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Student Highlights

Nate O'Neel

No one in his family had ever attended college before Nate.  Nate remembers the advisors in high school talking to him about college. "I just wasn't ready to listen at that time.  You know that blank face you put on when someone is talking and you just don't think it pertains to you."  Living paycheck to paycheck with his wife and newborn in Walla Walla, Nate knew he had to create a new path.  The saying, 'The future is so far away, the past so close' struck a chord with Nate.  He started attending the local community college and his journey took him all the way to the MBA program at EWU.   

"I want to say that the student family housing at Eastern made a huge difference in my success.  Not only did we have a comfortable place to live, we had a network of support built in, with the other families, all the kids living there," Nate says with gratitude.  Now Nate's wife is attending college and he has convinced his brother to pursue a college degree as well.  There is little doubt that Nate will have his children thinking about college from a young age.  

When Nate was searching for his path, he found himself drawn to electricity. "There was a magic to it.  You can't see it, but get in its way and you sure can feel it."  He realized he was good at details, breaking problems down into manageable chunks, he had a technical, analytical mind.  He earned his undergraduate degree in engineering.  With his engineering background, he knew if he was to get ahead in the private sector, an MBA was the way to go.  Nate is currently employed as a Project Manager, where his persistence and methodical nature are put to excellent use.  

Marta Tosic Defenbach

Marta came to EWU as an international undergraduate transfer student from the University of Belgrade in Serbia. She earned a degree in finance. After gaining some real-world work experience in corporate finance in banking, Marta felt ready to tackle a graduate degree and returned to Eastern for her MBA. Little did she know she would embrace a major career shift in the midst of her graduate studies. She is now a Risk Analyst at Avista. "I like to go with my gut feelings. I am not afraid of change," Marta states. Learning new skills at work at the same time she was taking grad classes was a challenge. "But I enjoy going to school while I work, you look at learning in a different way. You see immediately how you can apply the knowledge."  

There are some interesting differences between study at EWU and the University of Belgrade. One major difference is the availability of the professors. "We attended large lectures in Serbia and the professors were not always available outside of class. Also the examination process is very different," Marta explains. Final exams were mostly oral and usually consisted of four questions, depending on the subject. Marta confides that it could be stressful especially if she picked a question she was a bit shaky on.  

Marta appreciates the smaller classes here at EWU and the availability of her professors. She also appreciates the acceptance she has always felt with her EWU community and in the larger business world of Spokane. She always felt she was given equal and fair opportunity. Happily, Marta's self-motivation and thirst for new challenges allows her to excel in these opportunities. 

Student profiles prepared by Deanna Duplechain of Graduate Studies

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