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Business student finds his place – and a career – through ONU

Recent graduate Chris Garbig is in a good place. Starting fall semester 2017, he walked into his senior year with both internship experience and a full-time job offer under his belt, but he’s the first to admit that none of it would have been possible without Ohio Northern University.

In fall 2018, Garbig stepped into an entry-level auditing position at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Cincinnati office, where he worked as an intern during summer 2017. He’s excited about working for one of the “Big Four,” the four largest and most renowned accounting firms in the world. He’s officially broken into the auditing industry, but there was a time not so long ago when he wasn’t so sure what he wanted to do with his life.

When Garbig began his college search, he knew he wanted to play soccer, but beyond that, he had no clear vision for his future career. He was approached by an ONU coach at a high school tournament and decided to see what ONU was all about.

During his campus visit, he felt the chemistry right away.

It just felt like home when I was here,” he says. “When I toured the Dicke College of Business Administration with the dean, it just felt like everyone was invested in me and everyone wanted me to be there, which was really refreshing.

Matt PhillipsSo he put on the Polar Bear hat and committed to ONU. Still, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study, so he entered the College of Business Administration as a freshman with an undecided major. Then, he met the man who would become his mentor, Associate Professor of Accounting Matt Phillips.

Having worked several years in the business world prior to becoming a professor, Phillips knows a good prospect when he sees one. That’s precisely what he saw in Garbig. 

“As a major and indeed, as a career, a financial information professional requires great skill and personal attributes,” Phillips says. “In Chris, I see leadership, attention to detail and academic acumen, as well as an ability to get along well with his colleagues. As a student-athlete, Chris also had to find balance – sports with academics – a key attribute for success in a financial leadership role.”

From that point, Phillips was persistent in encouraging Garbig to consider an accounting major. He told him about all the doors an accounting degree could open up for him. The level of investment Phillips had in him spoke volumes to Garbig, especially after the pair had a two-hour conversation regarding Garbig’s career choice over a holiday break.

“Phillips set aside the time even over break, which was unexpected because students aren’t even on campus,” Garbig says. “He had no obligation to do that, but he wanted to take the time to help me. He really took me under his wing and helped me to make those connections, taught me how to dress and how to act professionally.”

Every student in the College of Business Administration is required to complete at least one internship. Garbig has done two. One was at Crown Equipment Corporation, where he utilized his Spanish minor working in the Latin American service department, and the other was the one at PwC that resulted in his job offer. He knows these opportunities were not just by chance.

The professors really prepare you to do well, not just in a sense of your technical capabilities, but also making those connections and networking,” he says. “The connection that I made at PwC was purely through a professor here. They set you up for success. I would not have gotten this opportunity if I went elsewhere for college.

Chris Garbig's experience as a student-athlete helped him develop leadership skills to help him in his future career.During his internship at PwC, Garbig learned even more about himself. The experience validated his thought that public accounting was the right career fit for him. He also drew parallels between the different tenets of his life: athletic, academic and professional.

“I think playing sports gives you a lot of intangibles that reinforce what you learn inside the classroom, like leadership, teamwork and work ethic,” he says. “That’s been something that has coupled with the education very well in the sense that you’re growing outside the classroom but you’re bringing those skills into the real world and into your technical abilities.”

When Garbig was offered a full-time position at the end of his internship, he knew it was right. Although he doesn’t yet have any specific long-term career goals, he knows working at PwC will open up a whole new world of opportunities for him to explore. It’s a great place to start.

Even though it’s not unusual for an ONU business student to land a job before graduation, Garbig considers himself very fortunate. He knows it’s no coincidence. He has put in a lot of time and hard work, but he credits the faculty and staff with putting in just as much.

Everyone is so invested in seeing you succeed and wanting to see you do well after you graduate,” he says. “The faculty and staff at ONU really set you up for success, and they want to see you succeed and get a job that you are excited about. There’s a tremendous amount of support behind you.

Ultimately, it’s faculty members like Phillips who are at the heart of this investment in students. 

“One of the most rewarding experiences of my 25-plus years in business prior to ONU was seeing those that worked for me progress and succeed in their careers,” he says. “Mentoring others has been and continues to be very rewarding to me. It is very fulfilling to watch as Chris continues to excel both inside and outside the classroom.”

The word invested carries a whole new meaning for Garbig now. It means being all in – pouring all your resources into something or someone you believe in. He chose to invest in Ohio Northern for his education; the return on his investment is more than he ever imagined.