When the COVID-19 pandemic all but grounded the airline industry, Garrison Swartz’s return to higher education was cleared for takeoff.
“I had been wanting to go back to school to get my master’s degree and work on my professional development,” he said. “My undergraduate degree is in education, but I work in a corporate setting.
“I wanted to work on my analytical and project management skill sets while gaining a broader understanding of business.”
Swartz, who works for Delta Air Lines at their World Headquarters in Atlanta, graduated from the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in May 2021. He completed the degree in 12 months.
“Delta offered a voluntary leave program during the pandemic to support the company and prevent involuntary layoffs,” he said. “Around the same time, BGSU sent out an email stating there was still time to register for the online MBA program and the university was waiving the GMAT requirement and application fee due to the pandemic.”
The stars lined up for Swartz, who returned from leave to Delta with a promotion into a new role leading the organization’s wellness programs for pilots and flight attendants two months prior to graduation. The online format helped him stay on track while adjusting to a new role without missing a beat.
“It was nice having the flexibility to be anywhere and complete the MBA program,” he said. “I could still engage with other students in a virtual format, break down technological barriers and feel like I walked away with a quality education. It was very much on my own time, which was a big part of it. You can’t beat being able to hit the slopes mid-week and still get your coursework done while recovering
Swartz grew up in Clyde, Ohio, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from BGSU in 2016. However, he already knew that he would take a different career path by the time he walked across the graduation stage.
“I wanted to be a teacher, but I decided that it might not be the right fit for me during my undergraduate education,” he said. “I grew into the human resources field by happenstance following an interest in the aviation industry that I had explored through internships.”
“After graduating BGSU, I started as a flight attendant with Delta and spent time based in Minneapolis, Detroit and then landed in Seattle. While in Seattle, I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to join the in-flight leadership team as our hub grew to secure our position as Seattle’s Global Airline.
Prior to joining Delta Air Lines in 2016, Swartz completed an internship at Southwest Airlines within their centralized training center supporting the leadership development and in-flight training teams, and another internship in business development and management at Cleveland’s Airport System.
“I entered the MBA program in one position and based on a combination of this educational experience and my professional experience, I was promoted into a new position prior to my degree being conferred,” he said. “The degree has already opened up opportunities and sharpened my analytical and project management skills. I now come to work viewing the organization’s success holistically.”
Leading For Organizational Success was Swartz’s favorite course in the online MBA program.
“Because I work in human resources, being able to study both organizational behavior and human behavior after learning the core and foundational curriculum provided a new worldview for me,” he said. “It was a very rewarding way to round out the program.”
The Strategy Design and Implementation course was also applicable because Swartz was in the course when he returned to work.
“It was funny because I was working on developing a strategy at work and doing case studies in class simultaneously, which was very complementary.” he said. “The current role I hold is brand new to the organization, and while Delta has invested in the well-being of employees for quite some time, our team and strategy have grown and evolved at a rapid pace. Thus, much of the content and case studies came top of mind while developing strategies for my business units.”
Blue Skies Ahead
Returning to BGSU to earn a master’s degree was a win-win situation for Swartz — especially since he earned a promotion before he completed the program at his alma mater.
“I’m in what I currently believe to be my dream job now,” he said. “With a desire to continue learning and growing in human resources, I definitely feel I received a solid value out of the MBA program to continue elevating my career.”
Swartz had a lot of encouragement from his family and friends during his 12 months in the online MBA program. His parents both have master’s degrees, with his father being an alumnus of BGSU as well.
“Everyone was very supportive — especially because I was taking a leap of faith during the pandemic when we didn’t know what the future would hold,” he said. “In the end, it was the best decision I could’ve made leaning into the unknown.”
In his free time, Swartz enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, kayaking and exploring new destinations around the globe. He will continue charting the course for well-being efforts in his new role at Delta with the business acumen he believes the MBA program added and the credibility it brings.
“The best aspect of the online MBA program is, you will get out of it what you put into it,” he said. “The flexibility of the online format was key for both my classmates and me. This program is the perfect fit for those who are seeking to learn and grow in a flexible setting.”
Learn more about BGSU’s online MBA program.