Nick Johnson and his wife, Brooke, made a pact. They agreed to set a good example with higher education for their son, Zachary, 12. The couple have been true to their word.
“We made a deal many moons ago that this is what we wanted to show him,” Johnson said. “We wanted to show him that higher education is the goal and to keep moving on after high school.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree, Johnson graduated from the Baylor University online Master of Business Administration program in 2017. He is also active duty in the United States Army, stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
“At my Baylor graduation, I took Zachary over to [associate director for online MBA] Mrs. [Mary] Reinhardt, who was eating lunch with all of the professors,” Johnson said. “I asked her to give him the spiel on why to come to Baylor. All of them started in on him. We drove around and showed him how beautiful the campus is, and I really feel like that impacted him in a positive way. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Brooke is currently completing an internship as part of her Master of Marriage and Family Therapy degree program at Abilene Christian University. The couple attended high school together in Dickinson, Texas, about 30 miles southeast of Houston.
“One of the keys is staying in Texas, because licensure for her degree is different from state to state,” he said. “We want to make sure we end up in Texas, so we’re probably going to ride it out and stay in El Paso until my son graduates from high school, and then head back to the Houston area. We are Texans to the bone; where ever the Army sends us, the plan was always to come back home.”
Johnson enlisted in the Army not long after he graduated from high school.
“Honestly, I was out of options,” he said. “I was 18 years old and didn’t know what to do. I was working at a grocery store when a recruiter walked up to me. His pitch sounded good. I grew up with discipline in my life, but I had never had this level of discipline until I got to the Army. I joined for three years to get the college money, and I was going to get out and go to college. Twenty-one years later, I’m still here. Still hanging.”
Johnson, who is a system manager for Joint Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, had no idea what he wanted to do when he first arrived in the military.
“When you join the Army, they give you an ASVAB [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] test,” he said. “My test scores for computers and intelligence were high; my mechanical aptitude was low. But, I went for mechanical because the initial commitment was less — it was only a three-year commitment. With the intelligence, they wanted a six-year commitment. I said, ‘You’re crazy. I don’t want to join for six years.’ Again, here I am 21 years later.”
Johnson was able to quickly pick up the ins and outs of being a mechanic.
“Honestly, it was easy,” Johnson said. “As you go through training, they teach you all of the basics. When I got out to my first unit, I was still 18 years old. They sent me to South Korea. I’m from South Texas, so I had never seen snow. I get to Korea in January and there’s snow on the ground. That was a shock to the system.
“Immediately, I go out to my unit, a transportation company. We’re always on the road. Trucks are always breaking down. It was quick. I was in a small platoon of mechanics, so we just buddied up. The older guys taught me the ropes. As those older guys moved on, I became the older guy and taught the younger guys the ropes. It went from there.”
Johnson’s military career also included stops in Germany; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Fort Hood, Texas. He also has six combat deployments; four to Iraq, one to Afghanistan, and one to Kuwait.
“I loved Germany,” he said. “It was the first time I re-enlisted, and I had it built in my contract to go to Germany. I took my wife with me. We travelled to Italy, France, Paris … everywhere. She went to the Czech Republic and went shopping. We had a blast. The rail system in Europe is much more advanced than ours.”
Johnson began his collegiate career when he graduated with an Associate of General Studies from Central Texas College in 2011 while stationed at Fort Hood. He followed up with a Bachelor of Business Administration focused on accounting and finance from the American Military University in 2015. The majority of his coursework at those two schools was also online.
“The format was very easy to navigate, but they didn’t have all of the accreditations and they’re not nationally ranked like Baylor,” he said of AMU. “I also used my GI Bill on the MBA, so I wasn’t going to waste it on something that wasn’t accredited.
“The two criteria I had when I started out my research was I wanted something that was in Texas, and I wanted something that was fully accredited with all of the alphabet letters and acronyms to say, ‘We are a good school.’ Baylor kept coming up.”
Baylor’s MBA program satisfied Johnson’s criteria as it holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
He took advantage of the accelerated format, taking two courses at a time to speed up his time to completion. Johnson said he spent an average of 15-20 hours per week on school while enrolled in the online MBA program.
“Online was the only way I would have been able to get it done because of my busy schedule,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of doing statistics and accounting at 2 a.m., but the juice is going to be worth the squeeze.”
Johnson was sometimes able to work on school during his lunch hour. He said his two favorite courses were also the two hardest, QBA 5435: Business Statistics and ACC 5301: Accounting.
“The government computers are a little finicky, but I was able to finagle it to where Canvas would work for about 75 percent of the things I needed to get done,” he said. “I couldn’t watch the videos on the government computers for some reason, so I watched those at the house.”
He was also able to immediately apply the knowledge he gained in the MBA program to his job.
“There was definitely a lot of the team-building stuff and a lot of the leadership,” Johnson said. “[MGT 5410] Managing for Higher Performance was a really interesting class. BUS 5490: Strategic Communication was also great. It helped a lot because I brief all of the time.”
Johnson, who was promoted nine months ago, will likely wrap up his Army career within the next two years. He hopes to become a business owner once he moves home to Houston.
“I’ve always been interested in the applications of business,” Johnson said. “One thing I also want to do when I get out of the Army is be my own boss, be an entrepreneur. I’ve looked at potentially buying into a franchise, something that’s close to my background like maybe a Jiffy Lube or something like that.
“I also did the training for certification for my Lean Six Sigma black belt. That, coupled with the MBA, I hope makes me a little more marketable when I do finally retire [from the Army].”
While Johnson’s wife attends school, he is content to be “Mr. Mom.” His duties include watching Zachary play baseball.
“My kid takes up every last second of my free time,” he said. “We’re always going to baseball. He’s playing 13U (13-and-under) select travel ball. I help coach. I’m like the team mom and hype man, and that’s about it.”
Given his busy life, Johnson knows the Baylor online MBA is manageable for practically any schedule.
“Go for it,” Johnson said. “I’m business-minded and like business stuff. I would recommend this degree and Baylor to anybody interested in business. One thing I’ve learned in life is everything is personality-driven. If you get along with people, you can do pretty much anything.”
Fulfilling a promise to his wife and son certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Learn more about the Baylor online MBA program.