MLA Graduate Applies Degree to Current Business, Future Career
When choosing a graduate school, David Theis wanted to find a program that would strengthen his current career, provide personal enrichment and the flexibility to change careers later in life. The University of St. Thomas Master in Liberal Arts program fit the bill.
Theis, president and CEO of the Houston-based Leading Edge Turbine Technologies, founded his company in 2001, and has seen it grow to more than 130 employees and revenues of more than $40 million per year.
He attributes much of his company’s success to the personal rapport he has developed with clients. Theis said he has benefitted from the same personal attention as a student at the University of St. Thomas. In May 2009, Theis earned a Master in Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in history from UST.
“My company is very global, with offices in Europe and Asia and clients worldwide,” Theis said. “These days, most businesses recognize that if you don’t have a global perspective, you are living in the last century. Having an MLA with a concentration in history enabled me to learn more and appreciate the cultures and histories of my international clients. Going to these foreign markets armed with that knowledge gives you an advantage. If you strike a personal relationship and build a rapport with someone in the industry, you have a lot more fire power in your selling ability. I always say, ‘Everything is a people business.’”
Theis served in the United States Marine Corps from 1984-1987, and again in 1991 in Operation Desert Storm. Upon his return, he pursued his bachelor’s degree in economics from Sam Houston State University. Theis was admittedly intimidated about going back to school 18 years later. His anxiety was quickly quelled in the intimate class setting at UST.
“It’s been a tremendously positive experience at UST,” Theis said. “My professors, the head of the department and my thesis advisor were more than willing to work with my hectic travel and work schedule. It was really difficult at times to juggle the balls I had in the air.”
Theis said he would recommend the University of St. Thomas to veterans who are now are able to take advantage of the Post 9-11 GI Bill education benefits at private universities.
“Most people who have been in the military will tell you that they appreciate the camaraderie – the person on their left and their right,” he said. “The small class size and the personal attention at UST would appeal to veterans because UST’s environment enables students to easily develop that camaraderie with fellow students and with professors.
“As a veteran who went straight into my undergraduate degree after military service, I can say the transition was kind of a culture shock. At UST, you get a lot of support that would ease the transition back into civilian and academic life.”
Though he has found success in his career in “corporate America,” Theis said he is at a point in his life when he has begun to consider, “What’s next?” The MLA program has helped Thies expand his possibilities when the time comes for him to consider a different field.
“Lately I have been looking at options for my next career when I leave corporate America, and I want to go into teaching,” he said. “Having an MLA affords me the opportunity to teach at a community college. I’m thinking of taking time off some time in the next year, to teach some night or weekend classes at a community college.”