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Gathering the Formal Tools for Business

Caleb Harper scraps Ph.D. plans to pursue an MBA

Caleb Harper
Program Manager - MxU Strategy, Google Fiber

Vanderbilt MBA 2019

During his undergraduate years, Caleb Harper had his career path figured out.  He was going to pursue a Ph.D. in Economics. He tailored his studies to build for a future in academia, taking mostly economic theory and math courses.

Then, his plans changed. “I decided to enter the workforce and make some money,” Caleb says. “I didn’t want to be broke for another four to six years.”

Once he went into the business world — he spent nearly four years with ABF Freight System — Caleb concluded it was time to return to school. “I knew that I needed a more rounded business education,” he says. “I had never taken a finance or accounting class, so an MBA made sense to equip me with the formal tools to grow as a business leader.”

In choosing the right program for him, Caleb looked first at rankings, limiting his search to the top 25. Then, he narrowed his list to smaller schools, particularly those with an emphasis on collegiality. “The collaborative-not-cut-throat mantra at Owen was exactly what I was looking for,” he says. And as a bonus, being at Vanderbilt would be something of a homecoming for the Middle Tennessee native, who grew up in nearby Murfreesboro.

While the close community drew him to Owen — where, he says, “I felt at home like I hadn’t experienced at any of the other schools I visited” — some of the school’s other attributes stood out as highlights for Caleb during his first year. 

“Many of the professors are accomplished in their respective fields, and they’re great teachers as well,” he says. “They help facilitate some insights about what works in practice outside of just academic theory.

Even more valuable, in his view, are things he has learned outside the classroom.  In fact, Caleb adds, “I think the most valuable things I’ve gained from Owen are the ‘soft’ skills, leadership development and the network that comes along with the program.”

Fun Fact: Caleb played on the football team during his two years at Northwestern University and his final two years at MTSU where he graduated. He still loves being active – and is learning how to surf. *Not so fun fact - he torn both of his achilles' tendons in separate injuries.

“Many of the professors are accomplished in their respective fields, and they’re great teachers as well.”