Mark & Sarah Lathrop

Interviewed by Mia Al-Sha

June 3, 2019
A smiling couple in formal clothing

Mark and Sarah Lathrop both earned an MBA from Eastern Washington University. They met on the first day of their MBA accounting class, later married each other, and purchased Liberty Lake Wine Cellars January 2016.

Sarah has also been the Finance Manager for Coleman Engineering since 2005. Before deciding to earn Eastern’s MBA, Sarah earned her BS in Professional and Technical Communications at the University of Montana and was the Executive/Marketing Assistant for JUB Engineers.

After he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music at Eastern, he decided to transition into the business world so he earned his MBA from EWU in 2008. Since doing so, Mark has been the Chief Financial Officer for West Star Industries, starting in 2008.

Why an MBA at EWU?

Sarah: I was an executive assistant to the president of an engineering firm working with lots of very talented engineers. I knew that the only way to advance my career was to go back to school. Although I enjoyed working with the engineers, I knew I didn’t want to be an engineer. I have a BS in technical communications with a minor in business, so the MBA program was a great fit. I had previously gone to a small university and EWU’s MBA program had small student-to-professor ratios which I enjoy and had an evening program that allowed me to keep my full-time day job, and offered me a scholarship (of sorts) to attend at in-state tuition prices.

Mark: Funny enough, my MBA was my second master’s degree from EWU, as I had graduated from the graduate music program back in 2002. That level of education got me access to a certain level of job, especially in government work, but I found that I was lacking in the experience to do work that I truly had a passion for. The EWU MBA program allowed me to catch up on undergraduate business credits in an accelerated fashion and worked around my career schedule.

What was your experience in EWU’s MBA?

Sarah: My experience was fantastic! I really appreciated that a lot of the professors had real-world work experience in various industries. Being able to relate class topics to actual situations in the workforce was a huge plus. Also, the small class sizes allowed me to get to know my professors and fellow classmates on a better level than being in a large class setting. Finally, the professors were very understanding about most of us working during the day and going to school at night, so often they were willing to accommodate schedule changes (for example, an unexpected work trip).

Mark: With the EWU MBA you get out what you put in, and by that I mean if you want to dive deeper into certain subjects, the faculty would allow you to do so. I had the flexibility to create electives that fit my needs as a student, and those which would help me find the job that I enjoy today.

How did having your EWU MBA benefit your job search or career advancement?

Sarah: While I was attending EWU, my responsibilities at work increased to include marketing projects and financial analysis projects. As I was finishing my degree, my boss decided to retire from running a large company and open his own engineering firm. He asked me to join him in the new business. I made the move with him, and now help run the company, which was made possible through getting my MBA at EWU.

Mark: In my last job interview to be a CFO of the company I work for I told them, “You need to have an MBA on staff.” They had never had one before, nor had made education a requirement for the position. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax savings later, they are glad to have an MBA on staff!

What is your advice to current MBA students?

Sarah: Work hard, make connections and soak up as much information from your professors as possible. I am still in contact with professors and fellow classmates, and I am able to contact them to ask for help/advice when needed. The networking that still is available to me today through the MBA program has been a huge benefit to my career.

Mark: Take advantage of the extra opportunities presented and don’t be afraid to ask professors to let you dive into a topic deeper. And network, network, network! Websites like LinkedIn make this easier than ever, and I will always answer the phone for an EWU MBA Alumni.