[media-credit name=”Source: OneUtah.org” align=”alignright” width=”221″][/media-credit]Last Thursday, Sheldon Killpack told Weber State University students that it doesn’t matter where they get their starts because they can be successful in life. Sheldon Killpack got his start at Lagoon in the games department. He has since spent nearly 10 years as a Utah state senator and is currently the vice president of Academia West.
Killpack, a former WSU graduate, spoke to students as part of the Nye Lecture Series. Apart from the nearly 80 students in attendance were Killpack’s wife and daughter. WSU President Ann Millner was there to see him speak as well. Killpack, who worked with Millner at the state legislature, said “Weber has a very strong staff that is responsive to the workplace and the business environment, and that is was makes them so successful and so great.”
Killpack left Lagoon in 2004 as its head of marketing, public relations and advertising and joined Academia West in 2005. Academia West is basically a one-stop shop for parents looking to start a new charter school. It provides training for boards on what their role is and how to govern. They also provide human resources, legal council, staff recruiting, maintenance, policy writing, building design and construction. It also provides the most important thing for charter schools: federal grant applications and accounting services.
At Academia West, members have a rather unique employee handbook that contains only one sentence, “Get your job done.” Its philosophy is that of empowerment and autonomy. Each of its employees understands that if they do their job, they will stay employed. Killpack said the philosophy he and his business partner, Jed Stevenson, use to find new people is rather simple: find the best people in their field and pay them better than the market.
Killpack said charter schools have been very healthy for the market. “I am a true believer in competition, and that is what charter schools provide,” he said. Killpack explained how charter schools force parents to make a choice about what school their children will go to. By making that conscientious decision, Killpack said, they buy into the school and give greater support to the school and their children.
Killpack did not prepare a presentation or bring a Power Point. He said he wanted this to be more of a conversation than a lecture. The students said they enjoyed this and participated a lot during the conversation. Trevor Ramboz, senior and a cheerleader at WSU, said the lecture series is his favorite class. “I was a little worried about today because it said he was a former state senator, and the last politician that came was pretty boring,” Ramboz said. After the lecture, however, he said he had a much different reaction. “I really enjoyed listening to Sheldon,” Ramboz said. “It was a different style than anyone else has used, and I liked how interactive he was with the students.”
Two of Academia West’s accountants were there to support Killpack and help answer some of the students’ questions. Ryan Smith, who is over the company’s not-for-profit and payroll at Academia West, said that he loves their business environment. “I came from an accounting firm, which was very strict and very rigid, so it was a bit of a culture shock,” Smith said, “but I love working with these guys.”
Suzie Wright, WSU senior and accounting major, said she really appreciated the fact that Academia West brought its accountants because they were able to answer some questions that really apply to her and her degree. “I love getting exposure to so many different businesses and how they run,” Wright said. “This is definitely my favorite class.”