Ashton Baxa UNK MBA graduate was lost but has since found her direction through strong connections

Posted: November 29, 2023 12:00:00 PM CST

Three people looking at computer screen.

“I would say that my tour is the reason that I'm at UNK, even though I got lost,” Ashton Baxa said. 
 
Baxa, an upcoming University of Nebraska at Kearney MBA graduate from Osborne, Kansas physically got lost on campus when she first came for her campus visit.  
 
She has since found herself studying abroad in the Czech Republic, expanding her network, and landing a career at Intellicom in Kearney prior to finishing her MBA. She will soon find herself walking UNK’s commencement stage once again as she graduates with her MBA this December.
 
“My parents were like, ‘Ashton you’re adult enough, you can go on this visit alone,’” said Baxa, who at the time was attending Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas.  
 
“I'm from rural Kansas, so no stoplights. We have a Subway, Pizza Hut, you know, the whole small-town thing, not even a Casey’s. And I was like, ‘You want me to go by myself to Kearney on this college visit?’” she said. 
 
Pushing her fears aside, Baxa made the nearly two-hour drive north to Kearney, Nebraska on her own. 
 
“I was taken to my academic visit and my tour guide had left, because that is how they had done it at that time,” she explained. “After I was done, I was like, ‘How do I get back to my car?’ I was completely lost. That is how I met Erin Pearson.” 
 
Associate Director of UNK Admissions Dr. Erin Pearson at the time worked as the Communications and Recruitment Specialist for UNK’s College of Business and Technology.  
 
“She walked me back to the Memorial Student Affairs building because my car was there,” Baxa continued. “If I hadn't got lost, I'm not sure that I would have got that one-on-one time with Erin. My tour was a big group and having that personal time with her really made a difference for me.” 

 Woman sitting at computer desk.

After graduating with her associate degree from Hutchinson Community College, Baxa transferred to UNK.  
 
She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UNK in May of 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting, and with some master’s courses already on her transcript. 
 
“I started my master's degree my senior year of my undergraduate,” Baxa explained. 
 
UNK undergraduate seniors can take 12 credit hours of master’s courses to apply towards a future master’s program, like in the case of Baxa. UNK’s MBA program is taking full advantage of this and encourages many undergraduate students to pursue this approach. 
 
“If a student is close to graduating, but needs a few credit hours to stay full-time, then taking MBA courses as an undergraduate student can be a very valuable decision,” MBA Director Dustin Favinger said. 
 
Not only does it fulfill a student's fulltime status, but it also gives them “a glimpse of what it’s like to be enrolled in a graduate program.” 
 
“We have started to see more undergraduate students take graduate courses before graduation as the market demand for an MBA has increased over the last few years,” said Favinger. “The entry-level job market is very competitive today and students see the value in a graduate degree to help differentiate themselves from others, and we want to provide students with the opportunity to better themselves with an MBA as they continue to develop personally and professionally.” 
 
Baxa saw the value as well and enrolled in UNK’s MBA - Accounting Track.  
 
“I would absolutely say it's been beneficial to do the MBA program,” she said. “I already had good networking through my undergrad, but I feel like it's only getting stronger. I have grown so much since starting at UNK. It's crazy to look back and see from my freshman year who Ashton was to where I am now. I know that comes with maturity, but I feel like my education has grown me as a person as well.” 
 
Baxa began building upon that network at UNK the moment she got lost and met Pearson. 
 
“I was Erin’s work study my first semester and that's how I met Dustin Favinger. I then started working at the Upper Room Brewery that Dustin co-owns,” she said. 
 
This is where Baxa would expand her network globally. 
 
“I was actually working at the Upper Room when Dr. Burkink came in with a professor from the Czech Republic,” Baxa said. “He was like, ‘Why aren't you coming?’ And I was like, ‘It doesn't fit in my degree program.’”

Group photo in front of a cathedral in the Czech Republic. 

Dr. Timothy Burkink, Professor of Marketing, was talking about his experiential learning marketing course he taught in the spring of 2023, which allowed nine UNK students to travel abroad to the Czech Republic. 
 
“For the accounting track, I was supposed to take marketing 856,” Baxa explained. “Dustin, Bree Dority (Professor of Finance, former CBT Associate Dean), and everyone looked the syllabus over and allowed me to take the 833P class versus taking my marketing 856 class. It was amazing. I wouldn’t change it for the world.” 
 
Her time abroad allowed her to grow as a person and professional for her position of Staff Accountant at Intellicom. 
 
“Intellicom is super big about professional development and career development,” Baxa said. “They'll send different emails letting us know about opportunities and encourage us to go.” 
 
One of those opportunities was a conference out of state, meaning air travel would be the most acceptable form of transportation to attend. At first, Baxa was hesitant to accept an offer like this. 
 
“Since going through my study abroad, I realized travel is not bad and it’s super fun,” she said. “I want to travel more now. I think it broadened my horizons and when those opportunities come up again at work, I think I'll be more likely to jump on that.” 
 
The opportunities Baxa sees in her career do not end there. 
 
“The turnover here at Intellicom is very, very low,” she said. “I've already talked about how I would like to grow and there doesn't seem to be a ceiling to where I'm going to cap out. I have that room to grow and that's really nice to have.”

By: Heidi Knake

Category: General, Business and Technology, UNK Online, Graduate Studies

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