All in the Family
Andrew and Wendy Dunn Manage Work, Kids and Studies to Earn their NCU Degrees

Written by Dena Roché

Getting a graduate degree while balancing work and family is never easy, but imagine if spouses decided to go back to school at the same time. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, or a good reality TV show. For Andrew Dunn and Wendy Carabali-Dunn, the seemingly stressful schedule only served to strengthen their marriage and their individual educational experiences.

Andrew Dunn & Wendy Carabali-Dunn
(DBA, Doctor of Business Administration and MBA, Master of Business Administration)

Andrew Dunn Wendy Carabali-Dunn Andrew Dunn & Wendy Carabali-Dunn

“We had a lot of challenges,” laughed Carabali-Dunn. “He was schooling; I was schooling. We had a toddler, and I was pregnant.”

While the couple had been married for four years, it was the first year they had been living together as a family because Dunn had been stationed with the Marine Corps in Portland, Oregon while his family was still in Texas.

“In addition to all of that, we were also just learning how to live together,” said Carabali-Dunn.

What they learned very quickly was the art of compromise. Dunn finished his comprehensive exam during his program earning a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), so his writing requirements lessened. At the same time, Carabali-Dunn was in the trenches with her Master of Business Administration (MBA) specializing in international business. Dunn then took on a “Mr. Mom” role.

“I started doing more of the [household] work and began to understand that having kids wasn’t all bells and whistles,” he said. “We both began to understand the pain it takes to get a higher education.”

But despite, or maybe because of the struggles, the couple’s marriage grew stronger.

“One legacy we want to leave our children is that education is important. It wasn’t an option for either of us not to get the job done.”

Wendy Carabali-Dunn

“We realized we could juggle. We can do things that are important to us individually, but still make it work,” explained Carabali-Dunn. “We learned how to manage our time because you can’t schedule when your kid gets sick or when you go into labor the day before a final. We learned how to respect each other’s time.”

While their children, Preston and Chantelle, were too young to understand the struggles Mom and Dad were facing, the couple plans to share their story when the kids are older.

“One legacy we want to leave our children is that education is important,” said Carabali-Dunn. “It wasn’t an option for either of us not to get the job done.”

It was NCU’s unique model that allowed the couple to succeed as busy, non-traditional students. The flexibility, mentoring and one-to-one learning model were keys to both of their successes.

“The format of study was conducive and the content was extremely relevant to what is going on in the world and the market,” said Carabali-Dunn.

After graduation the couple were hoping things would get easier, as they both planned to open businesses. Instead, the day before graduation, Dunn was offered a job with Lockheed Martin, which was too good to turn down. The downside is that he is now located in Yuma, Arizona for at least a year while the family is back in Texas.

“I retired from the Marine Corp on May 1, after 20 years, and this is the first civilian job I’ve ever had,” said Dunn. “Lockheed sought me out. The job as a database administrator lets me combine my business skills with my passion for computers. I had thought I would start my own business, but I would love to stay with Lockheed and move into senior management.”

Carabali-Dunn did start her real estate investment firm after graduating. The company focuses on finding bank-owned and other residential properties that aren’t sellable through traditional methods.

“I hope to expand the cancer and AIDS services that the rural clinics provide by opening rural clinics internationally.”

“The MBA gives me credibility with my investors,” she explained. “They feel secure trusting me.”

While Dunn is looking at a corporate career now, Carabali-Dunn is hoping to put the international part of her degree to use in a few years in Colombia. Her family is from there and her aunt is a successful business person with a law practice, several health clinics and a hospital in her portfolio. The plan is for Carabali-Dunn to take over managing the operations.

“I hope to expand the cancer and AIDS services that the rural clinics provide by opening rural clinics internationally,” she said. “I hope to market the plastic surgery [services that] the hospital offers to the American market.”

Carabali-Dunn plans to work on the expansion into the U.S. market while she is based in Texas, but the family plans to move to Colombia within the next two or three years.

“We both love Colombia and want our kids to experience growing up in a place where everything isn’t convenient and readily available,” she explained.

There might, however, be just one more degree program to pursue in the family.

“My parents [said] ‘Well, if your husband can become a doctor, you can do it too.’ That is the big elephant in the room,” she laughed. “But I’m going to take this year to assess life. You never know. I might be emailing [NCU] next year about the doctoral program.”