While they were growing up, Juston Demke and Christina Homfeldt’s parents stressed the value of hard work and education.

Their example pushed the siblings to get good grades at West Valley High School near Spokane and become their family’s first college graduates. On May 4, Demke and Homfeldt will celebrate another milestone: They’ll walk across the stage at Beasley Coliseum to accept online MBA degrees from Washington State University’s Carson College of Business.

Homfeldt, 37, finished her coursework in December; Demke, 38, finished in March. But they wanted to graduate on the same day.

“It’s such a great accomplishment, and we did it together,” Homfeldt said. “It’s tough when you take on so much work when you have a job and a family and everything that goes on in adulthood.”

Demke is proud to be accepting his diploma with his 6‑year‑old daughter, and Homfeldt’s children, ages 7 and 10, in attendance.

“Having our kids there is a big driving factor for me,” he said. “It lets them see what’s possible.”

MBAs needed to advance careers

Both Homfeldt and Demke saw an MBA as essential to their career growth. Homfeldt is a customer service manager at Pitney Bowes in Spokane, and wants to continue to advance.

“In order to move into an executive-type role, you have to have an MBA,” she said. “It helps you speak the business world’s language.”

Demke works as an operations group superintendent at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. An MBA will give him an edge when he retires from active duty military in three years and transitions to civilian employment.

“I knew having an MBA would separate me from the masses and help me with my next career,” Demke said. He also credits the degree with helping him achieve a recent promotion to chief master sergeant, the Air Force’s highest enlisted rank.

Though Demke led the way on getting a bachelor’s degree in 2012, his sister beat him with acceptance into Carson College’s online MBA program.

“I knew I wanted to pursue a graduate degree at some point,” Demke said, “but her applying and getting accepted escalated the process.”

“Competition came into play at that point in our lives,” said Homfeldt with a chuckle. “Juston is the oldest, but I completed the online MBA program first.”

Juggling work, family and studies

Homfeldt picked Carson College’s online MBA program because of its reputation as a well‑rounded, top tier program. The online classes allowed her to juggle studies, work, and family life.

For Demke, location was important. He plans to return to Washington when he retires from the military, and he wanted an MBA program known throughout the Northwest.

Working with classmates on teams was the best part of the program, the siblings say. To complete the yearlong capstone project, they were in near daily contact with other students, and became close to their online peers.

Homfeldt often started her course work after 9 p.m. when her kids were in bed. Demke rose at 4 a.m. to study and also hit the books on weekends.

Honoring their parents’ influence

Joie and Troy Biehl, Demke and Homfeldt’s mom and stepdad, will be honored guests at the graduation celebration.
“Not a lot of people in our family had ever graduated from high school,” Demke says. “Our parents wanted to make sure we had that first foundation, so if we wanted to go on, we could.”

“They inspired the belief that once you start a commitment, you finish it to the best of your ability,” Homfeldt says. “We were dedicated to achieving what we signed up for – our MBAs.”