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Business instructor in front of white board talking to students

Business instructor brings Fortune 500 experience to faculty

After growing up in Prosser, Kyle Ashley embarked on a business career that led him to leadership roles at multinational companies including Nike, Acer and National Instruments.  

“At Nike, I was travelling overseas for multiple months of the year and I was very privileged to have the opportunity to become immersed in other cultures,” said Ashley. That multicultural experience grew even deeper when he started a new position at Taiwan-based hardware and electronics corporation Acer, where he helped develop service marketing programs for the firm’s branches located across the United States.  

After nearly 15 years in the private sector, however, Ashley fell in love with teaching while pursuing his doctorate in management and a member of his program cohort asked him to teach courses as an adjunct instructor for the City University of Seattle and Marylhurst University. 

“I just became super passionate about higher education,” said Ashley, who would go on to become an adjunct instructor at Baptist University of the Américas (BUA) in San Antonio in 2009. 

Three years later, he had a decision to make when BUA asked him to join its faculty full-time. 

“That was a difficult decision because I was also successful in my business career, but from a passion perspective I had to follow my dream.” 

That passion provided a path for Ashley to return home to the Yakima Valley in the fall of 2023, when he joined YVC’s business faculty. His new position offers Ashley an ideal opportunity to share his experiences working in large companies and as an entrepreneur himself with students who face barriers to becoming business leaders.  

Business instructor Kyle Ashley
YVC Business Instructor Kyle Ashley talks to students in one of his winter quarter classes.

Passion to serve 

While Ashley isn’t the first person in his family to attend college, he grew up in a family that experienced financial struggles. Being able to pay for college and complete his undergraduate degree wasn’t easy. 

So when he started teaching at BUA, where more than 40% of students are eligible for Pell Grants for students with exceptional financial need and a majority of students were first-generation, he could empathize with the significant barriers facing them. 

“You see that a lot of individuals that have grown up in the San Antonio area and grew up working in the family business, you can see that there is a need for business education, that entrepreneurial type of experience,” Ashley said. “I was able to associate that with my personal experience and that opened up my eyes and my heart to say ‘OK, we’ve got to have a more intentional approach to generating some equity here with individuals who are Hispanic and who aren’t getting the opportunities that everybody else has.”

Students write on whiteboard while instructor looks on.
Instructor Kyle Ashley looks on as students present their work during a class project.

After becoming chair of the college’s business leadership program in 2014, he helped develop an entrepreneurial concentration specifically designed to serve individuals working in family businesses or were business owners themselves. 

“We wanted to have that avenue to get a more formal education and then be able to apply that to help their businesses to be more successful,” he said.  

When Ashley’s mother started experiencing health issues, he and his wife started looking for an opportunity to return to the Pacific Northwest and be closer while continuing to fulfill that passion to teach underserved communities.  

That’s when Ashley saw the opening at YVC. 

“When I looked at the mission statement and saw YVC was a Hispanic-Serving Institution, that was a great match with my background and my passion for serving Hispanic first- and second-generation students.” 

Making business real 

With extensive experience in both the business world and higher education, Ashley can marry both business theory and the real-world application of business practices, drawing from his experience at multinational companies.  

“I can bring case studies that are not theoretical, they’re very real life,” he said. “That’s also the way that the millennial generation wants to learn, with real life case studies. Theory is obviously important, but the practical application of that theory is really consistent with their learning style and learning preferences.” 

For example, Ashley gave students in his marketing for managers class a case study in which they developed a marketing plan for Nike to launch a lace-less, slip-on basketball shoe. 

“I knew that was something that Nike was working on, and so I was able to take that industry experience from my time there and use that to help guide students through this practical learning experience,” he said.

As part of their case study work, Ashley also makes sure that students make use of Microsoft Teams and social media platforms to make sure they also gain hands-on experience with the platforms used every day in the business world.

Male instructor stands in front of white board talking to students
Before joining YVC's faculty in Fall 2023, Kyle Ashley served as chair of Baptist University of the Américas’ business leadership program.

In addition to bringing his experience working at a Fortune 500 company like Nike to the classroom, Ashley also shares his perspective as an entrepreneur. In 2010, he and his wife launched Green Building Energy Services, an energy efficiency business. 

“Just as I had a passion for higher education and learning, I’m also a tree hugger from the Northwest. So, I had a passion for doing what I could to preserve the environment,” he said. The Ashley’s company provided solar, insulation and other energy efficiency solutions to the residential and small commercial markets. 

With the move back to the Yakima Valley, the company has transitioned its focus to purchasing properties and remodeling them to be as energy efficient as possible.   

“As an entrepreneur, starting a business from scratch can be very complex,” Ashley says. And since the vast majority of businesses are small businesses, that makes it essential for a college such as YVC to offer high quality education to individuals starting a business or looking to take their business to the next level. 

“I’m taking a closer look at our entrepreneurship certificate and the potential to expand that, do some collaboration with our local businesses, and also the opportunity for the principles and practices of entrepreneurship to get even more integrated into the business administration program,” he said.   

Ashley gets emotional when thinking about former students who have gone on to create successful businesses in their community. 

“That’s really in academia when the rubber meets the road,” he says. “When you see your former students starting these entrepreneurial ventures and you can see them in real life using their practical experience that they learn through the through the program.” 

Story by Dustin Wunderlich, director of community relations. Photos by Matt Barton, graphic designer/multimedia content producer.