Now that Ryan Patzwald has lived his hoop dreams, he is getting down to business where his college basketball career started.
After signing with Northern Kentucky University, he transferred and played for head coach Bob Huggins at the University of Cincinnati, Kansas State University and West Virginia University as a walk-on.
"NKU offered me a basketball scholarship when I was in high school," he said. "After a while, I decided, 'I am getting pretty old, and these other guys are a lot better players than I am. I might as well go ahead and finish my degree at NKU.' It took me a while with all those stops."
Eight years after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in special education, Patzwald is enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration program at NKU. He is on track to graduate in September 2020.
Patzwald has spent most of his career as a special education teacher, but he is currently a freelance advocate in the Cincinnati area.
"Any family that feels like they're repressed or needs help understanding other issues can call me," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, I do it for free because I love education and I love to help."
The online format gives Patzwald the ability to focus on earning a degree without sacrificing his special education advocacy. He is especially impressed with the NKU faculty, namely Dr. William Boyce, Dr. Duke Thompson, Dr. Kari Wright Perkins and Dr. Sandra Spataro.
"What they do to make people feel comfortable and help them through the program is fantastic," he said. "I graduated from NKU with my bachelor's degree because of the [sense of] community I felt with every professor."
Nothing But Net
Patzwald was born in Chicago, but he moved to Ohio as a kid and played basketball at Anderson High School. His father, John, was the district's superintendent and has been in education for more than 50 years.
"My best friend from kindergarten, Michael Holmes, has Down syndrome," he said. "He's an inspiration. That's what got me into special education. He's working at Mariemont High School now."
After Patzwald graduated from NKU, he taught in Alaska and Ohio. He was the varsity boys' basketball coach at North Pole High School for one season. To expand his options beyond special education, he decided to pursue an MBA.
"A lot of people in the courses are in business and want to get their degree and further their careers," he said. "It's all new to me. The community of students, professors and faculty is amazing.
"I have a friend I made in the program who lives in Louisville. We're helping each other with the coursework. That's the community that NKU built. It's outstanding."
So far, MGT 605: Managing in Organizations, taught by Dr. Spataro, is his favorite course in the curriculum.
"I can see how it relates to education in the sense of how we handle situations," he said. "It might not be directly related, but people forget that education is still a business. It's all been enlightening. That's why it's been so nice to have NKU with that experience."
Patzwald enjoyed his time playing Division I college basketball, sometimes in front of crowds 20,000 strong. He even had opposing fans chant for him to go into a game, blond Mohawk and all.
The experience of playing sports taught him to work hard and stay focused on the goal, which he also applies as a student in the online MBA program.
"For a guy who has taught special education and hasn't taken a finance or accounting course in 15 years, it's pretty daunting," he said. "We are doing an accelerated program and learning a semester's worth of material in five weeks.
"Even though I don't see my professors on a daily basis, they get back to me quickly via email and answer my questions. NKU is amazing in that regard."
Much like being part of a basketball team, earning a degree online takes hard work and persistence, Patzwald said.
"Be committed," he said. "It's not easy. They don't just hand these degrees out. If you want something, it's possible because of the staff at NKU. They will help you. If you want something bad enough, you'll get it. The flexibility is great."
As for what Patzwald will do once he graduates from NKU for the second time, he's keeping his options open.
"I would love to be a director of human resources at a school district," he said. "With the MBA background, I'll have the business side. With my education background, I will have both sides of the negotiation table. Who knows what the future holds?"
Learn more about the NKU online MBA program.
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