GSU graduate helps bring COVID vaccine to market
When the business he owned collapsed during the Great Recession of 2008, Eric Beach (’13) fell into a dark place. The experienced purchasing agent found himself struggling to support his family, not knowing what to do next.
Then a friend suggested he try getting a college degree to improve his career prospects, and Beach took the advice. After a few years of hard work and encouragement from Governors State University (GSU) professors, Beach earned a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from in 2013 and catapulted himself into an elite level within his industry.
“I was a broken man, and GSU took all my pieces and put them back together stronger than I was before,” Beach said.
Now, Beach lives in Kalamazoo, Mich., working as the senior site operations manager for Synovos. The supply chain management company contracts with Pfizer to do its purchasing, inventory control, receiving, vendor negotiations and more.
In his role, Beach manages $62 million of inventory, much of which is currently bound for Pfizer plants manufacturing the company’s COVID vaccine.
“It’s very satisfying work,” Beach said. “This job is more than just a paycheck. We’re helping to keep the human race going at this point.”
The Interdisciplinary program allowed him to simultaneously earn an associate’s degree from Kankakee Community College, and Beach took 20 credit hours each trimester to finish both as quickly as possible.
Before he started college, Beach didn’t even think he was cut out for higher education. However, he became enthralled with the experience, going on to earn two master’s degrees from an online university. The experience convinced him that anyone has the power to pursue higher education.
“When I started, I just told myself that I’d probably get a 2.0 GPA, get my degree, and get out,” he said. “I ended up finishing with a 3.6, and feeling so enriched. It turned me into a lifelong learner.”
GSU’s Interdisciplinary Studies program provided Beach with the opportunity to enroll in a variety of classes. He wanted to leave college with a well rounded education, and the breadth of topics he studied and professors he encountered provided that outcome.
“I consider my professors to be my mentors; they were phenomenal,” Beach said. “With the relationships I built, I know that even today I could call them up for advice or help.”
Memorable professors who encouraged Beach include Dr. Olumide Ijose, whose International Business Class challenged him to become a critical thinker; and Robin Sweeny, whose Capstone course lessons in mind mapping continue to benefit him.
Dr. Stephen Wagner’s Human Resources class helped him understand employee rights and attitudes. He also learned about management styles and even gained insight about what went wrong in his own business while taking Introduction to Management with professor Dr. Gökçe Sargut.
“My professors built me up,” Beach said. “They didn’t give me the answers, and they expected me to work for success, but at the same time they supported me and let me know they believed in me.”
As GSU professors provided pathways for Beach to build his mind and expand his skillset, the campus itself provided solace. Set among 750 acres of prairie, the university’s wide windows offer vistas of rolling land. Beach’s favorite spot on campus was in D-Building, on a second-floor balcony that overlooks a lake.
“I would go out there on breaks and take in the peaceful scenery, and think, ‘I’m going to be OK, my family is going to be OK,’” he said.
“My time at GSU was a transformational journey for me. It wasn’t just that I earned a degree; I enhanced myself. I really got back my confidence. It changed me forever. “
It was important for Beach to be present on campus to connect with his peers and instructors during his time at GSU. He participated in the Society for Human Resource Management club, and in a sign of his good reputation on campus, Beach was a finalist to offer the student keynote address at commencement.
He encourages current students to create a network in college, something that enriches one’s personal life and could also be professionally beneficial.
“Don’t only focus on academics, but build relationships with classmates and professors,” Beach said. “The people you are in school with today could help you in your career, or even be your boss or employee in the future.”