Josh Kohler did not have to look very far for a university when he decided to return to school to earn a master’s degree. He only had to look outside of his office window.
Kohler began working as a graduate admissions counselor at La Salle University in June 2014. Two months later, he was a student in the school’s Master of Business Administration in Management program.
“Life happens sometimes, and you have to roll with the punches,” Kohler said. “The draw to the MBA was mostly a result of wanting to apply a practical tilt around my liberal arts background. I scouted several different programs La Salle offered. The most logical and appealing program for me was the MBA.”
Kohler originally wanted to become a college professor, so he started an administration-focused Master of Education degree at the University of Pittsburgh in his hometown. However, he also wanted to increase his earning potential, so he parlayed his passion for teaching into the corporate setting. Kohler started as an executive search consultant at DES Recruitment in Philadelphia in January 2016.
“I was always really interested in education,” he said. “My mom is a teacher. My dad started college for an education degree, but ended up going into engineering. I really like explaining concepts, even in the corporate space. I have big-time interest in corporate trainings and things like that. It’s something I’m sort of called to do.”
This foundation in education, which also included stints as an admissions counselor at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and La Roche College and as a student supervisor at Washington & Jefferson College, led him to the MBA program.
“I was opened up to the world of corporate recruitment and realized I could feel that same way and maybe make a little more money doing it,” Kohler said. “When you have the school loans coming due, sometimes you make the call. I jumped into it headfirst and took the risk. I’m glad that I did. It all just lined up.”
City of Brotherly Love
Kohler, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington & Jefferson, wanted to continue to work in higher education and move to the Philadelphia area.
“I had three offers at the time, and La Salle just felt like the best fit,” he said. “Having come from a small liberal arts school, I found La Salle had that same kind of feel to it even though it’s in the city and a little bit bigger. It sounds campy, but it’s almost like there’s a homey mentality. You have really small class sizes. It almost felt like your individual unit, like the people I worked with, definitely had a team mentality.
“We had a goal, but it wasn’t necessarily an individual goal — it was an overarching goal. It was a new position when I started. We had some vivacity and some excitement around building a new position and taking on new initiatives.”
Kohler did the majority of the MBA coursework on campus, although he had a few hybrid classes that included some online elements.
“Set aside the fact that I got employee tuition benefits for a year-and-a-half during the program — it’s excellent,” Kohler said. “The network it builds and the relationships you build over time are well worth the investment. I know I can pick up the phone right now and call any La Salle alum, whether we crossed paths or not, and they’ll take my call because they’re a La Salle alum, too.”
Kohler said the biggest advantage he has gained from the MBA program is the ability to communicate in most any situation at work.
“I’m still spreading my wings, so to speak, within my role, but I really think a lot of the value for me is feeling that confidence to be able to go into a conversation,” he said. “So, when we sell executive search, we might be talking with a chief financial officer. You become dangerous if you know just enough to be dangerous in a certain setting. To be on an earnings call and be able to say, ‘Hey, this is an indication of that,’ and you know what questions to ask, you gain that credibility and then it’s, ‘Oh, this guy knows what he’s talking about. ‘”
Kohler said he had three favorite courses in the MBA program — Strategy with Dr. William Van Buskirk, Financial Accounting with Katie Harris and Financial Management with Dr. Jan Ambrose.
“Strategy was my favorite because there was an interactive simulation, so it was heavy on applying some of the other curricular knowledge that we had built over time,” he said. “We had teams of three. We were in competition, so it kind of simulated that real-world environment. It was fun and naturally pretty competitive. It was cool because you were manifesting all of the different aspects, like picking apart a financial statement and analyzing where you’re strong and where you’re weak. That was all applied.”
The two financial courses were both hybrid courses, so Kohler also got to experience some flexibility in the degree program.
“The fact that they were offered in a hybrid format called for a higher level of organization and procedure in following a set schedule, so that was really nice,” Kohler said. “You knew what the deliverables were for each class at the beginning of the course, which, for me, is huge because if I get free time and I have an opportunity to work ahead in the course, that’s what I do. You never know when you’re going to be able to come up for air again.”
Kohler, who likes to run and play slow-pitch softball and is a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan, said he thoroughly enjoyed walking the graduation stage at La Salle.
“We made a weekend out of it,” he said. “My brother flew in from out of town. My mom and dad came in from Pittsburgh, which is about a four- or five-hour drive. It was pretty cool. I was fortunate enough to be honored with one of the awards for academic performance and contributions to the field.”
He said his friends, family, employers and his girlfriend, Dedra, were all big reasons for his successful return to higher education as a student.
“My mother and father were outstandingly supportive,” Kohler said. “Everybody was part of it. My boss would adjust my schedule so I could take a class during weekdays.”
Kohler said he firmly believes the MBA program at La Salle is a tremendous way to go for any professional.
“I would say it’s worth it,” he said. “The piece of advice I’d give is, if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to dive in headfirst. Other people have families and really demanding jobs and things like that. It may seem really hard if you think you’re doing it alone, but if you think about it in terms of you’re not the only one who has to do this, and you’re going to have some kindred spirits with you, it’s a lot easier to commit and make it happen.”
Kohler is happy with where he is in his career, but he knows he will have plenty of options down the road with an MBA.
“The funny thing is, as soon as I completed it and marked the credential on my page, I started to get a little buzz,” Kohler said. “I’m not currently looking [for new opportunities] right now, but I do feel confident if that were the case, the MBA would open up some doors. One of the things I’ve talked about with my current company is, as we expand, heading up some sort of training effort and working on building that curriculum.”
Wherever he goes, Kohler will still be teaching.
Learn more about the La Salle online Master of Business Administration in Management program.
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