2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Timothy Brandon Parsons, Washington University (Olin)

Timothy Brandon Parsons

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

Age: 35

“I’m a father to three beautiful girls and a husband to an amazing wife.”

Hometown: Louisa, Kentucky

Family Members: My wife, Keisha, and I have three children – Lillian (6) a competitive little girl with a huge heart, Elin (4) who has the most at ease and joyous personality (unless you come between her and her chocolate) and Gwyneth (1½) who has already identified and exploits her status as the baby in the family.

Fun fact about yourself:  I have never had a social media account.  For real … never.

Undergraduate School and Degree:  BS in Mining Engineering, University of Kentucky

Where are you currently working? I am currently the General Manager of M-Class Mining (a subsidiary of Foresight Energy) located in Macedonia Illinois.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I spend my free time restoring classic cars, hiking with my girls and volunteering at my church (Pittsburg Freewill Baptist Church).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Without a doubt, I was most proud of completing the EMBA (Executive Master of Business Admiration) program itself.  Being able to juggle a huge workload at the mine and regularly spending quality time with my three girls, all while contending with many difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe is one of the major accomplishments in my life.  

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?  Within my professional career, my most noteworthy accomplishment would be when our coal operation of over 250 employees went over one year (397 days) without a lost time accident. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of some incredible teams (many of which have broken production records that still stand today), but I have never been as proud as I was during this incredible safety run. Underground coal mining is arguably the most dangerous profession in the entire country. To go this long without a reportable incident requires unwavering attention to the smallest of details and understanding what it means (and takes) to be your brother’s keeper.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?  The professors within the EMBA program at WashU are phenomenal.  Each professor regarded the university’s aspiration to be “Values Based, Data Driven” as you could fluently tell when attending each one of their classes.  Of those professors, Stuart Bunderson’s ability to display sincerity and to meaningfully motivate and inspire through his words, others’ teachings and his actions has motivated me to be an all-around better person. His teachings of higher purpose have permanently changed how I approach obstacles, not only in the workplace, but in the hurdles I face throughout life as well.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program?  I chose WashU Olin Business School because of its exceptional reputation. I have confidence this reputation will support and facilitate my pivoting out of the coal industry into a more sustainable enterprise where I can impact the ongoing poverty and industry idleness in the area where I am from—Rural Appalachia.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work?  While there remain countless experiences and lessons I will take with me from the EMBA program at Washington University, the lesson that emerges as the most rewarding is the importance of continually developing others who work for you. Truly taking interest in others’ professional growth and being an advocate of their career development has enabled me to gain levels of trust and respect that I didn’t know was possible.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education?  Being the father of three small children, working full-time and being a student, it was not uncommon for me to average just four hours of sleep per night—sometimes for weeks at a time. During these stressful times, the to-do lists become fuller, and other priorities take precedence over quality family time. After realizing this, I made it an absolute priority to spend at least one hour of undivided attention with my girls, playing games or doing tasks they liked to do. I quickly concluded that always making time for the most important aspects of my life helped me increase my overall happiness and boosted my confidence—even if it was just one hour per day.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program?  There are two suggestions I wished I had followed throughout my MBA journey. The first, and most important, is to always make sure you make time throughout each week for the aspects in life that are most important. Unquestionably, you will not have near the free time you had before the program, so analyze what is genuinely important and be sure to make time for it.  Secondly, sometimes you just have to land the plane. Time management is of the upmost importance during this program, and sometimes perfection just isn’t worth five more hours.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Listening to the wrong people almost kept me from pursuing my MBA. My direct supervisor told me he didn’t believe I would be able to adequately manage the time required to supervise a coal mine and pursue my MBA. We all recognize who truly cares about us; don’t let the outside noise in.

What was your biggest regret in business school?  My biggest regret while in business school was waiting too long to reach out to the professors for help. The professors at Olin are remarkable and are more than willing to help outside of class hours. Don’t spend countless hours researching a problem yourself, when professionals who enjoy helping you learn are available with just a short email. 

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  Saqib Salman is the classmate everyone wants to be in a group with.  Saqib always gives his best in every aspect of his life; he works hard, cares about others and wants to help only the sake of helping. Befriending a person like him has been a highlight of the entire program.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives?  I choose an executive MBA program because it was more aligned with personal schedule, as well as meeting the educational needs of enhancing the skillsets I needed to pursue my long-term professional goals.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? – My home and heart remain in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. I whole-heartedly love where I grew up and the people who reside there. Most recent stories about the people from Appalachia end in heartache or some fashion of turmoil due to the countless disparities they encounter on a daily basis. I want to rewrite the narrative. I want to be part of the solution to the imbalance of resources that have plagued rural Appalachians for generations. My ultimate, long-term professional goal is to interactively aid in facilitating sustainable industry growth in the Appalachian region.

What made Brandon such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“As a third-generation miner from Eastern Kentucky, Brandon Parsons has witnessed the decline of the coal industry and its impact on the people of the community. His dream is to help bring back a good living to all his neighbors who are struggling. The first step to a solution started when Brandon enrolled in the WashU Olin Executive MBA program. Brandon wants to do more and make an impact, and he brings that same dedication into the classroom. With the business leadership skills he has learned, he will be in a position to help create new, non-coal-related businesses that will provide jobs and careers in an area of the country where opportunities are fading.”

Cory Barron
Associate Director of Executive MBA Student Affairs


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