As part of an Oregon Tech entrepreneurship class, students met with innovators and business owners from around the world, including Oregon Tech’s own alumni. These entrepreneurs included individuals from a wide variety of industries such as fitness, automotive, coffee shop, educational services and medical devices. The experience inspired both the students and alumni.
Business professor, Sharon Beaudry, has previously incorporated weekly field trips into the class to visit local businesses. Despite the impacts of COVID-19, she saw an opportunity to continue to meet with business owners but to expand the reach through Zoom. “I realized that this was an opportunity to reach out to entrepreneurs throughout Oregon, the U.S., and even around the world,” shared Professor Beaudry. “It was a great chance to use technology to connect with several alumni entrepreneurs who are passionate about staying connected and giving back to Oregon Tech, while also encouraging and educating students, many of whom have entrepreneurial aspirations.”
One of the most impactful guest speakers was Chris Duffin, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1999. After he graduated from Oregon Tech, he went on to have a highly successful career as a corporate executive working in the automotive, high-tech and aerospace fields, while also pursuing a world-class powerlifting career. In 2008, he started his entrepreneurial venture, Kabuki Strength, where he designs, engineers and manufactures innovative fitness equipment, and provides research-based education and coaching services. Today he owns several successful businesses, many of which support professional athletes around the world. In 2019, Chris also authored an inspiring book about his life story titled The Eagle and the Dragon: A Story of Strength and Reinvention.
With such a busy career, Chris continues to stay connected with Oregon Tech and its students. “Oregon Tech had a huge impact on preparing me for the needs in my field and the success of my ventures,” he shares. “I stay engaged with Oregon Tech to give back and help students be prepared for the rapidly changing economic, social, and entrepreneurial environments they will be entering.”
As a student at Oregon Tech and business owner, I looked up to several successful businesses owned by Oregon Tech graduates. The connections I made with those alumni inspired me to work harder at not only my own business but my studies as well. By staying engaged at Oregon Tech I hope I can be that connection for someone else.”
Other alumni entrepreneurs who joined the class this fall included 2018 business graduates, David Murphy & Seth Gretz of Brevada Brewhouse, who started their popular Klamath Falls coffee shop and wine bar business a year before they graduated. Also, John Grieser, a 2011 renewable engineering graduate, met with the class to share how his senior project turned into the spark for his business. Today, John and his partner, 2010 graduate Brandon Little, own Elemental Energy, a solar PV system design and installation firm based in Portland. They also founded Twende Solar, a nonprofit organization that drives solar projects for energy-deficient populations around the world.
Oregon Tech Business degrees include nine programs: Accounting, Business Management, Cybersecurity, Information Technology, Health Care Management, Health Informatics, Marketing, Operations Management, and Technology & Management. These programs are offered at the Klamath Falls campus, and many are also offered in the Portland-Metro campus as well as online.