Learning a New Playbook

PROVO, Utah – Nov 08, 2021 – Ten years ago, Chad Lewis successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, but he’s accomplished more than just reaching the summit of one of the world’s tallest peaks. Years later, his mountain-conquering experience encouraged him to continue to make and achieve his goals. Now, his goal is to earn his EMPA at the BYU Marriott School of Business.

Before he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Lewis had a successful career as a student at BYU, which led to many professional opportunities. While an undergraduate student at BYU, he played as a tight end for BYU’s football team. After graduating in communications studies with a minor in Chinese in 1997, he continued to play football at a professional level in the National Football League for nine years—both for the Philadelphia Eagles and the then-St. Louis Rams. During his time as a player and after retiring from play, Lewis also served as an international NFL ambassador from 2002–2016; he was an ambassador for Tanzania, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, and the state of Hawaii.

The opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011 came because of his NFL ambassador responsibilities. To bring awareness to the Wounded Warrior Project, Lewis climbed the mountain with four war veterans. During the climb, he became acquainted with each wounded warrior individually. Though they had lost much in war, each veteran still had goals even loftier than reaching the peak of the mountain that motivated them to keep moving forward.

The veterans’ determination encouraged Lewis to make and achieve his own goals. He thought, “They’ve been through some horrific stuff, and they’re not quitting. They’re still learning.” So, Lewis decided to continue his own learning by applying to BYU Marriott’s EMPA program.

To Lewis, talking about gaining knowledge is a lot easier than actually earning a graduate degree. “I have to learn new skills, which can be challenging,” says Lewis. “I have to budget my time and my resources.” This is especially true as he works for BYU as an associate athletic director while juggling his responsibilities as the father of seven children and the grandfather of one baby girl.

“Studying at BYU Marriott is a good test for me,” Lewis says. “Speaking of tests, I’m actually taking tests again. I’m back in the testing center or taking tests online, and I have to study diligently and prepare for those tests to give learning my best effort. The experience of jumping back into a serious and intense learning format is something else."

Since entering the program, Lewis has added to the skills he learned as a football player and undergraduate. “One skill I’ve strengthened is the ability to work in teams,” he says. “Learning how to better divide and take on responsibility in a group has been a great experience.” This lesson is especially important in Lewis’ MPA 631 Public Program Evaluation class. While reflecting on a project that he worked on with five other classmates, he remarks, “Splitting up responsibilities is the only possible way we could succeed with such a big project.”

In fact, Lewis isn’t tackling the project of earning a master’s degree alone. “My wife, Michele, and I both decided to attend BYU Marriott at the same time. She’s working on her MBA,” he says. “We work on homework together, share our workload outside of school with each other, and also discuss what we learn.”

Though returning to school has been difficult, Lewis believes continuing his education is worth every challenge. Lewis says that those lessons he learns in the EMPA program are applicable to more than working in public administration. “I want to use the skills I’ve learned from each class to be a better person, husband, father, employee, and perhaps a future business owner,” he says.

Chad Lewis
Chad Lewis. Photo by BYU Photo.
Chad Lewis
Chad Lewis speaking at a BYU Football event in 2017. Photo by BYU Photo.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Rebecca Nissen