sam holtIn his first year as an undergraduate, Samuel Holt learned a lesson that continues to resonate a dozen years later as he pursues an MBA in Oregon State University’s College of Business: Whatever work you do, there are finite resources that require effective management.

Holt gained that insight as a freshman at the University of Tennessee by not effectively managing his primary resource: Himself.

“I did poorly my first year, mainly due to a lack of effort,” he said. “So I took 18 hours per semester the last two years to finish on time. I basically did three years in two. It taught me to be organized.”

The owner of a finance degree from Tennessee and the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Reserves, Holt has amassed a wealth of leadership experience during his infantry career, which has included both Ranger School and Airborne School. He’s been both a rifle company platoon leader and executive officer, a battalion assistant operations officer and an adviser to the Army’s Japan commander.

After leaving active duty, he went to work as a civilian at the Marine Corps air station in Iwakuni, Japan, serving as a facilities manager.

When the time came to continue his education, Holt chose Oregon State from “lots of options for my MBA.”

“I wanted to get back to fundamentals, get back to the schoolhouse,” he said. “An MBA imparts academic best practices. It’s one more tool in the kit bag.”

Holt is in the global operations track in the MBA program, which emphasizes supply chain principles.

“The global aspect is important,” Holt said. “You can always start big and go down. Anything we do is global or international based, and understanding that supply chain is beneficial.

“I don’t want to be the CEO of a specific company,” he said. “My goal, and it sounds corny, is just to make a positive contribution to the community, and by community I don’t just mean my town, but the broader community, the global community.”

At Oregon State, where his wife, Rhonda, is doing a veterinary medicine residency, Holt has enjoyed learning and growing under a collection of scholars he lauds for their “approachability.”

“The faculty here is great,” he said. “They’re tremendously easy to talk to, and helpful and knowledgeable. They’re open and willing to provide assistance beyond what you would expect.”

Assistant Prof. Aimee Huff, for example, “provided feedback on a group paper, helped shape it, and did it in her free time over Thanksgiving break. I wouldn’t have expected that.”

Huff in turn calls Holt “insightful” and a “great student.”

“He is focused, motivated, and brings a practical sensibility to the class discussions,” she said.

Included in that sensibility is a self-awareness. “You can’t be a good leader unless you’re a good follower,” he says, and he knows there are certain “functional areas,” such as human resources, in which he has limited experience; he’s looking for the Oregon State MBA program to help fill in those gaps.

“It helps you give more thought to when to use the right lever on a resource,” he said. “An MBA should know where to go to get something done or find the answer. It helps you develop and realize a plan for a longer-term strategy. Whatever you’re doing, you’re dealing with finite resources and how to manage those most effectively.”