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Meet Thomas Arm, MBA ‘17
Meet Thomas Arm, MBA ‘17

Why would anyone opt to complete about 30 credits more than needed for an MBA - on top of working a job? Thomas Arm has a good reason, and the attitude to get it done, too. 


When Thomas Arm, MBA ‘17, considered which of the stackable credentials to pursue as part of The Portland MBA, he first decided on data analytics. 

From his time working as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, he already had built some skills in this area, but he knew there was so much more to learn now. From data visualization to design thinking, virtually every industry is looking for ways to better leverage their data. 

Then he chose to go for the Athletic & Outdoor certificate, too. Did we mention he also works 20+ hours a week as a Corporate Strategy Manager? 

“I’ve had a lot of 15-credit terms, and plenty of apologies to my friends for having no social life,” he says, without a hint of complaint in his voice. 

“With anything you’re working on, you have to remember why you are doing it. For me, it’s about building a skillset that I can use for the rest of my career, in an industry I’m passionate about.” 

Thomas definitely is in the right place for that industry. Portland has an impressive density of A&O brands, ranging from global players like Nike to exciting startups such as Poler and Product Werks. 

With some of them, Thomas has already been able to make personal connections, in a very convenient setting: the classroom. 

“The Portland MBA is very case study based, and we often have industry leaders come in and share their insights with us. Jennifer Nolfi, who leads the A&O initiatives at Portland State is so passionate about the industry and incredibly well connected. She really brings the best and brightest to the classroom, for the benefit of us students. 

For example, when we learned about go-to-market strategy, the director of adidas originals go-to-market talked to us about his approach. In a class about corporate social responsibility, we had Chris Enlow from Keen share his insights, so we heard directly from a company on the leading edge of this topic.” 

Besides industry leaders, faculty and staff, Thomas also sees his classmates as a resource for making the most of his MBA. “When you learn with such a diverse group with backgrounds in many different fields, you get to have really interesting conversations and often those lead to better results.” 

With graduation time just around the bend, Thomas is envisioning how he will leverage his new skillsets: “I have been hearing from a lot of leaders in A&O about their desire to dig deeper into their data and have that ground their decisions. That confirms for me that I’ll be able to contribute real value.” 

Chances are, he’ll stay in Portland for a while. “The industry I want to be in is right here, and Portland State has phenomenal connections. And I just love Portland. I have lived in a number of cities around the U.S. and abroad. You can’t beat being one hour from the coast, one hour from the mountains, and at the center of an amazing food scene.” 

One more piece of advice for future MBA students: “What you’re getting out of your graduate program is directly tied to what you put into it. So once you’re here, you might as well go for it.” 


Yes, there is another student completing both business intelligence and A&O certificates in Portland State’s current MBA cohort: Justin Chi. Read about his experience in the PENSOLE footwear design academy. 

Take a look at our graduate business certificates.