First-generation high school graduate Robert Van Natta, part of the inaugural cohort of CSU Global’s MBA program, shares how this degree is “the golden ticket.”

Robert Van Natta is going for the three-peat of education. 

In just over three years, he’s earned an Undergraduate Certificate and Bachelor’s Degree in Project Management, and is 30% of the way through his MBA – all at CSU Global. 

What’s even more impressive? Van Natta is a first-generation high school graduate, a self-described blue-collar worker, and father. 

Colorado resident Van Natta began his higher educational journey at age 27 when he received an associate degree in wind energy technology. “I knew I wanted to learn a skill,” he shared. “Having grown up in an environment that wasn't conducive to success or knowledge, I wanted to break that cycle, take the plunge, and pursue education.”  

Now armed with a background in renewable energy technology, Van Natta worked in California’s oil fields as a drilling fluid engineer for a period of time before returning to Colorado. There, he became a traveling wind turbine  technician – an experience that granted him the opportunity to work in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria to help rebuild power grids. 

“It was an interesting humanitarian aspect of my career,” said Van Natta. Working in such a complex environment and helping to organize the power resolution efforts inspired him to think about the bigger picture. 

“My experience throughout my certificate and bachelor’s programs at CSU Global was absolutely fantastic,” he shared. “I had a great support system, from the enrollment counselors to student financial services, the instructors, and more.”

Van Natta returned to Colorado in 2018 and enrolled in CSU Global’s Undergraduate Certificate Program in Project Management. He admitted that he initially signed up for the certificate program instead of a bachelor’s program as he wasn’t sure how he would fare in online education. Six months later, certificate in hand, Van Natta returned to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Project Management while working for a leading aerospace company.

After graduating in 2021, Van Natta said his career trajectory catapulted from earning his degree. He received offers with salaries up to 50% higher than what he was making at the time. He ultimately landed a project manager role at an international robotics firm and worked his way up to an engineering manager by applying skills learned throughout his degree program. 

By then, Van Natta had caught the life-long learning bug. “I was thinking how much CSU Global had done for me, and how maybe I could take it a little bit further,” he recalled. He had started looking at various MBA programs just as CSU Global announced its new fully online Master of Business Administration

“I was already an alumnus, so I received a discount on tuition. And CSU Global’s tuition is a beautiful number – it borders on too good to be true. However, I can assure everyone that it’s absolutely true.” 

Today, Van Natta is pursuing his MBA, working at an aerospace data facility, and getting ready to become a father for a second time. As for how he balances his time amid all these responsibilities? Van Natta credits CSU Global’s asynchronous schedule with achieving academic success. With the ability to complete coursework on his own time, he’s able to maximize work, family, and school commitments.

“I can't say enough how incredible it is to obtain higher education degrees, especially for somebody who grew up thinking college was for people who had opportunities and not blue-collared people like myself.”

Van Natta’s advice for those considering taking the plunge? “Anybody can get through this. While online education might not be for every person, I think it's for a lot more people than you would expect. You'll be pleasantly surprised at what you're capable of, as long as you show up.” 

With a toddler at home and a second daughter due in February, a new course to look forward to every eight weeks, and a career as a contractor with the U.S. government, Van Natta and his wife are looking to purchase a home and plant some roots – thanks in part due to his degrees opening doors to multiple opportunities. “An MBA truly is the golden ticket to many critical roles, especially management leadership positions,” he shared. “The sky really is the limit.”