Skip to main content

Army Reservist Kevin Zakielarz switches gears after return to Online MBA

The world was a significantly different place when Kevin Zakielarz enrolled in Boise State’s Online Master of Business Administration in 2019.

“I started the healthcare leadership emphasis, then COVID-19 hit while I was working at a clinic,” he said. “It was a lot of work for me, plus I didn’t have any support staff at the time. I had to bow out for a little bit.”

With a new perspective on life and his career, Zakielarz returned to the program and switched his emphasis to business analytics. He is on track to graduate in May 2024.

“As a clinician, you have a role — that’s what the job is,” he said. “You go in and see patients and take care of them. For some people, that’s super satisfying and all there is to it. For me, there was always the idea that there was something more.

I saw more systems-level problems I wanted to be involved in. The only way you can open those doors is by having an additional credential. That’s where the MBA in Business Analytics came in. It was appealing to me.”

Zakielarz, who is an orthopedic physician assistant at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, is in his 14th year in the United States Army Reserve. He and his wife, Nicole, have a daughter, Maia (2), and a newborn son, Felix.

“The online format is great,” he said. “A few months ago, I packed up and moved the family across the country from Boise, but I was able to continue with the same program. It is super flexible. It’s also been great for my learning style.”

“It has let me be in control of my education, on my timeline. I haven’t left anything on the table I would have gotten in a brick-and-mortar setting. I’ve gotten everything I’ve needed out of this experience.”

About Face

Zakielarz grew up playing sports in Rochester, New York, and sustained two season-ending injuries that sparked his interest in sports medicine. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Boston University in 2007.

“I started as an athletic trainer and worked for a few years,” he said. “It’s always been one step at a time. All of a sudden, I was working with physician assistants. I thought, ‘That’s a really cool way to do medicine. That’s what I want to do.’”

After working for Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox organization and the United States Naval Academy, Zakielarz transitioned his career.

He also returned to school and earned another bachelor’s degree in science (2014) and a Master of Science in physician assistance (2016) — both from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“I had a professional career, then stopped it and enlisted in the Army and became a medic,” he said. “I had some really great leaders in the military who funneled me into becoming a physician assistant.

“I went into the Army because it was an opportunity to test myself and because of that calling of service. People join the military for a lot of reasons. I didn’t need to; I was able to. I am going to stay in as long as it still feels like service.”

Although the GI Bill is funding his second master’s degree, Zakielarz already sees strong ROI from his decision to switch to the Online MBA in Business Analytics.

“Across the board, the information is applicable,” he said. “Being a clinician, your role is pretty well defined. It’s given me a much bigger view. It’s taken the blinders off. If nothing else, it’s eliminated some of the frustrations I’ve had with the way we do work.

“Now, I understand my role within the organization. The next level is now I have different conversations with my bosses and my co-workers, based on the education I have received.”

Data-Driven Decision Making, one of the three business analytics courses, is Zakielarz’s favorite in the curriculum so far.

“That course has been eye-opening on many levels,” he said. “The instruction has been a lot to take in, but there’s theory and concept, then skill and task level components of the education. Boise State has done a really good job balancing all of those in all of the courses.

“We’re not going to be accountants at the end of this program, but we’re going to have a very good understanding of accounting so that we can then apply it.”

New Jargon

Having help from his family since returning to higher education has been key to Zakielarz’s success as an online student — especially with so much on his plate.

“My family has been super supportive,” he said. “Sometimes, when I am supposed to be a dad or husband, I have to be a student. My family has to understand. Everybody knew my going back to school was in the works. It didn’t surprise anybody.”

“My father got his MBA. It’s changed the way we talk and our relationship. We can sit around and talk about finance, and it’s a lot of fun. He’ll pick my brain about what’s new in the world of business.”

As a lifelong learner, Zakielarz enjoys gaining additional knowledge and perspective in an ever-changing business and global landscape.

“With a lot of the MBA program, it’s been learning new languages,” he said. “I never learned accounting, so now I’m learning the accounting language. I never learned finance, so now I’m learning the language of finance.

“With healthcare leadership, you get a lot of on-the-job training, whereas data analytics is kind of this black box I wanted to be able to open up and dive right into. It’s been awesome.”

Zakielarz, who hopes to return to Boise State to walk at commencement, believes earning an MBA makes him an even better employee and military member.

“I’ve always worn many hats,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to feel value added to any organization. I can do that as a clinician or simply as an Army physician assistant.

“I am more valuable if I understand the larger picture for the organization. That’s what I want to continue being. The MBA program has helped me do that. It is amazing.”

Kevin Zakielarz and his family
Kevin Zakielarz, current Boise State Online MBA student with his family. Photo provided by Kevin Zakielarz.

Want to Learn More About Boise State’s Online MBA in Business Analytics?

Join us for an online information session or connect with a student success coach.

Contact a Student Success Coach

Attend a Live, Virtual Information Session