Central Pa. executives transition from business world to academia
Originally, his plan was to teach at the college level.
But for Albert Sarvis, life beckoned and he put the pursuit of a Ph.D. on the back burner to enter the private sector in the geospatial technologies industry.
Now he's back in the teaching game 17 years later, joining other midstaters who left the private sector in the rear-view mirror — or did both simultaneously — and entered the world of higher education.
"For various reasons, I thought I should probably make some money first," he said of his decision to put his Ph.D. on hold in the 1990s.
Sarvis, a former project manager at Gannett Fleming and now a professor at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, is one of a number of high-level private sector workers who gravitated toward teaching either full-time, part-time or in their professional retirement at midstate schools.
Marc Minnick, 39, of Wilmington, Del., spends about 35 hours a week as the chief operating officer of Advanced Enviro Systems Inc. in Chester, Delaware County, and another 30 to 35 hours driving, planning and teaching at three colleges, including Lebanon Valley College in Annville Township.
He's also pursuing his doctorate at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington and balancing a family that includes four children. He had planned on being a high school math teacher while in college at Immaculata University outside Philadelphia, but he was putting himself through school already in the business world. His connections led him to a job after college in the mortgage industry and eventually to Advanced Enviro Systems.
His passion for teaching, however, never stopped.
"When I'm teaching, I feel like I'm 'on,'" said Minnick, who has been teaching as an adjunct professor since 2007. "I'm fortunate enough that I have a full-time job that allows me to pursue my passion."
Jeffrey Goble, 62, spent 21 years as a special agent with the FBI and seven years as the director of special investigations with the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General before retiring in 2011. Now he's passing on what he's learned as a full-time professor at Central Penn College in East Pennsboro Township, teaching criminal justice and homeland security management.
He said he had always considered teaching, since much of his time in government positions was spent teaching in some way.
"It's really just emphasizing a different skill set that I already possessed," he said. "And I think that ability to bring real-world experience and examples contributes something to the overall academic environment we're in."
That's part of what attracted Bill Stamey, a former vice president of marketing at The Hershey Co. who retired in 2005, to teaching at Harrisburg Area Community College and Lebanon Valley.
"I'm still relatively young," said Stamey, 56, who spent 23 years at Hershey. "It's something to keep me active and busy. And I really do enjoy the interaction with the students."
In college, Sarvis, 44, planned on pursuing his Ph.D. after completing Ohio University's graduate program in geography. His work as a graduate teaching assistant paid his tuition at the school.
But a different career beckoned, and Sarvis returned to the midstate, where he had attended Shippensburg University. He worked at Gannett Fleming for his last six years in the private sector and also taught part-time at Harrisburg University.
In the dual role, he helped start the geospatial technology discipline at the school.
"We realized the new hires coming in at Gannett Fleming out of college ... they knew the computer science side of things, but they didn't know the mapping or geospatial components of the job," he said. "There was a gap in our industry for kids coming out of school. We wanted to be able to build a program to meet the requirements for these in-demand jobs."
When HU asked its contributor to come to the school full time, Sarvis jumped at the chance. Now he teaches three to five classes per semester, plus a senior seminar and graduate-level class on the principles of project management.
"The interaction with students is far different than with employees or clients," he said. "You have to relate to them still as a professional enough to tell them what it's going to be like working. But playing that adviser role, you still need to be able to tell them what they still need to do to develop for the goals they have. Without the experience I've had, I wouldn't know how to tell the students that."