Editor’s note: The Fremont Tribune is publishing a series, “20 Under 40,” that shares stories of young professionals in Fremont under the age of 40. The series will highlight one individual on Page C1 every weekend until November 21. “20 Under 40” is sponsored in part by RTG Medical and the Fremont Chamber of Commerce.
Having taught at Midland University for five years, Nick Schreck said he always loves when a student comes to his office and tells him about an internship or first position they received.
“For them, they feel like all their hard work has paid off, and for me, it’s rewarding to see that they’re excited about what they’re going to do after college,” he said. “I feel like as a professor, it’s my job to get them ready for that moment, and it’s nice to see them rewarded for everything that they’ve been doing.”
Schreck has been an assistant professor of digital marketing at Midland since 2017, having been an adjunct professor two years prior. He is also the undergraduate business chair for the university.
the teachersFrom a young age, Schreck had a love of teaching instilled in him at Arlington High School.
“I had an amazing teacher named Gary Overfield that pushed me and helped me just appreciate language and writing and critical thinking,” he said. “And I had some other really incredible teachers like Shawna Koger, who taught me about business, and that sort of led me to come to Midland.”
Schreck was actively involved in multiple activities at the small school, including Future Business Leaders of America, choir, quiz bowl, National Honors Society and cross country.
Although his favorite activity at the time was quiz bowl, Schreck said speech is the one that has stuck with him the most.
“Speech competitions, they helped inspire me to think about how the audience is feeling, how to say things in a way that resonates with other people to persuade them to make them feel a certain way, to inspire them,” he said. “And those traits and that work ethic were required to be strong in speech, and that is sort of I feel like what set me up long term to be successful.”
After graduating from high school in 2007, Schreck attended Midland on an Anderson Leader Scholarship to major in business. Along with the scholarship, he said Midland’s small size was a big attraction for him.
“The teachers would know my name, I could be involved in lots of things and I felt like at a smaller school, I could make a bigger impact,” Schreck said. “And all of that was a draw.”
His sophomore year, Schreck met two new friends: previous 20 Under 40 recipient Taylor Jeppesen, and his future wife, Katie.
Also during his sophomore year, Schreck started majoring in religion after taking a class with Courtney Wilder, who he said made him think in new ways about the topic, which he said was less black-and-white than business.
“Honestly, I don’t really do a ton with religion itself, like studying the Bible, but the critical thinking that comes with those kinds of courses has been incredibly helpful to me and my career,” he said. “And I was just drawn to that kind of open-ended thought process.”
Like in high school, Schreck was involved in numerous extracurricular activities at Midland, including choir, the ultimate frisbee team, Phi Beta Lamda, Blue Key Honor Society.
“I was a work steady for the marketing office, and then as part of that, I got to announce athletic events, which was so cool,” he said.
But Schreck’s biggest involvement at Midland was with Circle K, the world’s largest student-led collegiate service organization associated with Kiwanis International.
Schreck was club president his sophomore year and was district government his junior and senior years. In this role, he oversaw 11 clubs across Nebraska and Iowa, including those at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Iowa.
“The opportunity to lead not only my own campus, but campuses across Nebraska and Iowa, that was really impactful,” Schreck said. “So that was an amazing experience.”
Upon graduating from Midland in 2011, Schreck began working at Gallup while working on his master’s degree from Gonzaga University. Although he loved the company itself, he was left underwhelmed in his position, which had him sitting behind a computer 10 hours a day formatting Excel spreadsheets.
“There’s a lot of people that are great at that job and really appreciate that kind of introverted kind of workstyle. I had a tough time with that,” Schreck said. “I couldn’t stay to myself for that long, and so I knew I needed something else.”
After three months at Gallup, Schreck took a position in sales at Sycamore Leaf Solutions in Fremont.
“Sycamore sells learning management systems to schools all around the world, and so I learned the software program so I could talk to schools about switching to Sycamore,” he said. “And it was an awesome experience. I learned so much about sales and about technology and small business.”
Schreck was given the opportunity to grow at Sycamore, as he soon oversaw the support and training teams for the company.
“So every time a customer came on board and signed on, it was the team that I worked with to make sure that they had a positive experience and then making sure if they had any trouble down the road, they could call us, email us and contact us in any way and that they were having a positive experience in getting their questions answered,” he said.
During his time at Sycamore, Schreck saw two major life events, including marrying Katie in 2013. He also joined Midland as a part-time adjunct professor in 2015.
“I’d always wanted to teach,” Schreck said. “I wanted to feel like I could help college students with their experience through the academic side of things.”
Schreck said he felt fully prepared to teach, as at Sycamore, he was training schools and teachers on how to use equipment.
“The sales job sort of lead to it, as teaching is sometimes sales. You have to say things in a way that is meaningful and direct, but also engaging,” he said. “And I feel like that sort of led me to be a better teacher.”
After taking the position, Schreck taught a speech class, “Fundamentals of Oral Communication.”
“I had great students, we had great experiences, it was an awesome time,” he said. “And teaching one class at a time sort of led me to get the teaching bug, and once I got it, I knew I wanted to do it as a full-time job at some point.”
Schreck worked at Sycamore for five years before taking a position at Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity. After eight months there, he finally got his teaching opportunity as a full-time position opened up at Midland in 2017.
“There just aren’t a lot of openings for full-time teaching,” he said. “And so when an opening came up to teach marketing full time, I jumped on that and haven’t looked back.”
A CAREER IN TEACHING
At Midland, Schreck said he teaches just about every marketing class that Midland has, from entry classes to social media classes to data-driven classes.
Having been in the workforce for so many years, Schreck said he began to forget what the college experience was like, which added to his amazement in meeting his students.
“Our students were taking classes, working part-time jobs, going to practice, and so their day sometimes went from 6 a.m. to midnight with just activities planned the whole time,” he said. “And I was just so impressed by those go-getters and future business leaders.”
With the full-time position, Schreck was able to get a house with his wife in Fremont. But he also felt it was important to support his students outside the classroom now that he was a professor.
“I wanted to go to their events, whether that’s an athletic production, a theater or musical production, or whether it’s like a fundraiser that they’re putting on as part of an organization,” Schreck said. “And I wanted to support the students in any way possible, so our nights ended up getting a little bit busier just going to those different events.”
Todd Conkright, dean of the Dunklau School of Business, took his position in August 2018. Schreck was involved in his hiring process.
“Nick stands out because he gets things both academically, and he’s a visionary,” Conkright said. “So he understands academic needs, that we put together a good, solid program for students.”
GETTING STUDENTS IN THE REAL WORLD
In teaching, Schreck said as he wants his students to work with real businesses, he has each of his classes work with a real business to solve marketing problems for them.
“And that’s so important to me because we have the opportunity to help local businesses, but we also have the opportunity to help our students with real, relevant learning experiences,” he said. “And I feel like projects lend themselves better to the real world than other forms of learning.”
Conkright said he’s seen a focus with colleges across the country to move to project-based, hands-on learning, which involves getting students away from textbooks and into the real world.
“Nick has done a phenomenal job of working with real clients, both in Fremont and the Omaha community, to bring projects to our students and give them a really great hands-on experience trying to solve problems for a real company,” he said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, not only did Schreck feel prepared, as many of his Sycamore teachings were done online, but the situation brought an opportunity for his students and local businesses.
“Our students still worked with different businesses, and businesses were awesome about accepting ideas on marketing, and the students were able to sort of incorporate COVID into those marketing plans in how a business should adapt to that,” he said. “And I think our students did a pretty good job, and I think the businesses enjoyed working with the students, maybe like a silver lining of sorts to a terrible time.”
GROWTH AS A TEACHER
The past year has still brought new opportunities for Schreck. He and Katie had a child, Simon, who was born last October.
Schreck was also named chair of undergraduate business last January, which has him overseeing the program and making sure it’s growing and teaching graduates what businesses want them to know.
“And in turn, it’s making sure that our courses are strong and relevant, that our students are having engaging experiences within each course and making sure that our teachers are sort of aligning with that same end goal,” he said.
Over the years, Schreck said he’s felt like he’s understood how to be a better teacher, what that looks like and how he can change to meet his students’ needs.
“Attention spans are getting shorter, and I think that requires teachers to change what they do in order to still deliver the message, what students need,” he said. “And so you have to be a little bit more experiential, or a little bit more hands-on so that students are doing things rather than having to sit for a while.”
Conkright said Schreck’s students enjoy his down-to-earth personality and teaching style.
“He connects with them on a personal level, but he also challenges them,” he said. “But I think they see that Nick is for them and wants them to succeed, and so even though he’s challenging them and pushing them a little bit, he’s really just trying to prepare them for their careers.”
As Schreck constantly evaluates himself, Conkright said he’s become a role model not only for people his age, but for any professional.
“He jumps in with both feet and doesn’t let obstacles hold him back,” he said. “He looks for what’s possible and just finds a way to make things happen.”
Schreck said he loves being a part of the Fremont community, which he said has welcomed his students with open arms.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Not every community is like that, and so I love being able to be a part of our community in that regard that they’re willing to help get the next generation of business leaders ready.”
20 Under 40
The business news you need
With a weekly newsletter looking back at local history.