Outstanding Islander Graduate Brandon Crowson ’21, ’22, Earns Master of Business Administration

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The road to a master’s degree was not without bumps for Brandon Crowson ’21, ‘22. Both a natural disaster and global pandemic greatly affected the careers that were financing his education at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. But in the end, Crowson, who worked full-time while earning two degrees from the Island University, has found a clear path to the finish line.

Crowson, the Summer 2022 College of Business Outstanding Islander Graduate, is set to walk the stage Aug. 6 at the American Bank Center, a candidate for a Master of Business Administration. With more than 700 students graduating this summer, it’s the university’s largest-ever summer ceremony. The designation of Outstanding Islander Graduate is sponsored by the TAMU-CC Office of the Provost.

Crowson, who graduated from Calallen High School, said the Island University’s AACSB accredited College of Business is what first attracted him here. He began taking a few classes, six hours at a time, while working full time in the hospitality industry. By the age of 21, Crowson had worked his way up to a management position at Port Royal Ocean Resort.

“As the years went on, I managed to juggle both full-time work and school,” Crowson said. “I began to excel in the hospitality industry, but the industry is demanding, especially during peak seasons. I knew that to continue to climb the ladder of success, I needed to complete my degree.”

As he went to school part-time for his undergraduate accounting degree, he took night classes to accommodate his work schedule. He also found mentorship from Dr. Awni Zebda, TAMU-CC Regents Professor of Accounting, who has since retired.

“I remember Brandon to be an exceptional and hard-working student,” Zebda said. “He was always polite, cooperative, and well prepared for class discussion.”

Then came Crowson’s first big roadblock – Hurricane Harvey. When the major hurricane hit the Gulf Coast in 2017, the resort closed and Crowson had to put his educational dreams on hold – but only for a short time.

“I chose to go back to school to finish what I had started and not let the influence of external factors result in me not obtaining my degree,” Crowson said.

He was able to resume his work at Port Royal for a couple of years, and then an opportunity arose in 2020 to become the Director of Operations at The Waves Resort on Padre Island. Just weeks into his position there, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and caused the property to close indefinitely.

“I thought, ‘oh no, not again,’” Crowson said.

This time, he sought out the TAMU-CC Office of Student Financial Assistance and received funding from the CARES Act to continue his degree.

In spring 2021, Crowson’s journey took a new and exciting direction. Just months shy of earning his bachelor’s degree, Crowson was offered a job as Assistant Vice President for IBC Bank, the parent company of Diamond Beach Holdings, which owned The Waves Resort.

“Although my time at The Waves Resort was short, I was able to utilize this opportunity to expand my network of business professionals in my community,” Crowson said.

Outstanding Islander Graduate Brandon Crowson

As assistant vice president of the bank, Crowson had the opportunity to learn from his business mentor, Islander alumnus Gustavo Barrera ’94, President and CEO of IBC Bank. It wasn’t long into the position that Crowson realized he wanted to continue at TAMU-CC in pursuit of an MBA.

“Mr. Barrera has given me the opportunity to showcase the knowledge I’ve learned in leadership and management by allowing me to be a member of the management team at IBC Bank,” Crowson said. “Additionally, he has provided me with the opportunities to balance work, my education, and personal life in order to achieve my goals.”

With the support of his boss and mentor, Crowson has spent the last year completing his online MBA at the Island University.

“Brandon is an asset to IBC Bank,” Barrera said. “It has been a pleasure to work with Brandon. For as much as he says he has learned from me, I have learned from him as well. I look forward to seeing Brandon’s development because his future is very bright.” 

Since the program was online, Crowson had to take some deliberate steps to stay connected to the university that helped him through some of his toughest times.

“There were many nights that I went to study and complete homework in the graduate lounge in the O’Connor Building,” Crowson said. “Also, staying involved in campus events was a great way to feel engaged in the Islander community.”

A season ticket holder to Islanders basketball games, Crowson also stayed connected by volunteering for campus events. In just this past year, he volunteered with Islander Family Weekend, Islander Beach Bash, Island Day, Homecoming, and Admitted Student Day. Additionally, he serves on the Islander Alumni Association Board of Directors.

His passion for giving back caught the attention of TAMU-CC Associate Vice President for School and Community Relations, Margaret Dechant.

“Brandon has demonstrated how proud he is to be an alumnus by the unending support he provides to the university and our students,” Dechant said. “He gives back to TAMU-CC in gratitude for the immense support the university provided to him when he most needed it. He worked hard to achieve his degrees and he gives back to our university with his whole heart.”

Crowson’s volunteerism extends beyond the Island. He is a board member for the Business Professionals of America, helping prepare young students for careers in business, and is organizing the IBC Mariachi Festival Aug. 6 – the same day as graduation – benefiting the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

As he looks to his academic next step of sitting for the CPA exam, he can’t help but look back on the journey.

“Deciding to attend TAMU-CC has been one of the best decisions I've ever made,” Crowson said. “I am grateful for TAMU-CC for providing me the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed in both my education and professional careers. Everything happens for a reason, and I am sure that these small hurdles in my life led me to where I am today.”