Beyond the Buck: Alumni Share Expertise with UM Students
Eric Sprunk has found joy in teaching at the University of Montana since he first started guest lecturing about a decade ago.
The NIKE chief operating officer graduated from the School of Business Administration (SoBA) with an accounting degree in 1986. After starting his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he accepted a position at Nike in 1993 and rose through the ranks. Now he comes back regularly to share insights from his two decades at one of the world’s top companies.
“I love it,” he says. “It’s truly a meaningful part of my life. I’m a big believer in giving back to the community that gave me so much.”
Sprunk shared his story, along with insights into NIKE’s marketing, at Professor Jakki Mohr’s Marketing Careers course this April. The course is run by Mohr but taught exclusively by UM alums and friends with experience in the field. She says it’s an incredible way for students to get first-hand life lessons that help them strengthen their knowledge on the eve of starting their own careers.
“My students are so inspired to hear SoBA graduates' success stories,” Mohr said. “Each speaker connects with the students in an authentic way. Their personal stories motivate my students and generate new appreciation and respect for their UM degree and alumni network."
Returning to UM to offer expertise, advice or networking opportunities to students is a rewarding way for alumni to make a difference.
“You only benefit by helping people get educated, and if you have the wherewithal to do it, it’s the most important thing you can do with your time, energy and money,” said Todd Krieger, a digital media consultant who is a guest instructor for SoBA’s Entertainment Management program (UMEM).
UMEM is one of just a handful of programs nationwide that use active executives as course instructors. Since its founding in 2001, UMEM has brought seasoned producers, agents, venue managers, marketers, musicians and filmmakers to teach students what it takes to succeed in the multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry.
Hearing directly from those who’ve been there makes a huge impact on UM students.
“I was completely blown away at the quality and level of experience that our guest professors brought,” said Cory Miller, a graduate of the UMEM program.
It’s not only business school students who benefit from alumni expertise. Alums from all backgrounds are heading into the classroom to share their real-world experiences.
This spring at the College of Forestry and Conservation, Professor Beth Dodson brought in experts from the U.S. Forest Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Plum Creek, among other organizations, for her Forest Planning course.
“Having guest speakers means we are able to expose our students to a much more comprehensive view of forest planning than I could ever do alone,” said Dodson.
This senior-level class is designed to prepare students for their future careers as foresters.
“One of my ulterior motives was to expose students to the various roles professional foresters play within different types of organizations, especially as all the students in this class are graduating in 2015.”
While UM professors tend to seek out guest instructors from among their personal and professional networks, any alum who wants to give back can volunteer his or her time for informational interviews. Students report such opportunities as inspiring and important in helping them carve out their career paths.
To sign up, contact UM Career Services (406.243.2022), the UM Foundation (800.443.2593), or any department chair.