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Honors courses and a hands-on thesis experience in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University gave Vince Switzer the practical and networking skills necessary to thrive in the business world.
Switzer is a double ASU graduate. He received a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management with honors from Barrett in 2004 and a master’s in business administration in 2007.
Since then, he has gone on to business success, serving in corporate leadership roles and working in real estate. He is CEO of SeaBay, a construction company and president of SwissTeknik, an aircraft parts supplier.
Switzer was ranked number one on the 2019 Sun Devil 100, an annual list honoring Sun Devil-owned and led businesses.
Palm trees played a key role in helping Switzer decide to attend ASU. Switzer said that when he first visited ASU while on his college search, he “fell in love” with Palm Walk – a walkway lined with Mexican fan palms in the heart of the Tempe campus - and the tidiness of the surrounding area.
“I’m from Colorado, where we don't have that kind of thing. It sort of looked like paradise,” he said.
As a freshman and sophomore, many of Switzer’s classes had more than 200 students. When he joined Barrett, The Honors College in his junior year, he had the opportunity to be a part of “breakout” sessions with the professors in those larger classes.
The smaller group sessions were like having a lab course on top of regular business classes, he said. In those groups, he got practical and networking experience he wouldn’t have had otherwise.
One of Switzer’s favorite memories from his time at Barrett is his thesis project related to the Honda Element, a compact crossover SUV that hit the market in 2003.
“It was real hands on, [it] almost reminded me of The Apprentice type of thing. And that was awesome,” he said.
As an alumnus, Switzer stays involved with Barrett whenever he can. He has spoken at events, offered professional advice to students, and hired student interns.
“I like the idea of encouraging and pointing the current students in the right direction on the practical side of things,” Switzer said.
Switzer said he thinks he did his undergraduate years right. He is glad he studied abroad, lived on campus and participated in Greek life. Looking back, one thing he might do differently is joining Barrett earlier.
“I think I was maybe just a little intimidated by it, thinking I don't know if I want all the extra work,” Switzer said.
However, “I thought if honors was extra work, it was good. It's good stuff. It wasn't just wasteful extra work that we’re all trying to avoid.”
A key skill Switzer took away from his education at Barrett was the ability to manage multiple projects at once—a skill that is vital in managing his several businesses.
“It shows [you] that you don't just have to be a student just going through the paces,” Switzer said.
“You can add honors on top and do extra work and not actually overwhelm yourself. It helps you understand that you're capable of a lot and you can accomplish a lot more than you might think.”
Story by Greta Forslund, a Barrett, The Honors College student majoring in journalism.