Karie Willyerd, M.S., Ph.D.
Chief Learning Officer
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Class of 1997
The IPT degree program launched me into the next level of career success, by stimulating not only my ability to apply for and obtain a new role, but also making me feel a doctoral program was within reach. Within five years of finishing the IPT degree, I received a doctorate from Case Western Reserve in management. If Boise State had offered a doctorate, I would not have had to look elsewhere, and would likely have stayed with a degree specific to my field. Now with both a master’s and doctorate, I have the career credentials which allowed me to obtain a role as the chief learning officer for a Fortune 200 company.
Below is her story written in 1999.
Exec Climbs Corporate Ladder Via Long-Distance Program
(written by Judy Grigg Hansen, originally published in the BSU Focus Magazine in 1999)
Karie Willyerd never set foot on the Boise State campus until she attended her graduation ceremony in 1997.
To get to that moment, she took classes over the Internet from her home base in Fort Worth, Texas, to earn her master’s degree in instructional and performance technology.
“It is hard to find such a diversity of working professionals in a traditional program,” Willyerd says. “I was amazed at how much sense of classroom you could create in an online environment. The camaraderie with the other students was very collegial.”
Willyerd, 46, burst through the glass ceiling while working on the Boise State degree program, which she saw advertised in a professional journal.
When she began taking classes in 1995, she was management development chief for Lockheed Martin Technical Aircraft Systems.
By the time she graduated in 1997, she had received two promotions and was director of people and organizational development in charge of employee training for the entire company—a firm in which most employees must annually pass certification tests.
Now 10,000 employees depend on Willyerd to provide on-the-job and after-hours training.
Like the Boise State program, Willyerd leans heavily on computer-based training. One-sixth of Lockheed’s training programs are delivered directly to employees’ desktops.
Others train at multi-media stations located throughout the facility. Employees can also take after-hours courses at local universities.
Courses cover over 1,500 topics from aircraft manufacturing to leadership development.
“I didn’t go back to school because I thought it would advance my career—I already had a good job,” Willyerd says.
Instead, she wanted theoretical development and training more relevant to her field to go along with her degree in English and journalism from Texas Christian University.
“I got some ideas from the program that helped me expand my thinking and contributed particularly to my second promotion.
“I had a semi-mentor who said, ‘Don’t look at jobs that are available. Look at what the organization needs and the skills you have to fill those needs.’ “
Willyerd put together a presentation addressed to the president of the company detailing why and how Lockheed should manage its workplace culture rather than just allowing it to happen.
“Fortunately, he liked the idea,” Willyerd says. “As a result, I ended up getting promoted to an executive position.”
Willyerd’s next step is a doctoral program in management from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. Only this time she’ll see the campus before she graduates. On some weekends, she’ll have to fly to Ohio to take courses.