2019 Best EMBAs: Matt Farmer, Washington University (Olin)

Matt (Matthew) Farmer

Washington University, Olin Business School

“Competitive, yet highly relational, values-driven leader deeply committed to his faith and family.”

Age: 41

Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Family Members: Jenna Farmer (spouse), Brennan Farmer (6), Jensen Farmer (3), Blaine Farmer (1)

Fun fact about yourself: I have participated in two of America’s most popular professional sports leagues. One as a player (very briefly) for the NY Jets in the NFL and the other as a chaplain for the KC Royals.

Undergraduate School and Degree: US Air Force Academy, BS in Social Sciences; Denver Seminary, Master of Divinity

Where are you currently working? National Christian Foundation, Vice President – NCF Heartland

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: With three young boys, my extracurricular activities are my family right now. But I have the privilege of serving in two fulfilling roles in Kansas City. I serve through Baseball Chapel as the chaplain for the KC Royals. And I get to serve as the board president for a safety-net family medical clinic in one of KC’s most under-served neighborhoods.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was shocked to learn that I finished in the top 20% of my class academically. I worked hard, but I also have incredibly smart and gifted classmates, so to be anywhere near the top is very satisfying.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I helped navigate a nonprofit through an incredibly challenging time that included the resignation of several key leaders, including the founder of 17 years. I provided strategic, stable and catalytic leadership for the nonprofit and other key stakeholders during a critical season of transition.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Ron King. He made financial accounting fun and interesting by combining his extensive knowledge with practical, real-world examples … plus he had a unique sense of humor that kept everyone locked in.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? With so many great ones to choose from, I think I would pick the Leadership Residency. In addition to the deep dive on effective business leadership, we got an in-depth look at our own leadership styles, approaches, strengths, and weaknesses. This opened my eyes to two very specific ways I needed to change.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I picked WashU because it combined a top-ranked school, top-notch faculty, rigorous academics (including four unique immersive residencies), and a powerful network of accomplished classmates and alumni.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Hands-down, the people—staff, faculty and peers. Specifically, I developed deep and lasting relationships through our cohort learning model and 360-feedback. There’s something about honest and authentic feedback from people you respect that deepens friendships.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I learned some big lessons at the beginning of the program through our negotiations class. It provided some incredibly practical insights for a more comprehensive approach to negotiating. I implemented those insights immediately in my business and nonprofit board settings, as well as with my wife and kids.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? It took a team effort. Myself, my wife, and especially her parents (as well as other family and friends) all chipped in to cover all the bases, particularly when we added our third boy to our family half-way through the program – not to mention when I traveled for almost two weeks half-way around the world for the China global residency.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Know, at least generally, why you want to go to school. I went to accelerate my learning in business, make a vocational shift, and expand my network. I accomplished all of these goals.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school?

Myth: Graduate school is a financial setback, and I won’t be able to recover.

Truth: It’s true, graduate school comes with a cost, but the data (and my personal experience) shows it is more of an investment than a cost or burden.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not taking better advantage of time with our top-notch professors on (and outside) class weekends.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s impossible to name just one. I am in awe of the quality, work ethic, and commitment to excellence of each classmate. So many of us battled through the adversity of some kind or another to sprint across the EMBA finish line.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I started asking questions about how to do economic and community development in under-resourced communities in more sustainable ways.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goal (let’s call it a pipe dream) is to be an owner (even if only a minority owner) of a professional sports team.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered as a humble, hard-working student who made everyone around him better.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1) Take my wife on our 10-year wedding anniversary trip we missed b/c of school. 2) Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

What made Matt such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“His ever-present smile, unselfishness, and intellect made Matt a top-performing EMBA teammate. Whether in his career or the classroom, Matt is always focused on the needs of others. With all his talents, humility and faith fly the highest.”

Cory Barron

Executive MBA Student Services Lead


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