In 2000, pursuing an education was the furthest thing from Julia Boyd’s mind. She was struggling just to find a reason to live. It was the year her only child, Heather, died in a car accident. She was 11 years old. Heather was not wearing her seat belt.
“I got in touch with the Safe Kids Oklahoma Office, and I became a child passenger safety technician to help educate parents and children that’s it okay to buckle up — even if you’re in a vehicle where the other people aren’t buckled up,” Boyd said. “And I’ve been doing that ever since.”
Helping others can be cathartic, and eventually, Boyd was able to help herself, too, by continuing her education. In 2015, at age 48, she earned her Master of Business Administration in Management online from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. And now she’s back at SOSU working on her Master of Science in Native American Leadership. Her niece, Josie, and her nephews, Connor, Wyatt, and Christopher helped her immensely while she earned her MBA. Connor, Wyatt, and Josie were able to attend her graduation ceremony.
“For me, children help heal the heart,” Boyd said. “It gave me motivation. I was like, ‘I want to do stuff with them and for them so I have got to keep going.’ And also to honor Heather’s memory. I wanted to do something that would make her proud of me, as well.”
An Encouraging Word … or Two
Boyd started working for the Choctaw Nation as an accounting clerk in 2003. Back then, she only had an associate degree in management, which she earned in the 1980s from the Oklahoma State Institute of Technology (OSUIT).
Her mentor and boss at the time, Cindi Briscoe, encouraged her to go back to school.
“She said, ‘Julie, you’ve got to get your bachelor’s,'” Boyd said. “After I finished my bachelor’s, she said, ‘Julie, there’s no reason for you to stop. You really need to get your master’s.'”
Boyd, who is one-quarter Choctaw, knew Briscoe was leading her in the right direction to increase her career opportunities. She now works as Director of HR Operations for the Choctaw Nation in Durant, Okla. Boyd started that job in January of 2016, but she has worked for the Choctaw Nation in roles such as Government Contracts at Choctaw Defense Manufacturing Company (CDMC), Compensation Analyst and Organizational Development Specialist.
“She was very encouraging,” Boyd said of Briscoe. “And it just made sense because it’s just me; I live alone. And there was really not a compelling reason not to do it. Everything has prepared me for where I am now.”
Boyd decided on SOSU for her MBA because it was also where she earned her Bachelor of Business Administration in Management in December of 2012, but in her opinion, the decision to earn her degree online was made for her.
“Honestly, I think that was all that was offered at that time for that MBA program,” she said. “It used to be face-to-face, but then it switched to eight-week blocks. As it turned out, it was more beneficial for me to do it that way.”
And rather than feel any kind of disconnect, Boyd said she felt like online learning was even more thorough than the classroom experience, providing her with plenty of motivation for her school work.
“I think there’s a higher degree of accountability involved, more initiative involved,” Boyd said. “It’s really easy to procrastinate and put things off. You have to learn time management. There are a lot of skills that translate into a career that you learn in this online environment.”
In addition to the things she learned from a business standpoint, Boyd thoroughly enjoyed the courses that were a little more “outside the box.”
“Some of the behavioral and the industrial psychology aspects of how people interact with each other in an organization â€” those were some of my favorite classes,” she said. “And the classes that required the most writing … looking back, I dreaded them at the time, but they improved my writing skills. I’m just so thankful now that Dr. [C.W.] Von Bergen and Dr. [Martin] Bressler just really pushed and encouraged me, as well. That was pivotal for me, as far as my writing.”
Boyd said the things she learned about while earning her MBA were immediately applicable to her job.
“When I was at CDMC, I was doing some accounting and some financials,” Boyd said. “All of that is part of the curriculum in the management. It was just all flowing together. It had a real symbiotic nature to it.”
Even though she graduated from the business school more than a year ago, Boyd remains very close with several members of the business department at SOSU. And the Haworth, Okla., native lives in Durant, Okla.
“I’m still connected to Dr. Bressler; I’m still connected to Dr. Von [Bergen]; I’m still connected to [MBA Director] Robert Howard in the MBA program,” she said. “I feel like more of a friendship has developed that keeps me connected. I’m very fond of SOSU, in general. I’m one of their biggest fans.”
And Boyd said no matter what the online degree program, “Don’t hesitate. Don’t overthink it. Just do it.”
Family Support System
In addition to Briscoe’s encouragement, having her family around — especially her niece and nephews — was key to Boyd finishing her master’s.
“I love all my nieces and nephews and share special bonds with all of them — don’t get me wrong,” Boyd said. “But these four were at an age where it just helped me along the way. It was very motivating.”
And when June 5, the anniversary of Heather’s death, comes up on the calendar each year, Boyd deals with her tragic loss in her own way.
“I feel like my brain is compartmentalized, and I have a section that’s Heather’s — it’s totally Heather’s,” she said. “When the anniversary of the wreck comes along, or her birthday, I unlock the door and let it go. If I need to go to the cemetery all day, if I need to get mad all day, take a road trip … I do whatever I need to do, and when that day’s over, I let it go.”
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA in Management program.
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