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Kevin Herrera balances serving country overseas, earning online degrees

Kevin Herrera at his graduation for his Bachelor of Business Administration
Boise State Online MBA Student Kevin Herrera

United States Air Force weapons expeditor Kevin Herrera is taking distance learning to another level.

After enrolling in Boise State University’s Online Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Leadership, he deployed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), then to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan.

“It was supposed to be a peaceful deployment, but with everything going on with Israel and Gaza, they sent us off everywhere,” he said. “It was very stressful. I knew the professors at Boise State would be willing to work with me. I knew that the program was flexible. If I needed to stop, I could stop.”

Herrera graduated from Boise State’s online Bachelor of Business Administration in Management in 2023. Now in his seventh year serving in the Air Force, he is a first-generation high school and college graduate who lives in Tucson, Arizona.

“I have been to multiple overseas countries, multiple Asian and Middle Eastern countries, and was still able to do my undergrad online,” he said. “I looked at another MBA program, but everything added up at Boise State. It was a no-brainer.”

When his October-November 2023 deployment made schoolwork abroad difficult, Boise State’s faculty and staff helped him navigate through it as efficiently as possible. Upon arrival in the UAE, he lost internet access because of a power outage, forcing him to buy expensive data to keep up with his classes.

“I called the dean of the program and explained the situation,” he said. “He told me I could step back and deal with it, and it wouldn’t throw me off course. They got me out of the class in time to not affect my grades.

“I picked up where it started as if no time was taken off. My advisor, James Davis, planned everything for me. With advisors like that, deans like that and a school that’s so flexible — especially toward military people — I have never had a doubt that Boise State was the correct school and the correct choice for me.”

Taking flight

Herrera grew up in Escondido, California, with a single mother and two siblings. He started college after high school, but he couldn’t afford to stay.

“I was living on my own, 900 miles away from home,” he said. “I was basically failing out of college. I joined the military with the idea of having them pay for my bachelor’s degree and traveling. They delivered on both.”

When Herrera enrolled in the undergraduate program at Boise State, he chose business management to have a second career option.

“I knew about the blue field, and that it’s a well-known school,” he said. “Having the school name and the alumni association behind me, I felt like it would be easier to get a job outside of the Air Force if I needed to.

“With the MBA, I wanted to pick a division of business that’s never going to go away. Everybody is going to go through the healthcare industry at some point, so it is a safe route.”

Herrera also opted to continue his academic career to comply with the Air Force’s mandate for self-improvement.

“I figured I was already in the habit of going to school and taking classes, so why not?” he said. “I started looking at online MBA programs. I was shocked at how economical Boise State was in comparison to other programs. I also love that Boise State still did seven-week classes online for the master’s degree.”

The decision paid off. Herrera is adding to his knowledge base and business acumen while applying it to his career.

“With the People and Organizations course, not only am I learning negotiation techniques, which have helped me in my current role, but it helps me with the smallest things,” he said. “I collect Pokémon cards. So, I go to shows where I negotiate the price of the cards.

“I also negotiated down the price of my solar panels, based on tactics I have learned. I am learning how to deal with people, to be a boss people want to work for, and to still be able to please the organization. I am definitely seeing the fruit brought by paying close attention to this class and learning.”

Blue skies ahead

Herrera didn’t have to wait long to see a return on investment after walking the graduation stage on the aforementioned blue field at Albertsons Stadium. He received a promotion at work, along with a job offer from U.S. defense contractor Raytheon.

“My buddy who works there offered me a job based on my military experience and leadership and qualifications through school, the fact I was accepted to a master’s degree program and that I have security clearance, but I declined,” he said. “My long-term goal in the military is to become an officer. I am pursuing that now. My back-up plan is to take a shot at law school and corporate law.”

Herrera is also forging lasting relationships with his online classmates — especially his team in the Design Thinking and Strategic Management course.

“They developed a strong camaraderie quickly,” Davis said. “His team sent him care packages while he was deployed, and they raised $500 for another team member who was getting married. They stay in contact with each other.”

With a projected graduation date of May 2026, Herrera has plenty of time to continue gaining experience and preparing for the next chapter of his career, whether it’s in or out of the military. He believes that holding an MBA in healthcare leadership will give him an edge.

“I don’t see a reason not to do the program,” he said. “If somebody asked me, I would tell them it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Yes, there’s work and commitment, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it.

“Boise State makes it so easy to facilitate your learning. If you have something going on and email the professors, they are so understanding. It’s just a matter of if you want to do it. If you are committed, Boise State University is going to be there to help you.”

Learn more about healthcare leadership at Boise State

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