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Keith Schroeder

Keith Schroeder
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
MBA'14
Watch #OwlAlum Keith Schroeder's full interview here.

  • THE EXTRA SCOOP… on Keith Schroeder

    Where are you from and where did you grow up?

    Schroeder:
    “I grew up on the south shore of Long Island in New York, roughly 40 miles east of New York City. I was there all of my childhood and then through my undergrad college years. I moved down here in ’94.”

    How has your sports background, as a former athlete and with your dad being a former coach, helped you get to where you are now?

    Schroeder:
    “Athletics really can help, in part, because they provide a sense of mental toughness, and obviously, teamwork and comradery. I had the luxury of having an exceptional wrestling coach and I was very serious about wrestling when I was in high school. He was a very stoic and kind of a strong, silent type and I had not had that in my life prior to having him as a coach. Most of the coaches from my dad’s walk of life were like very animated, super intense individuals and having that steely guy was kind of intimidating. He set expectations and there was always a little mystery in the air about what his expectations were. I liked that and that style worked well for me. I think that’s probably a turning point in terms of my developing grit.”

    How was your experience as a KSU student and how has it helped you grow your business?

    Schroeder:
    “I went to KSU first for practical reasons – because of its proximity to life and work and home – and was really pleased by the caliber of instructor that they were placing in front of us in that MBA program. I just think that state universities like KSU have no entitlement running through the student body or the academic world. There’s a sense that you have to work hard for everything you get in life. There are plenty of students there who have two jobs and go to classes at night, and I’ve always liked being around that kind of gritty, working-class culture. It’s part of the fabric of the community. Thousands and thousands and thousands of people go to KSU. More and more and more KSU is popping up on the radar and it’s fascinating.”

    Who has been your biggest role model?

    Schroeder:
    “That’s a tough one. I go back to that high school wrestling coach. Obviously, you can attribute a lot of your growth to your parents, but this guy in particular had a style that I wanted to learn how to emulate – strength and seriousness and commitment to cause where quitting is not an option, and to work really, really hard. His name is Pat Smith.”

    You have spent a lot of time in the culinary world, so what is your go-to favorite dish to make if trying to impress someone?

    Schroeder:
    “Well, I grew up a Long Island boy so I play with seafood, but lobster would certainly be parcel of that meal, and maybe even riff and do different lobster dishes just to show command of technique. It would definitely be hometown food.”

    What is the best advice you ever received?

    Schroeder:
    “It’s from Paul Lopez, actually, who was a professor at KSU. He shared with me, prior to going into business, the way that I decide whether I want to go into business with someone is if I’m willing to split it 50-50 and I want to go out to dinner with that person. He said if I have any questions about any of that, I know that it’s not going to go well. So, choose a business partner that you’re just happy to split it right down the middle and spend some free time in your life with that person. That advice has gone a long way over the past seven years.”

    How do you think your 17-year-old self would feel about the life you have created for yourself?

    Schroeder:
    “That’s an amazing question. I think that I’m so deeply woven into my 43-year-old self, to be honest with you. I think part of it is not letting your 17-year-old self go and try the best you can to maintain that sense of adventure and that anything is possible. As you go, I think folks tend to get conservative with their life decisions to a fault, based in fear. I think my 17-year-old self would be happy I’ve kept it adventurous.”

    What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

    Schroeder:
    “Vanilla. I’m obsessed with vanilla – where it grows, the history of it. I think there are volumes to be written about the history of vanilla in the world. I’ve been tracing where it’s been cultivated and what it means to be high quality. You know, it’s funny when I hear people say, ‘I’ll just have vanilla’ or ‘plain vanilla’ because to me vanilla is so complex and wonderful. It’s anything but ordinary. It’s a common flavor, but it’s beautiful.”

    Which do you prefer, a cup or a cone?

    Schroeder:
    “I prefer a cone. A sugar cone, a waffle cone. Yeah, but a cone nonetheless.”

Ty Woods

Ty Woods
Executive Director and Co-Founder of ARTportunity Knocks
MBA'14
Watch #OwlAlum Ty Woods' full interview here.

  • THE EXTRA SCOOP ...on Ty Woods

    Who would portray you in a movie about your life?

    Woods:
    “You know what, I would say Jennifer Hudson because she has a powerful voice. She has a powerful story as well and I think she could relate to the journey of coming from nothing and just making yourself available for the opportunities that come. I think she would be the perfect person to portray me.” 

    If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

    Woods:
    “Well, I have a hard time asking for money so the fundraising aspect of my job is not as fun as I hoped it would be, but I’m learning about the philanthropic landscape here in Atlanta. It’s really about who you know in the social circles, and I’m not a very social person, so I actually have to come out of my shell and be a part of these affinity clubs. That has been a challenge for me but I think it’s forcing me to grow in areas.”

    Have you always had a strong philanthropic side and where did that come from?

    Woods:
    “Well, I’m originally from South L.A. (Los Angeles), at the time a very poor neighborhood, but my mom really tried to make our lives as middle class as possible. But, I knew I lacked opportunities and so I wanted to get into a position where I can afford opportunities for those who are less fortunate. So I push and that is what my drive is. For me, I don’t only want what’s best for my kids, I want what’s best for other people’s kids too. That’s what’s driving me.” 

    What is the best part of your day?

    Woods:
    “The best part of my day is when I get to meet with partners. I meet these principals who are just doing amazing things with their schools. That’s the best part of my job as well, meeting people in the community who are actually making change.”

    What is your best secret tax tip?

    Woods:
    “Track your miles. Use an app called MileIQ. There are other apps out there but this one actually can track your miles while you’re driving. You just click on whether a particular trip is business or personal, and it will automatically calculate it for you. It’s a miles tracking app and I think that’s one of the best inventions ever for business.”

    Does this point in your life look the same or different from the one you imagined for yourself at age 17?

    Woods:
    “When I was 17, I wasn’t even sure I was going to graduate from high school. I was in a very tough position. I come from a family like a lot of other people come from where the parents don’t really emphasize college and it’s more so about getting a job. So at 17, I think my No. 1 focus was to get a good job because college wasn’t necessarily promoted in my home. But, a series of situations happened in my life that led me to be homeless at 19 and it was there, at Covenant House in California, where I gained access to scholarships and that is when college was first realized for me. I financially support Covenant House because I believe it was the start of my life journey and the drive to get to where I am today. I never want to be in that position again so I work hard. So, I think what I imagined at 17, just to work hard and get a job, I still kind of keep that same mentality. Although a lot of experiences have shifted the way that I think, I do believe that higher education is essential as a part of the growth. There are things you can learn in college, even from a social aspect, that you just don’t learn in a job. If I could tell my 17-year-old self something, I would say don’t change anything.”

    Has KSU played a part in where you are today?

    Woods:
    “Oh, absolutely! Yes because Campus Tax started as a class project, and it was just supposed to be a project. It wasn’t supposed to be as big and successful as it became, and then I was able to get out of that and really focus on philanthropy. My undergrad (studies), even though it was done somewhere else, gave me the foundational, textbook stuff but KSU gave me the hands-on experience that I needed in entrepreneurship. No offense to my undergrad school – I think they did a fabulous job with teaching me the foundation of business – but at KSU, that’s where it all began for me.”

    Anything you would like to add?

    Woods: 
    “I am so glad that KSU now has that incubator program. If I would have had that when I launched the business, I think I would have been able to take it a little further before it was sold. I think one of the things that I wanted to stress to students is to take advantage of all the free resources that you have while you are in school. There are a lot of resources at KSU that can help you become successful before you graduate.”  

Robert Graham

Robert Graham
Senior Design Engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation
B.S. Civil Engineering '05
Watch #OwlAlum Robert Graham's full interview here.

  • THE EXTRA SCOOP ... on Robert Graham

    What advice would you give to graduates of KSU’s civil engineering program who are preparing to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Civil exam?

    Graham:

    “Start studying early. Definitely know the manuals you’re using. You need to know where things are. Most of the time people waste time flipping through manuals trying to figure out where things are. You should try to use the manuals beforehand so that you know where things are and make sure you tabulate everything. Again, start early and actually have a plan to study. Get to know the calculator they suggest because again, during the test is not the time to be searching for where buttons are. And probably the most important thing I can tell people is, my suggestion is, getting down there a day early and relaxing. Just do nothing. Honestly, if you can stop studying two or three days before the test, that’s the best thing because that way you can let the information sit and process. If not, you’re going to be overwhelmed.” 

    What is your proudest achievement?

    Graham:

    “There are a few but I would say graduating from college because in my immediate family, I was the first one to graduate from college.”

    What advice would you give to your younger/18-year-old self?

    Graham:

    “Don’t be scared to try. Don’t be scared to fail. I mean that’s mostly what life is, about trial and error. And just remember that 99 percent of the time the plan you set up is not the way it’s going to turn out.”

    Your work revolves around transportation, so what is your dream car?

    Graham:

    “That’s a really good question. Off hand, I would probably say a Tesla, just because it’s great on gas mileage and I like to do road trips and my commute is like 20 miles one way. It’s a car most people either never heard of or never would be able to afford, including myself right now.”

    If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and why?

    Graham:

    “You know what, I’ll say New Zealand. Just for the fact that it’s probably one of my favorite trips and it’s just a no-frills kind of country. If you go to like some of the smaller towns, you can actually just unplug, relax and be alone with your thoughts.”

Bridget Cantrell

Bridget Cantrell
Environmental-UST Project Manager for RaceTrac Petroleum
B.S. Construction Management '03
Watch #OwlAlum Bridget Cantrell's full interview here.

  • THE EXTRA SCOOP… on Bridget Cantrell

    What is a typical day like for you?

    Cantrell:

    “There is no typical day and I mean that with all sincerity. I work completely from home, remotely. I’m in the office today because the whole team is in on training. But, Mondays and Fridays are typically work from home and then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays we travel. I travel to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina. The common thing is that I’m inspecting our underground storage tanks, but depending on what we find when we inspect, every store’s going to be different to what we do.”

    What are some of our biggest environmental concerns right now?

    Cantrell:

    “I can speak for the petroleum industry that there are some regulations that were enacted in October of 2015 and they’re more stringent. The industry is given three years to enact all those requirements and so they’ll be formally monitored by the government in October 2018. The good news is that RaceTrac, just our standard practices, we were already doing almost everything that was required, so we don’t have that many changes to do. But, the upcoming October 2018 deadline for the new UST (underground storage tank) guidelines is a big focus for us right now.”

    Who is your biggest inspiration?

    Cantrell:

    “I would say in this moment, it is going to be Tim Ferriss. He is an author, but more than that he deems himself a human guinea pig. He’s put together this book called ‘Tools of Titans’ and it is a collection of the titans of every industry – what their morning practices are, their strategies, how they’ve become successful. So, it’s sort of an inspirational encyclopedia of the who’s who of the world.”

    If you were not doing this job, what would be a perfect career for you?

    Cantrell:

    “The truthful answer is I want to be a bartender in Aruba, you know. I would definitely say probably a travel writer. I enjoy the adventure and I enjoy journaling and writing and sharing my adventures with others.”

    Do you use RaceTrac gasoline?

    Cantrell:

    “Absolutely! We have a rewards app and that works for all the employees. Also, of course we get our coffee and our sodas complimentary. But I definitely take advantage of the app, which is for purchasing gas.”

    Outside of the gas, what is your favorite RaceTrac product?

    Cantrell:

    “Oh Swirl World, hands down! That’s our frozen yogurt and it’s typically eight different flavors with yogurt and then probably 30 different toppings.”

    What is your favorite at Swirl World?

    Cantrell:

    “Birthday cake with Twix on top of it.”

    What is your biggest pet peeve of other drivers?

    Cantrell:

    “No blinkers. If they would use their blinkers that would be very helpful, especially in Atlanta traffic.”

Kenny Conleay

Kenny Conleay
Senior Claim Agent at Norfolk Southern Corporation
B.B.A. Management '08
Watch #OwlAlum Kenny Conleay's full interview here.

  • THE EXTRA SCOOP . . . on Kenny Conleay

    What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

    Conleay:

    “My time at work is either spent at my office or out in the field. The primary purpose of my job is to investigate, evaluate and settle casualty matters brought against Norfolk Southern ‘for incidents involving on-duty injuries to employees, injuries to outsiders and property damage’ arising from company operations.”

    Can you give a general overview of the protocol you follow when responding to a train accident?

    Conleay:

    “When I respond to accidents, the purpose of my investigation is to preserve all relevant facts. This is done by speaking to witnesses, taking photographs and measurements, and by collecting all documentation and data related to the incident.”

    Do you think train safety is under shared?

    Conleay:

    “I believe that most of train/pedestrian and train/vehicle accidents can be prevented if people were better educated on rail safety. It is important for people to understand that it is illegal and unsafe to ever walk on or use railroad tracks for recreation. It is also important for people to approach highway-rail grade crossings with caution and to obey all warning signs and signals posted there.”

    You are expecting your first child with your wife this August, so what is the one thing you hope to teach her?

    Conleay:

    “One thing I hope to teach my daughter is compassion. I believe a life well lived is one with a compassionate heart.”

    You grew up on Tybee Island, so what is your fondest memory of that area? Did you have a culture shock of sorts when you came to Kennesaw?

    Conleay:

    “My fondest memory of growing up on Tybee Island was spending time out on the water. When I was 10 years old, my parents bought me and my brother a johnboat with a 15-horsepower engine on it. From then on we spent every free chance we had exploring all the tidal creeks and surrounding barrier islands.”

    Who is your biggest inspiration?

    Conleay:

    “I'm stumped on this question because a single person does not come to mind. When I think of who inspired me throughout my life, I think about many different family members, a couple of teachers from high school, and some managers I have had throughout my career. These are the people that encouraged me and supported me.”

    If you could give your 18-year-old self advice, what would you tell him?

    Conleay:

    “I'm not sure if I would give my 18-year-old self any advice. It's not because I don't have any regrets or because I didn't make any mistakes – I made plenty of mistakes – but rather because I learned a lot of good lessons from the mistakes that I made. We don't learn near as much from success.”

    Did you have a train set when you were a young boy?

    Conleay:

    “To be honest with you, I don't think I ever had a train toy as a kid. My interest in the railroad did not come until after college when I was looking for a good career.”

    Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years, both personally and professionally?

    Conleay:

    “Personally, my family and friends are what I live for, so in 10 years I hope to be spending every bit of free time I have with them. Professionally, I love my job with Norfolk Southern, so in 10 years I would be content doing the exact same thing I'm doing now.”

Marc Reece

Marc Reece
Assistant Director of Student Recruitment at Atlanta's John Marshall Law School
B.S. Business Administration '07
MBA '15
Watch #OwlAlum Marc Reece's full interview here.

  • THE EXTRA SCOOP . . . on Marc Reece

    What direction do you hope your T-shirt business, Developed Tee, heads in the next five years?

    Reece:
    “The goal is to continue to grow it as much as possible, but I want it to grow organically. I want it to be that individuals really like the product and they really want to represent where they’re from, where they grew up or where they advanced, whether it’s career-wise or from an education standpoint. So in five years, I’d like to see it on a national level where it can just continue to grow.”

    V-necks or crew necks?

    Reece:
    “Crew necks. Crew necks for sure. V-necks have their place, but I’m a crew neck kind of guy.”

    Who is your biggest inspiration and how did that person motivate you to work so hard?

    Reece:
    “I would definitely say my mother is my biggest inspiration. She motivated me to work so hard just being the superhero she is as a mom. She was a single mother raising two boys, moving from Detroit to Atlanta. She’s been successful in her career and continuously is driving us to be better people, first and foremost, and then better individuals in our careers and as family members.”

    What advice would you give to your younger/18-year-old self?

    Reece:
    “That’s a great question. Definitely take more chances. When you’re at a young age, you have an opportunity to take chances in life, travel and do whatever is on your heart because there’s going to come a point in time where you’re a family man and you’re not going to be able to take as many chances as you’d like and as many risks. As a younger me, I took a lot of chances and I had a lot of fun with a lot of good opportunities. The more chances you can take, the better. Just continue to push yourself, don’t have any regrets and give it your best that first time.”

    If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

    Reece:
    “I’m a sports guy so I’m always thinking from an athletics standpoint. I would have changed the way I went about preparing to be a basketball player. I ended up being very successful, but I’m always (thinking) what could I have done better. So, me personally, I would have developed more skills to make it to a professional level. That’s just me, specifically. That’s something that if I could go back, I would have done that to where I could achieve the No. 1 dream, which was the NBA.”

    Who is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), LeBron James or Michael Jordan?

    Reece:
    “You’ve got to go with MJ. I’m all about winning and we won plenty at Southern Poly. At the end of the day when it’s all said and done, LeBron is a phenomenal talent but MJ is the GOAT. He’s done everything and he did it all the right way. He’s got the wins and six (NBA championships) beats three. Jordan is the reason LeBron is what he is. He influenced many people, including myself, to play basketball as opposed to playing football or playing baseball. He motivated tons of people. Not only is he the greatest on the floor, but he elevated the game to what it is today. I truly believe that.”

    Anything you would like to add?

    Reece:
    “I’d just like to thank you all for giving me this opportunity. You know I have a lot of pride in Southern Poly and Kennesaw State. It’s awesome to be able to still maintain that relationship with my alma mater. I’m always here to help any way I possibly can. I’ll continue to try to make you all proud as an alum and do whatever I can to make the school better.”

Tom Shinall

Tom Shinall

Director of Marketing at Booth Western Art Museum
B.S. Communication '07

Watch #OwlAlum Tom Shinall's full interview here.

  • THE EXTRA SCOOP… on Tom Shinall

    How do you stay engaged with the university?

    Shinall:
    “My engagement really comes from an online presence. Of course I get the emails through the alumni association, but I keep up with the university as a whole through different social media platforms, whether it be athletics, alumni or the university itself on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and those types of news feeds in order to kind of see what’s going on on a day-to-day basis. With my wife, Elizabeth, working for the university, we can kind of keep up with everything happening from an insider’s standpoint, too.”

    Tell me about football and tailgating.

    Shinall:
    “We really enjoy the aspect of tailgating, and the memories and comradery that you get from being with friends and family in that kind of atmosphere. When I was in school, the buzz on football really got going. There was always that excitement but we knew it wasn’t happening, at least when I was there. So, when it did happen we jumped right in as season-ticket holders, haven’t missed a home game, and been to some away games.”

    What do you hope to see happen with the university in the next 10 years?

    Shinall:
    “It’s incredible how much the school has grown and I think they’ve done that in a very controlled way. Everything makes sense, it’s very logical and I hope to see that continue. Also, as the school continues to grow physically, I’d like to see it grow in its engagement with alumni, with students, and in resources and opportunities. Seeing that continue to grow over the next 10 years I think can be a big benefit to the university.”

    What advice would you give to your younger/18-year-old self?

    Shinall:
    “I look back at it now and there are two things. One being the aspect of networking as a skill set. The people you meet as a teenager and through your collegiate career can and mostly likely will make some sort of impact, professionally and personally, down the road. So networking is something that I highly recommend and stress. Something else I would advise an incoming or young student is to make sure to get those school payments or school loans paid up front because it makes a world of difference when you get out and don’t have that burden of debt. I worked my way through college and paid for school myself by working and things like that, and I got out of school debt-free. Now when I was a student, I hated it because I was putting money toward school and I didn’t have money to spend with friends, on trips or whatever. Being out of school, looking back at it and not having that kind of debt makes a huge difference in life.”

    What is your favorite Western movie?

    Shinall:
    “I’ve got several. Of course, being my age, ‘Dances with Wolves,’ ‘Lonesome Dove,’ and ‘Tombstone’ are ones that just jump out at me because those are the ones that came out as I was growing up. Looking back at some of the older Westerns, the original ‘True Grit’ with John Wayne, ‘The Shootist’ and some of those are just movies that are iconic in the Western world. It would be hard-pressed to work in a Western museum and not really enjoy those. That’s why I love them.”

    What is going on now at the museum?

    Shinall:
    “Here at the Booth, we have some great things going on. One of the things that we’ve recently acknowledged is photography as a fine art form and we’ve done so by actually taking one of our permanent galleries and converting it into a permanent photography gallery. So, the only artwork shown in that gallery will be photography based. We’re doing that right now with an exhibition called Ansel Adams: The Masterworks. Ansel Adams is probably one of the most well-known photographers of all time and we’ve got 30 hand-selected, hand-printed, hand-signed images by Ansel himself that he gave to his granddaughter, and she has graciously loaned them to us for an exhibition. These are basically 30 that Ansel thought were the best of his best, and so we have those on view through this fall.”

    Are you artistic?

    Shinall:
    “I think everybody has got some form of artistic talent, but mine does not come in an art form. I think that’s one reason why I absolutely love working here. I draw stick figures if I’m drawing or if I’m painting. I’m not artistic in that aspect so that’s one reason why I love seeing it and being around it every day. I don’t have that talent but I respect it. Just to be around it is enjoyable.”

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