Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
As an entrepreneur, an athlete and at times, a student, vision has been important throughout Dee Schwaiger’s life. Through her hard work and dedication, she has been able to bring her visions forward.
When Schwaiger graduated from Concordia University in River Forest, Ill., with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, her intention was to become a certified athletic trainer for a professional basketball team.
"I had always been interested in the injuries of active people," Schwaiger said.
After working with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Green Bay Packers, she discovered that she enjoyed working with less active people just as much as athletes.
"I loved the education part of it," Schwaiger said.
For example, if an older man with a sore back does three of the stretches she taught him and his back feels better, she knows she is helping.
Now, she specializes in women’s health and enjoys working with menopausal women, as well as women with bone density problems.
"I very much enjoy working with mature adults," Schwaiger said.
In 1986, Schwaiger was one of only two personal trainers in Milwaukee.
"It was perceived personal trainers were only for models and movie stars," Schwaiger said.
She was ready to prove that common perception wrong, and in 1995, she opened the Exercise Studio in Mequon, the first personal training facility in the Milwaukee area.
"I wanted to create a facility with professional trainers who had backgrounds in exercise science that would educate and help people move forward in physical activities," Schwaiger said.
Only seven to 10 percent of the general population exercises regularly, Schwaiger said.
"A trainer can help them meet their individual needs," she said.
It had always been in the back of Schwaiger’s mind to go back to school, and in 1998, she explored her options for obtaining an executive master’s in business administration (EMBA) degree at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Cardinal Stritch University and Marquette University. However, she chose the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s EMBA program, because of its flexible class schedule, which takes place on alternating Fridays and Saturdays each weekend.
"I thought the alternate Friday-Saturday schedule would keep me more accountable to school," she said.
The schedule also enabled her to work full weeks, so if she had class on Friday, she could still go into work
Schwaiger received a great deal of intangible support from her co-workers, family and friends.
"I have a deep appreciation for my colleagues who stepped up to the plate when they knew how busy I was with school," Schwaiger said. "It was like running a marathon. You experience so many emotions, and it’s intense, it’s accelerated, it’s focused."
Schwaiger said the instructors’ greatest strength was their ability to apply theory to real life.
Her favorite class was data statistics.
"I was able to apply it right away," she said.
For one project, Schwaiger compared her company’s income and expense data for 1994 and 2000. After analyzing the data through a computer program, she was able to bring the peaks and valleys closer together and lift up the dip at her company.
"I would never have thought to use statistics that way," Schwaiger said.
UWM’s EMBA program is a two-year program, including a summer break. During that break, students go on an international trip. Schwaiger’s class went to Milan, Italy, and Paris, France. During that time, Schwaiger said, she bonded with her classmates.
By visiting several family-owned companies in Europe, Schwaiger said, she was reminded of the importance of vision.
"Entrepreneurs sometimes forget about the vision that got them started in the first place," Schwaiger said. "To be able to see it in another country was exciting."
If she hadn’t gone through the program, things would have been different for Schwaiger.
"Well, first off, I wouldn’t have been sleep-deprived for two years," she joked.
However, more importantly, Schwaiger said, she wouldn’t have had the confidence or the ability to look at a financial statement.
"I wouldn’t have felt comfortable projecting goals or operating on gut instinct, she said."
She also would never have made the friends who helped her through
"We’ll be friends forever,"
"It was so exciting to be with people who are motivated enough to be there, with such chutzpah," she said. "Despite their busy lives, they found a way to get it all done."
While the intellectual stimulation was a challenge after not being a student for so many years, she cherished the new perspectives it brought her.
"There’s nothing like it. It carries over to everything," she said. "Now, I look at things more objectively."
Schwaiger was elected, with two other classmates, to represent her class on the UWM EMBA executive committee. The board creates programs for EMBA alumni and new students, from business roundtables to social events at the Milwaukee Art Museum or Villa Terrace.
"It was an honor to be chosen to represent my class and to promote the program for UWM," she said.
Schwaiger said she would recommend the program to any business executives interested in broadening their perspectives.
"It helped me in my business, and it trickled out to my whole life," she said.
August 20, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI