Skip to main content

BYU or Bust: Executive students willing to travel

Brett Sampson and Amy Labaugh know not to schedule many appointments on Tuesdays. On that day, all they can think about is boarding a shuttle from Rexburg, Idaho, to Salt Lake City. While the 234-mile trip may not be your average commute, students are increasingly willing to traverse mountains, airports and state lines to earn a graduate degree from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management.

“People often tell Amy and me that what we are doing is crazy,” said Sampson, who is currently working toward a master’s in public administration. “But everyone in the executive program has made some kind of a sacrifice to pursue an education at the Marriott School.”

The Marriott School is joining a long list of business schools with students commuting for executive programs. According to a 2008 Wall Street Journal survey, 64 percent of Executive MBA students travel up to 50 miles to attend school — nearly 22 percent travel at least 200 miles. At the Marriott School the distance traveled is made up for by the rigorous programs that allow working professionals to attend classes a few days every month and still learn the necessary skills for upper-level management.

“Our executive students are willing to travel because of the quality of the program and the affinity they have for Brigham Young University,” said Tad Brinkerhoff, EMBA program director. “It’s also a strong brand in the western United States and a great degree for the investment.”

The EMBA class of 2010 was the first to see Marriott School students travel cross-country. This has a lot to do with the launch of a new EMBA option, where students attend classes in Salt Lake City every other weekend. This new weekend option has only intensified interest in the school’s executive programs.

“The number of our students who travel will grow over time simply through word of mouth — the best recruiting tool,” Brinkerhoff said. “A lot of students can’t stop talking about their BYU experience, and many of their friends want to apply and come to BYU.”

That was the case with Labaugh and Sampson, both third-year EMPA students from Rexburg, Idaho. Labaugh’s enthusiasm for the program eventually spread to Sampson, who knew he wanted to get an MPA, but he wasn’t convinced until representatives from the Romney Institute of Public Management introduced him to the EMPA’s schedule and curriculum.

“The more I looked into the EMPA program, the more I realized that the nonprofit and public government emphases hit right in line with my work at LDS Philanthropies,” Sampson said. “The prospect of case studies with those models is also a good fit for me down the road.”

The Marriott School was the right choice for Mark Taylor as well — despite the distance from his home in Reno, Nev. Taylor had originally enrolled in MBA classes at other universities but found the commute and costs prohibitive. But when he spotted an advertisement in Marriott Alumni Magazine, Taylor, who earned a marketing degree from the Marriott School in 1985, saw a great opportunity.

“The main reason I picked BYU was the great value for the degree that you get,” said Taylor, now a second-year EMBA student. “And sharing similar qualities and values with people in the program, networking with them and reconnecting to a university that I loved 25 years ago is exciting.”

Taylor spends an hour and 15 minutes aboard his flight to Salt Lake twice a month. That’s one fourth of the time that Labaugh and Sampson spend on the road, one-way, making the search for higher education worthwhile.

“I’ve become better at my job because of the program,” Labaugh said. “It opened up my mind to what I could be doing with my job and how I could increase my professionalism. And that has trickled through the whole organization I’m a part of.”

The Marriott School has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems and entrepreneurship. Approximately 3,000 students are enrolled in the Marriott School’s graduate and undergraduate programs.

For this and other Marriott School news releases, visit the online newsroom at

Writer: Sean Walker and Megan Bingham

overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText=