform serves as insurance against that for new hires who indicate they have experience with certain skills, but not necessarily a certification in the area.” Walters says the process has been fast-paced and fun.

Of her experience in the MBA program, Walters says, “I went into my undergraduate experience for the love of education and studied things that interested me. I pursued graduate school more for utility, and the MBA has set me up with a foundation for a long-term career in business.”

She also reiterates TU’s commitment to ensuring she could continue her education after losing the initial education scholarship. “Everyone was pulling for me to get me back into the classroom,” she says. “That experience just highlights the feeling of what it’s like to be at TU every day.”

Walters looks forward to living in a bigger city once again, but has also enjoyed her time in Tulsa. “It’s been great. The people are wonderful, and I’ve never felt more at home in a place that isn’t my home.”