Coming Full Circle
PROVO, Utah – Feb 06, 2020 – BYU Marriott information systems professor Degan Kettles pushes himself beyond his limits—whether he’s competing in triathlons or working in the business world. Training for strenuous and mentally exhausting physical feats has helped Kettles learn to overcome adversity, something that has translated into his career.
“After having a career in the private business world, I had to dig deep to figure out what I wanted to accomplish next in my life,” says Kettles. “I came to the conclusion that being a professor was my calling.”
Kettles first came to BYU as a student in 1992 and graduated with his bachelor in communications with an emphasis in public relations. In the public relations program, he took a required HTML course and began working in web development while getting his undergrad. “This was back in the mid to late nineties when web development was just taking off,” says Kettles.
After finding a passion for web development, Kettles applied for and was accepted into BYU Marriott’s master of information systems program. “I took almost all the technical information systems courses available at the time,” says Kettles.
Kettles ended up leaving the MISM program prior to graduating to begin working for a promising startup. “I took a full-time position with this company I thought would hit it big, but their financial model didn't work out,” says Kettles. "When the funding got pulled, many people were out of work, and I was one of them.” Kettles did a lot of short-term contract work while he waited for the software industry to stabilize so he could find permanent employment.
His perseverance when facing challenges in his career is the same approach he uses when he trains for triathlons or deals with other difficulties—he pushes through. “I had this wrestling coach in high school who was a monster of a man,” says Kettles. “He would say, ‘If it's raining, we run. If it's snowing, we run. If it's cold, we run. If it's hot, we run.’ One time someone asked, ‘What if there's an earthquake?’ and Coach said, ‘We run between the cracks.’ That attitude became a part of my life —try my best and be passionate about what I do.”
Kettles’ support system comes from his wife, Danielle, whom he got to know in a BYU Marriott accounting class. “I don't think I was quite as interested in accounting as I was in her,” says Kettles. The couple has four children who are also constantly cheering him on, whether he’s teaching in the classroom or running a triathlon. “I took a triathlon course in 2004, and I got hooked,” says Kettles. “I don't always do triathlons now, but running, biking, or swimming every day has been a part of my life ever since.”
Kettles decision to become a professor was guided by his earlier experiences as a student at BYU. As an undergrad, Kettles had several opportunities to be a guest speaker because web development wasn't as well-known at the time. “My roommate and I even got permission to teach a class on web development within the information systems program,” says Kettles. “I got to teach during my undergrad, and teaching was the most thrilling thing I'd ever done.”
Kettles graduated from Arizona State University with a PhD in business with an emphasis in computer information systems in 2012 and began working at the University of Central Oklahoma where he tenured as a research professor. After five years at the University of Central Oklahoma, Kettles returned to where it all started—BYU Marriott.
Whether at home or work, Kettles is constantly finding ways to improve as a professor. “I work hard on things even when I don't have to,” says Kettles. “If I get a free minute at home, I'm trying to learn something new that will benefit the students, which simultaneously helps me improve.”
Kettles’s BYU journey began as a student and now, seventeen years later as a professor, he has come full circle and has found great fulfillment along the way. “Whether it’s on the race course, in the business world, or as a professor, I have always tried to push myself to be better and to improve,” says Kettles.
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kate Monroe