A Winning Drive: Executive MBA Adds Depth to Former Cougar Quarterback’s Business Arsenal
By Eric Hollenbeck
Anyone who has followed Washington State University football over the past two decades knows the name Jason Gesser (’02 Comm., ’17 EMBA). Gesser’s storied career as WSU’s starting quarterback includes leading the Cougars to a PAC-10 championship in 2002 and a trip to the 2003 Rose Bowl; he ranks in the top five in most passing categories and has the second most wins of any quarterback in WSU history.
After graduation, Gesser played professionally with stints in the NFL, CFL, and AFL before retiring. He went on to coach high school and college football prior to returning to his alma mater in 2015 to work in development and engagement for the Cougar Athletic Fund (CAF).
Today, as a WSU assistant athletic director and the director of development for major gifts, Gesser focuses on growing donor investment in support of Cougar Athletics. And although his playing days are behind him, he continues to prove himself as a consummate leader, recently adding another achievement to his already impressive list of WSU accomplishments: Carson College of Business Executive MBA graduate.
“When I stopped coaching and jumped into the administration and development side of college athletics, the goal was, and still is, to one day become an athletic director,” says Gesser.
To support his professional goals, Gesser enrolled in the Carson College online EMBA program to hone his business skills and help him stand out in a highly competitive market.
Earning his EMBA was the right move because “at the end of the day, when you are an athletic director, you’re basically the CEO of a multi-million dollar company,” he says.
Carson College EMBA: Creating leaders among leaders
The Carson College EMBA program engages students in executive level business concepts and strategy and strives to provide students with contemporary business skills, advanced management techniques, and principled ethical standards to make a positive impact on local and global business communities.
In his role with the CAF, Gesser regularly meets with business leaders to build and strengthen relationships with Cougar Athletics. He says his EMBA degree and the knowledge he gained have helped him connect to the business world and engage with executives in ways that better serve WSU.
“They look at you in a different light when they find out you’ve gone through the EMBA program,” he says. “I’m not just the former football player that people know. Now, I am someone they view as highly respectable, knowledgeable, and self-determined, and who knows how to handle himself professionally in business.”
In addition to the practical business education he received, Gesser also credits the program for helping grow his professional network.
“It’s so perfect,” he says about the relationships you build with other professionals in the program. “You’re working alongside CEOs and other high-level business people. People similar in age who have families and similar career paths. You learn a lot along the way. Not just from the courses, but from the people you are working with.”
Gesser is a strong advocate for the Carson College EMBA and credits the program for giving him the business skills necessary to help grow his career. He is also grateful to the faculty and his fellow cohort members for the support they provided.
“The whole support system is phenomenal,” he says.
And for people looking to grow their careers and considering an EMBA from the WSU Carson College of Business, he offers this advice: “If you’re thinking about it, stop thinking and just do it. It will be one of the best feelings of accomplishment in your entire life.”