BY LAURA SWANSON
For Matt Van Zant ’06 MBA ’08, the decision to go back to school wasn’t easy, but it was simple.
In 2001, Van Zant was employed in the information technology (IT) industry. IT, at that time, was one of “a few remaining professional fields where work experience was acceptable” in lieu of a college degree, Van Zant said. But, he could tell the industry’s job requirement expectations were shifting in a manner that put more emphasis on formal education.
Van Zant opted to return to the classroom to ensure that his skills and qualifications could sustain his career in the future. When it came time to pick a program, he had two choices.
Van Zant said he considered going back to school for industry certifications offered by a technology company such as Microsoft. As a non-traditional student, he believed the certification process would be an adequate option for him, but he would be required to attain a new certificate each time new technology was issued. “It’s like having to take a driver’s test whenever a new car is released,” Van Zant explained. “That’s why I was disenchanted with the certification process. I just didn’t want to pursue certifications forever.”
Instead, Van Zant found that his second option—an undergraduate degree at a traditional college or university—would better suit his needs and fulfill his personal desire for a challenging college experience. Van Zant applied to Augsburg College’s business administration: management information systems program through the Weekend and Evening College. He said initially the College’s information systems program caught his eye, as did the maroon Augsburg College sign he passed during his workday commutes through the heart of Minneapolis.
Van Zant continued working full time while he pursued his Augsburg education in the adult undergraduate program, and he graduated in 2006. Immediately following his bachelor’s degree completion, Van Zant enrolled in Augsburg’s master of business administration program.
“I felt capable of doing more—driven to do more,” Van Zant recalled. “I was already in ‘school shape;’ I was encouraged by my professors; I had mastered the balance of school and work; and I was anxious to take my education a step farther.”
The steps Van Zant took allowed him to gain more responsibility in his career and expand his role from one with a narrow focus to one that is broader and more challenging, he said. “I’ve been with my current employer for almost six years, and I’m amazed that I keep reaching back into the ‘toolbox’ for the skills I learned in college,” he continued.
Since 2008, Van Zant has shared insights from his work experience and his post-secondary education with new Auggies as an adjunct instructor in Augsburg’s business department. “I’m thrilled to teach because it keeps me involved in the Augsburg community,” Van Zant said. He teaches adult undergraduate students, and he shares his own success story with his students. “Going back to school was a strategic decision: I wanted to round out my portfolio,” Van Zant said. “Now I know it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.”