Robert Brunk, MBA (2018)
Robert Brunk, MBA '18
What is your background?
I grew up in rural Oklahoma, and started out with a Liberal Arts degree from University of Oklahoma (BA Letters, Spanish minor). I wanted my undergraduate degree to provide a foundational education, with the intent of going on to graduate level education at some point. I did some graduate work in Architecture, but being in the field of designing and building turned me on more than drafting. All along I knew that that I wanted an University of Colorado MBA (and actually visited the MBA program at CU Boulder 18 years ago), but little did I know what life had planned! Marriage, three kids, and many, many jobs later, I graduated this May with my MBA in Finance & Innovation. Whew!
During my career I have worked in many areas. I have worked (or in some cases, I am still working) as a carpenter, welder, market reporter in the S&P 500 trading pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, high net worth stock broker (Deutsch Banc and Fidelity), back-office grunt at a real estate company, single family residential construction project manager and designer, hard money lender for real estate investors, utility player at several startups, and have held various interesting roles at Fannie Mae. I currently manage loan trades for the Non-Performing Loan Sales team at Fannie Mae. My team has sold ~$22B of loans in the last few years, resulting in foreclosure avoidance for thousands of families.
What were the factors that led you to pursuing the UCCS MBA?
My working life has been fun because I actively look for fun and challenging opportunities that require creativity. The work that I like to do requires all kinds of tools, and for where I want to go with my career, I knew an MBA education was an important tool to have. When we moved to Colorado six years ago to raise our three children and enjoy the slower pace of mountain life, I was excited to explore the possibility of finally pursuing my MBA. I found that UCCS would provide a challenging education, good course selection, and a relaxed but rigorous classroom environment with solid professors that encouraged dialogue. This was the MBA that I was looking for. Once I realized just how accessible the MBA program would be, and how the course load would fit in with work and family, I worked with my MBA advisor to apply and was quickly accepted.
How would you describe your experience as a student in the MBA program?
In life, many times you never know what you are getting into until you commit, and this was no different. I knew it would be challenging. It took five years to complete the program. I work more than full time with my job at Fannie Mae, I design and build custom homes on the side with my wife, and we are raising three young children. Life is busy! There were times when it felt like I had 10,000 miles to go to complete my MBA, but I kept plugging away. Doing it this way allowed me to fully focus on the one or two classes each semester, and pour a lot of time into the curriculum. This has approach has been great, and I have come away with much more than I expected. I have to thank my wife for picking up a lot of slack along the way; she earned this MBA right alongside me! She and I had a GPA goal of 3.8, and the goal was achieved (with very minor rounding…).
What would you tell other professionals if they asked you about pursuing an MBA?
I would encourage candidates to look at the MBA a little differently. I approached the MBA as education and not just a ‘degree’. I make this distinction because many students see the degree as the goal, and they move through the MBA program pretty quickly. My experience was different, by design. I took my time and immersed myself in each class. I found that by going a little slower, I learned more. My business logic developed dramatically and my analytical skills sharpened, semester over the semester. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I understood many facets of business at much deeper levels; almost like having x-ray vision when it comes to seeing into what is going on in the world around me. I feel confident that I can now add value in almost any area of a business. If an opportunity presents itself, I know what questions to ask and how to navigate to realize the best outcomes. I would encourage a candidate to approach the MBA with a desire to get an education versus earn a degree. I would say don’t rush it. Take your time and truly absorb the education.
I would follow up by sharing that an MBA is no joke. The decision to pursue an MBA should not be taken lightly. It will take a lot of time and hard work to get the most out of it. You need to look at your life and see if an MBA can fit with what you have going on. I took a class or two a semester, and because I knew I needed to budget my time well, it worked for me and I quickly learned how to balance the time needed across the many areas of my life. ‘Time Management 101’ proved to be an education in itself! Really, great time management is a critical component of being successful in the MBA program especially when you have a job, family, etc. That said, get started!! Fit it in. Sometimes you just have to jump in and learn how to swim. You won’t regret it. The UCCS MBA experience is a ton of fun, and I am disappointed it's over!