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Finding the Right College Led Veteran to Three Degrees

Tony Ellsworth

After leaving the military, Omaha, Neb. native Tony Ellsworth found his experience at a traditional university frustrating. “I couldn’t afford to quit work and no one around me had experience like I had,” he said.

That all changed when Ellsworth decided to complete his bachelor’s degree in marketing through an accelerated program at Bellevue University. “My instructor was a business owner. It was fantastic,” he said. “Bellevue University is not only military friendly; they’re family friendly and workplace friendly.”

That experience led to a Master of Business Administration and later a Master of Project Management (MPM). “I continued to choose Bellevue University because I was happy with my bachelor’s degree experience,” Ellsworth said.

Today, the three-time Bellevue University alumnus now owns his own retail food business called Ellsworth Crossing. Prior to opening the business, he worked as a senior scrum master at a major insurance company.

Pivoting Toward Information Technology Before Opening a Business

Early in his career, Ellsworth was working in finance when he realized the biggest potential for future careers would be in the information technology (IT) field. “I saw the tech boom happen and then the economy go down,” he said. “I thought ‘if you don’t have the education and the certifications around IT, you’re going to be left behind.’”

Ellsworth began to pursue the credentials he needed to excel in IT. “I made the effort to reinvent myself,” he said. “I got the education to couple with my experience.”

Prior to 2021 and before opening Ellsworth Crossing, Ellsworth worked in IT software for most of his nearly three-decade career. In addition to Ellsworth’s degrees, he has earned certifications as a Scrum Master and Scrum Professional.

“I tell my kids that it’s important to get a career, not just a degree,” he said.

Owning a Business

In 2021, Ellsworth decided to switch gears and leave the IT industry to open Ellsworth Crossing, formerly known as Plum Creek Countryside Market, with his wife, Amber. The concept of the business is a “farm to fork” market.

“We have a small farm which sits on a hillside in the country overlooking the Platte River. We are able to produce some things for the store, but largely we are a ‘hub’ of Nebraska farmers and producers which go straight from the ‘farm to the fork,’ Ellsworth said on the company’s website.

Ellsworth said opening the business, which is based in Waterloo, Nebraska, has allowed him to utilize his MBA and MPM in many ways.

“We already have had a lot of early success,” Ellsworth said. “All our meats are local Nebraska farmers. We are partnered with Plum Creek Chicken and Piedmontese out of Lincoln.”

Some of the items they offer for purchase includes: Plum Creek Farms Chicken, bison, wagyu, pork, eggs, fresh produce and more. Customers can purchase items in person or online. They also offer delivery for customers who live in Nebraska.

Diving Deeper Into Project Management

Ellsworth completed his third degree, the MPM, in 2019. He enjoyed the experience so much he recommended it to his wife, who is now enrolled in the program.

The MPM was the first program Ellsworth completed fully online (his bachelor’s was in-person and his MBA was a combination of in-class and online.) He said this made it easier to juggle work, school and family.

“Being able to complete my program online helped. It’s a great option if you’re self motivated and self disciplined.”

However, he also said working for education-friendly employers and taking one course at a time has helped throughout his journey.

“If you can find an employer that’s supportive of your education, it keeps you fresh and you’re able to incorporate your learnings back into your projects,” Ellsworth said.

A University Where Students are Truly Heard

Ellsworth said what truly sets the experience at Bellevue University apart is the ability to be heard. For example, as an alumni, he’s had the opportunity to connect with MPM Program Director Emad Rahim and University President Mary Hawkins to share ideas. “You would never get that somewhere else,” he said.

Another way Bellevue University listens to its students is by considering their career needs in designing the curriculum, Ellsworth said. “They focus on being responsive to the practicality of incorporating your education into your career. They are very responsive to students.”

Ellsworth Crossing is located at 26902 West Center Road in Waterloo, Nebraska. They can be reached by phone at 402-359-8747.