In 2016, as he was trying to decide where he was going to obtain his master's degree in business administration, Joe Caulfield had just four states left to visit: Alaska, Washington, Oregon and North Dakota.
“I thought it’d be funny to go to a school (in a state) that I hadn’t been to yet and show up for graduation,” Caulfield said.
So, Caulfield started digging. He knew he wanted to obtain his MBA online to best fit his schedule. He soon found UND and its online business degree, which had been ranked at that time as one of the top 15 schools for an online MBA by the Princeton review.
Then he started doing a little more digging, such as looking at the classes and the cost. Eventually, he decided that not only could he check off another state on his list, but he could get the education he was seeking as well.
Caulfield graduated with an MBA in December and made his first visit to campus and the state of North Dakota this week.
As he was obtaining his MBA online, Caulfield watched lectures and participated in class discussions just like a typical college student. He also had an opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., as a part of one of his courses and spend time talking with North Dakota’s senators and other federal officials. He spoke with then-U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp during that class.
“It felt very genuine,” Caulfield said of that experience. “I felt that I knew North Dakota a bit more from that week.”
Caulfield said he’s enjoyed getting a chance to meet with some of his professors during his visit.
Caulfield's wife, Morganne, is in the process of getting her degree online with Fort Hays State in Kansas.
“While this is very exciting for ice hockey, we'll be heading to Kansas in a couple months for some barbecue,” she said.
49 out of 50
Since arriving in North Dakota, Caulfield has just one state left on his journey to visit all 50 states: Alaska.
He checked Washington and Oregon off his list last year.
He was close enough to getting all 50 states that the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center’s “Best for Last” Club to get a hat and a shirt, but not officially inducted.
“We’re this close,” he said.
Caulfield, with his wife, debated whether they wanted to come to North Dakota and UND for graduation or a hockey weekend, ultimately landing on a hockey weekend so they could experience the campus more fully. Friday, Caulfield met with professors and leaders in the College of Business and Public Administration and took a tour around campus and the area. The couple is also set to attend two UND hockey games in the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The newlyweds, who are based out of the Philadelphia area, are spending their first Valentine’s Day as a married couple in Grand Forks.
“I have a supportive wife, who was like ‘Sure, I’ll do our first Valentine’s Day in zero-degree weather,” Joe said.
North Dakota welcomed them with subzero temperatures Thursday night; meanwhile back home in Philadelphia, temperatures were in the mid-30s Friday.
“I just dreamed about this for our first Valentine’s Day,” Morganne said with a laugh. “But no, we’re totally having fun.”
Morganne spent time in the upper Midwest growing up, including Minneapolis and Wisconsin as a child.
“Part of me is like back with my people,” she said. “It is good to be back. My mom loved it out here because, obviously, everyone is so nice.”
Though they’re more than 1,400 miles a part, North Dakota and Philadelphia have their own connections via some of the state’s biggest sports stars.
Former UND hockey head coach Dave Hakstol coached the Philadelphia Flyers for just over three seasons before being fired in December 2018.
Another connection exists with football. Former North Dakota State star Carson Wentz was drafted second in 2016 by the Philadelphia Eagles. The couple said they often see people walking around Philly with Bison jerseys on, most are from North Dakota visiting the city to watch Wentz play.
“It really put your state (North Dakota) on the map in our region,” Morganne said.