Former dairy farmer finds new career, earns MBA from UA Little Rock

Howell Fielder

Howell Andrew Fielder grew up working on his family’s dairy farm in Guy, Arkansas, where the whole world became a classroom filled with science experiments. 

“I am the third generation of my family to have a college degree,” Fielder said. “Education has always been something that has been very important in my family. We lived on a farm, so everything was a science experiment. That is how I learned to logically think through things.”

Except for the four years he spent at Ouachita Baptist University playing baseball and earning a degree in psychology, Fielder expected to spend his life working in the wide open spaces of the family’s farm. The economic downturn in the last decade destroyed that plan.

In 2010, Fielder took over his father’s vacant job as an HVAC mechanic at University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“After the recession, my dad, Larry Fielder, started working at UA Little Rock,” he said. “Dad got offered a higher paying job elsewhere, so he told me if I wanted to go to school again, I should apply. People call me junior because my dad worked here first.”

Fielder began taking classes while working full time. He first earned a graduate certificate in conflict mediation with much appreciated assistance from Dr. Linda Pledger. He will graduate Saturday, Dec. 16, with a Master of Business Administration degree, something that he largely gives credit to the Facilities Management department.

“The Facilities Management Scholarship is what allowed me to earn both my graduate certificate and master’s degree,” he said. “The scholarship started five years ago, and my boss, David Millay, utilizes it to help employees go to school for free. We earn a 90 percent tuition discount from the university, and this scholarship covered the other 10 percent.”

Fielder has worked as a building optimization technician with the university energy conservation project for the past three years.

“Andrew is a shining example of how hard work and dedication positively impact one’s life,” said Millay, associate vice chancellor of facilities management and planning. “We are justifiably proud of Andrew and the many other facilities management employees who take advantage of our scholarship programs to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.”

Among his most memorable experiences at UA Little Rock is participating in the CFA Institute Research Challenge financial analyst competition earlier this year, when Fielder and three teammates competed against 50 teams in Seattle after winning the Mid-South competition in Memphis, Tennessee.

Led by faculty advisor Ashvin Vibhakar, the Joe T. Ford chair of finance in the UA Little Rock College of Business, the students gained real-world experience as they researched a publicly traded company and presented their stock recommendations — buy, sell, or hold — to judges who play the role of investors.

“ The other memorable experience is the energy conservation project that I am a part of,” Fielder said. “The CFA Research Challenge forced me to utilize my MBA education as well as my people and my presentation skills. The energy conservation project allowed me to learn a new skill of helping people learn how to manage energy using computer software. Both of these experiences helped make me a better person.”

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