Two years ago, Jeff Cerutti was rocking and rolling along as chief executive officer of a multi-billion-dollar investment firm. Then, the teaching bug sunk its teeth into him.
“One Saturday morning, I woke up and sent 20 or 30 letters to deans of business schools at local colleges,” he said. “I asked, ‘Would you hire me as an adjunct professor?’ A few of them responded.
“I got a position, fell in love with teaching and retired from the business world at the age of 50. To become a full-time professor, I knew that I needed an MBA.”
Cerutti completed Boise State University’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in July 2020 while working as an adjunct professor at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
“I looked around at online programs, and I liked everything that Boise State offered — the criteria, cost and time to completion,” he said. “The online format worked great.
“My goal was to finish the MBA in one year, so it was intense. I took two classes at a time. I found the online format to be exceptionally user-friendly.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, Cerutti taught finance courses on the Mercy College campus, which is about 10 minutes from his home.
“Because of COVID-19, I had to start teaching online,” he said. “The online MBA program prepared me. I adjusted to it quickly, and I am a 52-year-old guy. Most of my classmates were in their late 20s or early 30s.”
As a college professor himself, Cerutti found the level of commitment of the faculty at Boise State during his 14 months in the online MBA program impressive.
“You can tell by interacting with some of the teachers that they care,” he said. “They’re not going through the motions. For example, if you’re not an accounting person or a finance person, the accounting courses can drag down your GPA.
“For accounting, Boise State had Ariel Jenkinson doing video tutorials. She was phenomenal, and you could tell she was doing it because she has a passion for accounting. She explained it in layman’s terms. I hadn’t had an accounting course since 1988.”
Cerutti, an avid music fan whose favorite band is the Black Crowes, grew up near New York City. He and his family lived in Milan, Italy, for a few years when he was a child.
He graduated from Skidmore College with a bachelor of science in business and became CEO of AMG Funds in 2014. Public speaking sparked his interest in teaching.
He recalls a conversation he had with his former chief operating officer a month ago.
“I told her, ‘I would have done a lot of things differently, [had I known then what I know today,] now that I have my MBA,’” Cerutti said.
BUSMBA 501: Design Thinking and Strategic Management and BUSMBA 555: Business Plan Development were Cerutti’s two favorite courses in the curriculum.
“I have always been good on the numbers side, which comes naturally to me,” he said. “I teach finance and international business courses at Mercy College.
“I never had to do project management because I always had someone else to do it for me. Now that I know the in-depth elements, I would have likely been a little bit more hands-on when I was a CEO.”
Cerutti believes the MBA program’s introductory course prepared him well for online learning and the rest of the courses in the program.
“The format is good,” he said. “To start, you take a one-credit course [BUSMBA 500: Business Foundations] to make sure you know the principles of Microsoft Excel and economics. Then you take Design Thinking, which is a creative, non-numbers, almost artistic class. That’s a great way to get in there.”
Before enrolling at Boise State, Cerutti had some reservations about earning a master’s degree online. But the experience has changed his mind.
“I had a knock against online education, thinking that you write the check and get your diploma,” he said. “After going through the MBA program at Boise State, if I saw an online degree on someone’s resume, I would have a lot more respect for it.”
Cerutti believes that collaboration and time management are the biggest keys to success in an online degree program.
“There is a lot of teamwork,” he said. “Good collaboration means being accessible. Also, be aware of the time commitment. I took two courses. It was intense. If you prepare and have the time to do it, it’s manageable.”
As an added bonus to the experience of returning to school, Cerutti completed the online MBA program around the same time his son, Nick (22), graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in economics. He and his wife, Rebecca, also have a daughter, Gabby (25), who attended the University of Hartford.
“We had a little mock graduation party,” he said. “We are a typical close Italian family and are very pro-education. Everyone was supportive. Rebecca and I were college sweethearts. We recently celebrated our 28th anniversary.
“She called up the Boise State bookstore, and they put together a package for her to give me that had a cap and gown and a bunch of other things. I’m very fortunate.”
Cerutti also runs a small consulting firm, Rutti Consulting, to help his friends with their finances. He believes he has set himself up to soon become a full-time faculty member.
“I was the only teacher in the business school who did not have an MBA,” he said. “Now that I have my MBA, I have a better shot at getting a full-time job. The degree teaches you to teach.”
When life returns to normal, Cerutti plans to take his wife to Boise to see a Broncos football game on the blue turf. He was there once for an overnight work trip a dozen years ago when he also got to see the Black Crowes, who happened to be in town.
“One of the proudest things I have done is update my LinkedIn account and gone from MBA candidate to MBA graduate,” he said. “Boise State was great. I have nothing but praise for the program, from start to finish. If someone asks me what online program they should do, I would definitely recommend it.”
Welcome to the good times.
Learn more about the Boise State online MBA program.