For Ashley Martin '20, MBA '21, the Future is Now

Ashley Martin ’20, MBA ‘21, unlike a lot of MBA students, didn’t launch her professional career, start a family or take a gap year before starting her graduate studies. 

Ashley MartinAs a result, she’s the person with the least professional experience in Pacific University’s soon-to-graduate class of MBAs. It’s because she’s had a plan for years. 

“Since my senior year in high school, I’ve known what I wanted to do,” Martin said. 

And what she wanted to do was get a graduate degree in business. Even her undergraduate degree in economics from Pacific was chosen with that in mind.

“Originally I was going to get my bachelor’s in business and then get my MBA, but I talked to one of my AP teachers, and she said ‘Why don’t you get a degree in something around business, one of the side subjects?’” Martin said.

The MBA, she reasoned, would give her a broad view of the way business worked. So Martin, who picked Pacific partly for its softball program, decided to major in economics. 

Since July, Martin has worked full time as an associate account manager at Montgomery & Graham, a Lake Oswego, Ore.,-based health insurance broker and consultant. She’s also pushing toward the finish line in Pacific’s MBA program, which consists of roughly 15 months of intensive, every-other-weekend classes, with group projects and individual work filling the time in between. She finishes in October.

The biggest surprise, Martin said, is how much teamwork takes place in business. In collaborating on MBA projects with diverse colleagues, all in different stages of life. 

“It’s really helped me develop my skills of how to communicate with my team members,” she said.

“I’ve always been very independent. I was ‘I want to do it my way. I want to get stuff done,’” she said. “I have a certain vision of how I wanted stuff done, so I’ve had a hard time asking for help.

“The program has taught me that it’s OK to ask for help. If they don’t do it the way you want, you guys work together on it,’” she said. 

That willingness to ask for help has already helped her at her job at the insurance brokerage, where she had much to learn about health insurance. “Now I have no problem saying ‘Hey, are you free? Can you help me?’ to my coworkers,” Martin said.

Martin’s father runs a heavy diesel equipment mechanic business near her southern Oregon home in Sutherlin. That helped her pick up some knowledge of business, though she knew her dad’s business wasn’t meant for her. 

But she did have the satisfaction recently of helping her parents’ small business obtain health insurance for its employees. They had been looking for health insurance for a couple of months. “I’m like ‘Here you go,’” she said.

Martin is the first in her family to complete college. In high school, she thrived as a participant in Future Business Leaders of America, the program that helped convince her that she has a future in business. As an undergraduate at Pacific, she played softball for two years, took classes abroad, worked part-time, served in the Student Senate and was involved in her sorority Alpha Kappa Delta. The experience was made possible with the help of a variety of scholarships, including the John Fitzgerald ’71 Memorial Fund, the Henry F. Price Memorial Fund, the Bi-Mart Annual Scholarship Fund and the PCC Structurals Fund. 

Continuing with Pacific’s MBA program was both affordable and convenient, she said.

Living in Hillsboro, where the program has conducted both in-person and online classes, allows her to be close enough to help care for an aging grandparent and to see her family. And it gives her time to work full time — and remotely — for Montgomery and Graham. 

The healthcare management track in the MBA program, meanwhile, provides a unique niche.

She intends to get her health insurance license, which will let her directly sell and retain insurance policies in Oregon.

The pandemic has made studying for her MBA “a little rocky,” she acknowledged, but it’s been worth it. With her degree and specialization in health care management, “I’m always going to have job opportunities.”

Further, she said, she’s become close friends with her cohort of fellow students, jump-starting her career with a set of friendships with professionals in various industries and stages in their own lives.

“I’ve developed some really good friendships that will last me long after the program,” she said. “If I was somewhere at 2 o’clock in the morning, I could call someone from my MBA class and I know they’d come and help me out.

“I didn’t know it would be as cohesive as it is.”

Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021