Napoleon Dynamite, Jimmy Carter, and a BYU Marriott MBA

PROVO, Utah – Jul 29, 2019 –

Before the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, the research publications and the university lectures, BYU Marriott assistant professor Mark Hansen grew up as a potato farmer in Southeastern Idaho. While in high school, Hansen served as the Idaho State President of FFA (Future Farmers of America), long before Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro Sánchez joined the organization. “I know that’s something that makes people chuckle these days,” Hansen says. “Many people don’t know that about me, but I was proud to be a member of the FFA.”

Hansen’s position within the FFA led to opportunities much larger than tasting milk. As state president, the high school teenager traveled across the country to meet some of the nation’s greatest leaders. “That experience in FFA opened my eyes,” Hansen recalls. “Here I was this farm boy, yet I got to travel to Washington, DC, and visit with members of congress and the president, Jimmy Carter.”

Years later, with education, professional experience, and volunteer opportunities under his belt, Hansen is now an assistant professor of organizational leadership and strategy at BYU Marriott. Hansen had no idea his early experiences with the FFA would eventually lead him to BYU—both as a student and now as a faculty member.

After graduating high school, Hansen started a fence-making business for local farmers in the Blackfoot, Idaho, area. The business ended up being more successful than he expected, helping him earn enough money to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hansen was called to serve in Bolivia, and, for a time, held an administrative position as the financial secretary for the mission.

“Serving in that position gave me another small taste of the business world,” Hansen remembers. “It helped me see that a career in business was a real possibility for me.” Even Hansen’s mission president noticed his financial secretary’s skills and encouraged him to return home and study business when his missionary service was complete. Hansen's membership in the FFA, along with business experience and missionary service, sparked his interest in a business degree from BYU.

Hansen came to BYU and earned a bachelor's degree in accounting before graduating with both a MAcc and an MBA from BYU Marriott in 1990. Hansen still credits much of the success he’s had in his career to the connections he made, lessons he learned, and experiences he had while a student at BYU. These connections led to multiple job offers out of college, and he ultimately accepted a position at Ford Motor Company in Michigan.

As an employee at Ford, Hansen remembers one specific occasion where a lesson he learned in a BYU MBA course paid dividends in his new career. “The COO came into the room where several other recent MBA graduates and myself were sitting and asked us if we knew anything about statistical process control,” he recalls. Hansen was the only employee to raise his hand, and he was chosen to help the COO with a special project. The recent MBA grad was later able to present his findings, all thanks to a lesson he recalled from one of his MBA courses.

After four years of work at Ford, Hansen decided to pursue additional schooling. Several of the projects he was given at Ford revealed his interest in how decisions are made, so a PhD in strategic management from Texas A&M University proved to be the right fit. Hansen received his degree in 1996 and accepted a job at BYU, where he has worked ever since. “I decided to come to BYU, and I can honestly say I’ve never looked back,” Hansen says. “Coming here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Hansen genuinely enjoys his opportunity to teach in the BYU Marriott Department of Management. He still looks back on his decision to study business and pursue postgraduate degrees as a major turning point in his career. “The BYU Marriott MBA program created amazing opportunities for me,” Hansen says. "The courses teach students one of the most valuable skills you can develop—a knowledge of how to figure things out.”

Mark Hansen
Mark Hansen

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Paul Swenson