Growing up on a wheat farm in northeastern Oregon, Michael Hales was raised to be a Beaver.
But even if he didn’t have an emotional and family connection with Oregon State, where his father, Mark, studied business in the late 1970s, the MBA program at OSU fit his educational needs like money in a cash register.
“I graduated in the fall,” said Hales, who completed his undergraduate finance degree in 2013, “and I was able to start the MBA program in the winter. I didn’t have to take a single term off, waste any time. And the wealth management track really appealed to me; I couldn’t find an MBA program with a better emphasis.
“Another thing that was super helpful was they let me start without taking the GMAT as long as I did it that first term,” Hales added. “That was really important to me. Also, I knew going into the program I’d be taking the CFP exam, and the wealth management track is geared toward preparing you for that. Eventually I want to be a financial planner, and I like that term much better than broker because there’s so much more to it than just investing.”
Hales’ introduction to that concept came from his father, a financial adviser in addition to running the family’s farm. And on the farm, Hales was exposed not only to hard work in general but also received a business education from the commercial and financial aspects of an agricultural operation.
Upon his graduation from Pendleton High School, the next steps were clear for Hales: Follow his father’s footsteps by enrolling at Oregon State and pledging Sigma Alpha Epsilon, where his dad had been a member. Once on campus, Hales switched majors twice before finding his niche in finance, and he soared through the ranks at the SAE house, spending a year as chapter vice president and another as president.
As he neared the completion of his degree, he weighed job offers and MBA programs, “and this just made the most sense,” he said of his decision to remain in Corvallis for another year.
“I wanted to get it out of way now,” he said. “People always say they’ll go back later, but then you have kids and soccer practice and there are too many obligations stacked up. It just made sense to stay, on a lot of different levels. I’ve really loved it, never regretted it. I enjoy it even more than my undergraduate studies. I’m really impressed with the professors, (Prem) Mathew, Inga (Chira), Prof. (Ray) Brooks – they all seem very knowledgeable and helpful.”
Hales also draws on the lessons of instructor Jon Broome.
“He’s like a management/sales guy, and he has kind of a different style of teaching that’s stuck with me,” Hales said of Broom, who blends real-world storytelling with student participation – working as in-class teams to solve what the instructor calls “mini cases.”
Hales’ style as a student has left its mark on Broome, too.
“Michael is a leader both on his team and in participating in class,” Broome said. “His performance is always solid and well prepared, and he’s generally a very courteous and likable person as well.”