A desire to quench his thirst for knowledge and beer led John Paul to the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship online program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Paul and his wife, Jessica, are preparing to launch Sawbriar Brewery in the greater Lafayette area. After completing the MBA program in May, Paul is already looking toward his next major goal: opening the doors to the planned microbrewery, taproom, beer garden and music venue.
''I have always liked beer,'' Paul said. ''It never occurred to me you could make it yourself. Right as the craft beer scene kicked off, I joined the Army after 9/11 and got sidetracked.
''I took a trip to Portland and was checking out all of these basement breweries that were making outstanding beer. I said, 'I can do that.' That sparked my interest.''
In addition to completing a master's degree and starting a business, Paul works full time as a planner for Lafayette Consolidated Government and as an independent information technology (IT) consultant.
He and his wife have three children — John (15), Margaret (12) and Alice (9).
With all of that on tap, the online format was a must for Paul.
''The program is manageable,'' he said. ''I definitely have to put in the hours, but at least they are hours that I can choose, for the most part. I usually study at lunchtime and put in a solid hour. Beyond that, I do schoolwork late nights. I like the flexibility. It doesn't pay to try to force yourself to work on something when you are not in a mindset to do so.''
Ragin' Cajun Again
Neither earning a degree from UL Lafayette nor earning a master's degree are new experiences for Paul. He graduated with a Master of Arts in Information Technology from Webster University in 2007. Six years earlier, he completed a bachelor's degree in general studies program at UL Lafayette.
''There was definitely some loyalty there when I was looking at MBA programs,'' he said. ''The MBA program also seemed like a good value for what was being offered. I really like Lafayette, and I could also afford it.''
Paul wet his IT whistle as network administrator before joining the Army, where he worked in global communication and IT support. After an honorable discharge as a staff sergeant, Paul continued working with the Army as a civilian IT project manager, planner, program manager and business supervisor before joining the United States Department of Agriculture as an IT project manager in 2015.
''I am self-taught,'' he said. ''It was the early advent of the Internet, and I was always tearing things apart and putting them back together. I fell into IT because it matches my skill set. I did it in the Army and made a career out of it.''
Prior to enrolling in the MBA with a concentration in Entrepreneurship program online, Paul earned a professional certificate in the business of craft beer from the University of Vermont in 2016. He is excited to cover the rest of the business bases while earning a second graduate degree and balancing a busy schedule.
''I have been able to use the information in the program at my full-time job quite a bit,'' Paul said. ''I especially enjoyed the Data Analysis course [BSAT 510] and the Marketing Management course [MKTG 524]. They are useful and had immediate practical application.''
Returning to higher education has been a positive experience for Paul as he continues to feed his entrepreneurial spirit. However, he has kept his return to college fairly quiet.
''Honestly, my family is supportive, but they are also doing their own thing,'' he said. ''I've been kind of doing this under the radar. Most folks don't know I'm doing it.''
The opportunity to bond with his kids and show them the importance of higher education is a nice added bonus. It has also provided Paul with a different kind of education.
''We do homework together sometimes,'' he said. ''If I can't skip out of my homework, they certainly can't. They have changed up a lot of the ways that they do things in school now. Apparently, I do math wrong, which is a new thing for me.''
While in the MBA program, Paul discovered there are two key pathways to success while earning a graduate degree online.
''It is important for anybody enrolling in the MBA program to have a plan for how they want to use it and to keep things in perspective,'' he said. ''The skills I am learning can be applied to many situations, so you get good value out of the program.''
Now that Paul is in the home stretch of completing the online MBA in Entrepreneurship program, he looks forward to spending more time outdoors, continuing to learn new things and working on his business and his garden.
With the majority of the coursework under his belt, he firmly believes earning an MBA from UL Lafayette will go a long way toward making Sawbriar Brewery a success.
''We're going to keep fighting hard to get a little brewery established here in Lafayette,'' Paul said. ''You have got one life to live.''
Roll out the barrels.
Learn more about the UL Lafayette MBA with a concentration in Entrepreneurship program online.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.