Chris Parker was a late bloomer in higher education, but he hit the ground running as an entrepreneur.
Since graduating from Boise State University’s online Bachelor of Business Administration in Management in May 2023, Parker is thriving as the owner of Astra LLC, a Twin Falls, Idaho, engineering and consulting firm.
“The program helped me feel confident enough to run my business,” he said. “There are a lot of engineers who start consulting firms, but they don’t know what it takes to run a healthy business. This degree set me up for success.”
Parker registered Astra LLC in January 2020, but he did not devote all of his energy to it until he acquired the right amount of knowledge and business acumen.
“I am leaning on the finance studies, human resources and marketing classes,” he said. “It’s given me a huge edge because I have a different perspective than a lot of the competition.
“I’ve been able to carve out a niche and specialize based on some of the lessons I learned in the Boise State program. The business has gone nuts since I graduated.”
The online format was especially helpful to Parker, who worked full-time as a plant engineer while enrolled. He and his wife, Liz, also had a daughter, Adelaide, while he was in the program.
“There were times when it was hard, but the curriculum wasn’t overwhelming in terms of being able to understand it,” he said. “Being able to work on things on my own time was super helpful.
“I could do schoolwork when I got off of work late — it didn’t matter. I could work on what I wanted, when I wanted to, so I could stay on track.”
Born in Chicago, Parker moved to Idaho as a teenager. Colorblindness prevented him from pursuing his dream of becoming a Navy pilot. Instead, he worked in plant maintenance, which led to an opportunity in engineering. He enrolled at the University of Idaho as an architecture major in 2003.
“I didn’t have the maturity to dig in, know what I wanted to do, and feel like I had a direction in life,” he said. “I needed to be more on the technical side. I decided to jump into the workforce for a while. It ended up being a longer break than I expected.
“I had a knack for automation, controls engineering and process engineering. I went out and did it. I got factory certifications for various automation and hardware. I was self-taught with the help of some mentors.”
Parker worked as an engineer without a college degree, but the fact that he never finished what he started gnawed at him. He chose Boise State because it was an in-state university with a flexible online program.
“I am a finisher,” he said. “Maybe sometimes it takes me a while to get back around to things, but it was hanging over my head. I got tired of explaining why I didn’t have a college degree despite the fact that I had worked my way into executive leadership roles. It was important to go back and finish.”
The online Bachelor of Business Administration in Management curriculum — especially the marketing, human resources and capstone courses — proved invaluable to Parker as he prepared to launch Astra LLC. He also completed Boise State’s Innovation Design Emerging Applications (IDEA) certificate.
“I used my business as the case study in the capstone course, so it was super productive,” he said. “The instructor was very knowledgeable and helpful; she gave me many tips and pointers. Analyzing my own business helped propel my business. It was so valuable to me.”
During his time in the online management program, Parker had plenty of encouragement from his family. His mother, Cheryl, who has a master’s degree from DePaul University, was especially happy he returned to school.
“She was the first person in our family to go to college, so she was serious about me doing the same thing,” he said. “She was excited that I was going back to college after 20 years to finish. My wife was also extremely supportive and helped me out. I had a lot of support from my family.”
Parker believes the key to success as an online student is having enough time and energy to devote to the program while maintaining a busy life outside of school.
“It’s important to make sure to understand what works in terms of balancing time and life,” he said. “It’s easy to think you can take on a lot of coursework at once. You have to understand the demands of the program and balance the coursework.”
Parker is glad that he decided to complete his higher education, blooming 20 years after he started college.
“I got such good value out of the program at Boise State,” he said. “It went really well and smoothly. I’m kind of risk averse, so I wanted to understand exactly what I was going to do and how I was going to do it before I jumped off the deep end into being a business owner.
“I was lacking the fundamental business knowledge and acumen — that’s what I was going after when I went back to school. I can say with confidence that I did learn that from this program. I had some good take-aways.”
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