Tad Bohannon




United States




Sep 2017 - May 2019

By Tad Bohannon

Time Flies When Preparing For Oxford

I started this post writing about the learning opportunities that have started even before classes began. Then, it occurred to me that many people contemplating or just beginning the application process might be interested in many of the milestones that occurred long before the course work ever began. I started my search for additional educational opportunities in the Spring of 2016. Following my own advice to many of the employees at Central Arkansas Water, I decided that I too “could always learn more.” Therefore, I began my search for a top quality Executive MBA program to enhance my knowledge and improve my abilities as a leader. I knew I wanted a top 10 program that operated on a schedule conducive to running a major utility. I also wanted one as focused on personal and leadership development as company analysis.  The Executive MBA at Oxford quickly rose to the top five and after considering cost, time away from the office, and convenience of travel, I ranked the EMBA at Oxford as my first choice.

In January 2017, I met with the governing Board of Commissioners of Central Arkansas Water and told them I would like to obtain an EMBA. The conversation that followed went something like this.

Tad:  “I would like your permission to take time from work to obtain an Executive MBA, and I would like for you to approve the utility paying my tuition and living expenses.”

Commissioner 1:  “You are not talking about going to the local university are you? You don’t need our approval for that.”

Tad:  “No sir.”

Commissioner 2:  “Where?”

Tad:  “Oxford.” (Small laugh from the attendees – CAW’s Commission meeting are open to the public) Commissioner 2:  “You are not talking about Oxford, Mississippi are you?” (Bigger laugh from attendees)

Tad:  “No sir, Oxford University in England.”

Commissioner 2: “That’s just like you.  Go big or go home!”

Tad: “Yes sir.”

Commissioner 3: “Why Oxford?”

After explaining why I felt Oxford provided the best program for me, the Commissioners asked why I did not consider the local programs available in state or even the top U.S. programs.  I explained that I did considered them and then I walked the Commissioners through the pros and cons of attending Oxford over those other programs.  After further discussions one of CAW’s Commissioners told the remaining Commission members that he was convinced and that he felt my reasoning for selecting Oxford had merit.  Shortly thereafter, the Commission approved payment of tuition and living expenses for me to attend the EMBA program at Oxford.  I agreed to assume responsibility for my own travel expenses (airfare).

I submitted my complete application together with transcripts and letters of recommendation on January 31, 2017.  On February 13, 2017, I received an email informing me that the admissions committee had reviewed my application and asking me to come to Oxford for an interview.  The program offered me an opportunity to interview via Skype, but I thought it prudent to make a personal appearance.  The interview was scheduled for March 6, and two weeks letter I was unofficially notified that I had been accepted into the program.  I received the official notice of acceptance the following day. I spent the month of April filling out paper work, including submitting my request to join Exeter College, which turned me down on May 3.

The first part of the summer was pretty quiet.  I occasionally sent request for additional information, and those request were promptly answered, but new information about the program was minimal and slow for this anxious new student trying to arrange accommodations and finalize travel arrangements.  Finally, on August 14, I heard that I had been assigned to St. Hugh’s College.  In addition, in August, information started coming from the Saïd Business School fast and furiously.

Now, the opening week of classes is less than two weeks away.  The opening dinner is scheduled for Sunday, September 17, and we officially register the following morning. Reading assignments, both required and suggested, have been completed, and I have appreciated the excellent pre-course refresher training made available by the EMBA program through WallStreetPrep. I haven’t started packing yet, but I have certainly been thinking about what I need to take.  Getting everything necessary to open a local bank account has probably been the most time consuming endeavor since completing the initial application for admission back in January.

Today, I spoke with two different employee groups about “continual improvement.”  In between, I met with one of the Commissioners about how things will be handled during my periodic absences from the utility to hop across the pond and attend classes.  What was once only a dream will become a reality in a very short period of time.  The only thing left to figure out is whether the CAW employees have been so supportive because they recognized that it will be a great opportunity and learning experience for me, or if they just want to get me out of town for 16 weeks over the next 21 months.  Either way, I anxiously await the beginning of what I anticipate will be an fantastic adventure.

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