Russ Schweikert spent exactly 21 years and 21 days in the Navy before setting his higher education anchors aweigh.
The Stayton, Oregon native graduated from Southern Oregon University with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in 2013. Two years later, he graduated from SOU with a Master of Business Administration degree.
"The MBA wasn't originally in the plans," he said. "I was inspired at one point, so I went for it. I graduated on Saturday and started MBA classes on Monday."
Schweikert, who was a Master Chief E9 when he retired from the Navy, also built a successful insurance career that began while he was in the military. Even as a civilian, he remains a chief -- chief development officer for Ashland Insurance. So, why insurance?
"No ceiling on income. Working for myself. Good working conditions. Working with educated people. Helping people. Freedom to set my own schedule," he said. "I'm an independent creature."
Schweikert is also an adjunct faculty member at SOU. He teaches BA 486/586: Strategic Staffing and will add BA 487/587: Property and Casualty Risk Management to his repertoire in the future.
"I love to teach, and I love to share information," he said. "It complements what I do. It's just for fun. If we go snow-birding in Southern New Mexico, which I suspect we will, the MBA will open up adjunct faculty opportunities down there, which will pay for travel and living expenses there."
Home, Sweet Home
Schweikert, 49, came to Ashland after he met his wife, Kristina. He also fell in love with the city where he started his real estate career, so SOU was a logical choice for higher education.
"I had done business in the community for most of 20 years before I started at SOU," he said. "I recognized the value of a top-performing network. I wanted to meet others. I wanted to learn more about finance. I wanted to have credentials to support my opinions and to have my input be more valued as I worked within the community and with clients."
The MBA program gave Schweikert all of that and more.
"I was very happy with the results," he said. "It wasn't about the dollars and cents for me -- the intrinsic value was more important. I thought I would learn a specific set of skills. What I learned was more questions than answers, which makes me be a better employer, a better business partner. When I consult with clients on managing their businesses, it gives me a better angle and gives me more experience to deal with their businesses. It feels like I'm giving more."
Schweikert also set a good educational example for his two children, Ellen (25) and Evan (18), which they both followed. Ellen is also an SOU graduate, while Evan is enrolled at Oregon State University. Kristina is an SOU alumna, as well.
"I'm the first person to get an education on my side of the family," he said. "My wife's side has valued education much more highly. I demonstrated to my kids how important it is to learn. It's something that no one can ever take from me. I earned it, and it has value to me – just like Kristina's master's degree has to her."
Schweikert is impressed by the various skills he acquired in the MBA program curriculum. His favorite course was COMM 343: Argumentation and Critical Thinking.
"It has destroyed my enjoyment of politics, but it helped me learn when I'm watching someone speak, I'm listening to their speech or I'm reading their transcript, to hear all of the things they're not saying that it sounds like they are saying but can't be proven," he said. "It helped me evaluate someone's level of honesty and what their intentions are.
"I also enjoyed the finance classes. I love learning about money and how money works, what makes sense to invest in, what doesn't make sense to invest in and how to use my dollars more effectively."
The MBA program also had other career and real-life applications taught by experienced professionals.
"They were teaching material where I could come up with real-life examples," he said. "Without being a know-it-all, I was able to participate in discussions constructively because I had real-life examples. The lifestyle is so good and the cost of living is so reasonable in Ashland that there are a lot of real-world winners who decided to split on their lifestyle.
"When their kids got to high school, they wanted to pull out of the city. There's something about that world-class experience and that knowledge we really benefit from. Because of our outdoor activities and our cost of living and safety, a lot of people choose to live here. This is not a place where people go that can't succeed. There are a lot of winners teaching here."
Schweikert was also able to balance school with his home life and a full-time job throughout both degree programs.
"If you get on a schedule, it's attainable," he said. "You just fit it in with your normal schedule. Things are predictable. It really worked with a working person's lifestyle."
Schweikert fittingly ended the MBA program by celebrating with his classmates at the graduation ceremony.
"It was really fun," he said. "Because it was a lot of work and most all of us were working full time, it was a real accomplishment. Our group, our cohort, really celebrated and enjoyed the experience and finishing up together."
He has already surpassed 21 years and 21 days in the real estate industry. Now that he has an MBA, Schweikert is enjoying the good life.
"I'm an avid sports fan -- that's my reality TV," he said. "Other than that, I like time with the family, and I work a lot. We're empty-nesters, so we're both enjoying working a lot to support our vacation habit."Learn about SOU's online MBA programs.
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