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Turning Challenges into Opportunity: AIU Alumnus Dave Bigham’s Story

Image: AIU Alumnus Dave Bigham

The ability to turn a challenging situation into opportunity is the hallmark of a true success story, and that’s where Dave Bigham’s educational journey began.

While unemployment may deflate some, Dave took that time to go back to school at AIU Online and pursue his Associate of Arts in Business Administration (AABA) degree, which he achieved in 2011. “I thought the degree would add to my 17 years of experience in hotels, and I wanted to stay sharp while job hunting,” he says. “I went way too long without legitimate documents. The only thing I had was a high school diploma.”

Now employed with more than 20 years of experience under his belt, Dave also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (2012) and a Master of Business Administration (2013), all with specializations in Management—and all from AIU Online. “The first degree went so well, the BBA just made sense. … A bachelor’s degree made my resume more complete.”

It was after his 25th high school reunion, though, that Dave considered going for his MBA. “I had a few classmates who said that doors opened for them with their MBA, opportunities they couldn’t have had with their BBA. If they hadn’t finished their master’s, they would’ve plateaued.”

Not wanting to eliminate any opportunities from his future, he decided to pursue his MBA. “It’s better to constantly push forward than to sit and just look at something.”

In addition to not becoming stagnant, he used his AIU Online degrees as a “promotional tool” while job hunting and interviewing. “[Pursuing degrees] shows a commitment to yourself. If you have that kind of commitment to yourself, they’ll think of the commitment you could have to their company,” he said.

Today Dave is General Manager for a Best Western hotel in Longview, Texas, where he has plenty of opportunity to put his management degrees to work. “Every day is different. There is something to look forward to each day. From the business side, there are lots of challenges. I manage resources, labor, and [conduct] analysis.” His next goal is to pursue his CHA (certified hotel administrator), a prestigious certification for managers in the hotel industry. “That will lock in my expertise in hotel management.”

Eventually, Dave would like to move into teaching to share his knowledge with others. Fortunately, with his advanced degrees, he can pursue such opportunities and has even started interviewing for the next school year. “They are looking for people with business backgrounds and degrees to teach the business courses.”

Dave has always had an interest in teaching since he was a field trainer for years. “I want to pass on what I know, to not just improve the hotel industry but all industries.”

When he is charged with the task of teaching students, he will encourage his class to look for conflicting opinions. For his assignments at AIU, Dave said he always researched the assignment topic first, and then looked for conflicting opinions. “I got the chance to grow and learn because the differing opinions didn’t relate to what I did each day at work.”

To those looking to pursue a degree, Dave says, “Find something in a field you are interested in. … I started my career before my education, and that put me behind.” Fortunately, nowadays his degrees help get him ahead.

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