Investing in the Future

Lincoln Berg & Ted SchlafkeThis is a story about two men on a very similar road, a road to success. Both came to UW-Stevens Point from small towns, they both played football and graduated from the School of Business & Economics (SBE). Then came a decision to either return home and become a logger or farmer, or start a career in the banking field. In the end, they both stayed right here in Stevens Point. The only difference is 24 years.
Ted Schlafke ’82 came to UWSP from Wabeno, Wis., while Lincoln Berg ’06 grew up in Edgar, Wis. Now, Schlafke, district president of BMO Harris Bank, is Berg’s boss and mentor at the downtown Stevens Point branch.
“Having someone who you can relate to is very important,” said Berg. “You understand the path they have taken, and when they are successful it gives you a path to follow.”
In 2006, Schlafke hired Berg to be a part of the bank manager program, starting as a teller and working his way through various positions including personal banker and customer service. Eventually, Berg became branch manager in Wisconsin Rapids and Adams before moving into his current position in Stevens Point in spring 2012.
Berg isn’t the only SBE alum working under Schlafke; seven of the 11 employees are UWSP graduates. “I believe it is important that young alumni and future graduates know there are many SBE alumni that have been very successful, many people much more successful than myself,” Schlafke said.
•Point of Pride•
UWSP’s School of Business & Economics is a major contributor to the local economy, evident by the reverse brain-drain. Roughly 65% of business students are originally from outside Central Wisconsin, yet 55% stay here to work after they graduate.
To enhance his bank’s partnership with the university, Schlafke joined 13 other CEOs and presidents from Central and Northcentral Wisconsin companies as members of the UW-Stevens Point Business Advisory Council (BAC) in 2011. The purpose of the BAC is to further the general interest of the UWSP School of Business and Economics and the university, provide input and direction in the strategic planning process, and act as a panel for discussion on the needs of the businesses in the region.
Schlafke sees the importance of the BAC not only for BMO Harris Bank, but also for the other area businesses and students alike. “If we are able to help focus or direct what type of graduates are produced, then that not only benefits the industry, but I believe makes the graduates’ skill sets much more marketable.”
The BAC is just in its first year, but is already making an impact on the students and community.
“To create a partnership between the SBE and the business community takes everyone out of their comfort zone, requires everyone to be forward looking, and to be solution/results oriented,” said Schlafke. “I believe this partnership will create long-term value to all parties involved—graduates, UWSP and the business community.”
As alumni, Schlafke and Berg shared an appreciation for the education they received at UWSP. “Every professor gave me the opportunity to learn and succeed in class,” said Berg. “At the same time, they put the responsibility of learning in my hands, which gave me the knowledge to succeed in business and taught me the self-discipline needed to be successful.”
“A graduate most likely won’t know until later in his or her career that an important part of the SBE education is that it helps you see the bigger picture, the view from 10,000 feet if you will,” added Schlafke.
Their offices may not be in a skyscraper, but the view for Schlafke and Berg is infinite.