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WGU dual-degreed graduate (B.S. Business Management and MBA) Kelly Nix was born on the missionary field in Peru to two missionary parents. Today, like his three brothers (one of which is also a graduate of WGU), Kelly is a pastor of a church. He is also a Field Content Manager for Children International an organization working with 340,000 underprivileged children in 11 countries. And though it may not be evident at first, he uses his MBA every day.
Kelly and his family left Peru when he was 12 years old, and after two years in Costa Rica, settled in Oregon. Shortly thereafter, they relocated again to Texas, where Kelly finished high school via home schooling. With a deep call to service, he knew he wanted to remain active in the ministry, but he needed a trade to help pay the bills. “I went to a technical school for computer science,” he said. “It was secondary to my goals in the ministry, but primary to my goals of paying for housing and food. It didn’t take long to decide I hated working on computers,” he recalls. He also earned degrees in theology that, though useful to his ministry, did not prove to be significant advantages in the job market.
He left IT, and traveled with his wife and four young children to the missionary fields in Brazil. In Brazil he oversaw a three-state region and engaged in substantial pioneering work building structures, training ministers and establishing congregations in the areas he was serving. “My wife had never been overseas before, and she was a real trooper,” he said. But when the opportunity came to accept a pastorship in Missouri, they decided to leave Brazil and return stateside with their family.
Back in the U.S., Kelly realized his technical school training and associate degree in psychology were not enough. He transferred this work into WGU in 2006. “I was looking for a fast path to a bachelor’s degree in business and was willing to do the work to make it happen,” he said. “I basically left the public eye for five months (except pastoring) and worked long hours on my degree plan. With the help of a wonderful and extremely supportive mentor, I completed my degree in five months. My mentor put my needs first,” he said. “I really clicked with the model, and was able to move quickly through a lot of the material because I already knew it. The competency-based model saved me so much money I calculated it costs me the equivalent of about $27 a credit hour/competency unit to finish my bachelor’s!” Using the momentum he had established finishing his bachelor’s degree, he enrolled in the MBA Management Strategy program which he completed in 18 months.
Why would a pastor need an MBA? “It impacted me in a couple of ways as a pastor,” he explained. “Folks don’t often realize how much the position requires administrative and leadership skills especially in a smaller congregation where the pastor is also often the bookkeeper or accountant. When I look back at my pastoral career prior to having these two business degrees, I can see where I made some bad choices. Now I am more informed it makes me a better steward of the congregation and its resources. Two months after finishing my MBA, I moved to Texas to start a church from the ground up.” This required a business plan, and a need to be able to present something tangible and intelligent to the bank to buy the property. “From the legal side, building a church is like a start-up,” said Kelly. “The pastor is very much like the CEO and there are still corporate processes.” Based on the business principles he learned, Kelly fashioned an unusual model for his church, and with careful financial planning and a debt-free approach; he has a growing congregation and church property in robust health financially.
When not pastoring, Kelly also uses skills acquired from his degree work on the editorial side of Children International. A professional writer and highly skilled linguist and translator, Kelly travels to third-world countries for the organization to work with field representatives to establish healthier communities for hundreds of thousands of children. “We intentionally pick densely settled, poverty-stricken, third-world urban areas with more than 5,000 children,” said Kelly. “Then the team comes in and helps field reps establish everything the children will need from medical centers that can diagnose illnesses and prescribe medicine, to facilities designed to promote education, nutrition and job readiness.” Kelly works in the field to provide leadership and collect data to compile stories that correspondents can use to supply the website and magazine with documentation of the organization’s work worldwide. Children International is funded by individual donations, so being able to communicate the progress they are making is critical to the organization’s ability to help poor children and their families improve their lives.
With his accredited degree credentials from WGU, Kelly is also able to follow his call to service as an adjunct assistant professor for Hope International University's Apostolic School of Theology. He has also been instrumental in launching an online school with a theology-based leadership training center. “We see that program really growing,” he said. “I had the concept for years, but by going through WGU I was able to learn a lot about instructional design and best practices for online learning. We don’t charge tuition for the leadership training courses I feel good about that.”
Kelly also serves on the WGU Alumni Advisory Board, where his insights and experiences are helping shape a growing alumni community, both here in Texas and across the U.S. “I love the WGU model and the mentor-guided support,” said Kelly. “I’ve personally referred more than 25 students to the university over the years.”
When not traveling, Kelly and his wife live in San Antonio where he pastors his church and enjoys a purpose-driven life with his four children, who range in age from 13 to 20.
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