Former Penguin Defensive End Eric Brown Comes Full Circle in MBA Program

The first time Eric Brown was a student at Youngstown State University, he helped the Penguins secure their fourth national football championship. Twenty-one years later, he is still on a winning streak.

Brown graduated from the online Master of Business Administration program with a Specialization in Leadership at YSU in May 2020.

“I wanted to go back to get some leadership and executive experience to better leverage myself at this point in my career,” he said. “Technology has changed over the years since I first graduated.

“I also wanted to work with Millennials in the MBA program to see how they think and get the latest academic and technological knowledge to help me in my career moving forward.”

After several years of working as an advocate for criminal offenders to reduce recidivism, Brown switched to a role in supply chain management. Now, he is in his second year as chief operating officer at Stark County Community Action Agency in Canton, Ohio.

“Working for a nonprofit organization is a little bit different than what I had been doing,” he said. “I wanted to go back to help people help themselves in their community. This was an opportunity to do that at a high level.”

Although Brown had never taken an online course before, he tackled the new challenge of an online MBA like it was an opposing quarterback.

“It was a great format,” he said. “I picked it up pretty well. [MBA program coordinator] Monique Bradford and [MBA program director] Dr. Patrick Bateman were both great.

“Each semester, I had a meeting with them to discuss which classes I should take and what approach and direction I should go. They were always honest and gave me good feedback.”

What a Rush

Brown grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he was a multi-sport athlete in football, basketball and track and field in high school.

He was a defensive end on the 1997 Penguins team under head coach Jim Tresell, now YSU president. The team finished 13-2 and beat McNeese State, 10-9, in the Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) championship game.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1999, Brown was excited to return to YSU and become the first person in his immediate family to earn a master’s degree.

“I am an alumnus forever,” he said. “I always thought YSU was a good school. It’s been great to go back and get my graduate degree. Initially, I wanted to be a news anchor. It didn’t work out. I don’t think I have the look.”

OMBA 6923: Corporate Financial Management was Brown’s favorite course in the online MBA in Finance program curriculum.

“When we finished our last assignment in the course, we had to call the professor, talk through it, get feedback and make sure we understood,” he said. “That was great. I loved it. As far as reading financials and understanding them, it was quite helpful.

“The information I learned in the program was especially useful going through the pandemic and reopening our business. We were remote for a while. We had to plan to go remotely and come back.”

In the End Zone

Brown, who enjoys spending time with his wife, Terri, and children, Edley, Nate and Natalie, is happy to have a strengthened business acumen and the chance to apply what he learned in the MBA program to his career. He recently earned Lean Six Sigma green belt certification.

“Having an MBA will be beneficial to me,” he said. “I have opportunities now, but it will open a lot of C-level executive opportunities. My family and friends are also excited for me.”

Applying what he learned on the football field, Brown worked together with his classmates on projects and in discussions to achieve a common goal.

“You have to be willing to work with small groups and in teams,” he said. “I learned to value other people’s opinions and thoughts and approach ideas differently. Other people’s opinions matter, and somebody else might have a better approach than you. I got good value out of the program.”

To celebrate his major achievement, Brown hopes to walk the graduation stage for the second time at Youngstown.

“I still have my gown hanging up,” he said. “I also want to see my old coach and have him hand me my diploma — that’s important to me.”

Sounds like a good game plan.

Learn more about Youngstown State’s online MBA with a Specialization in Leadership program.

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