For many people, retirement beckons like a long-awaited break from a life of hard labor. Not for Dr. Sheila Schmitz. The longtime educator and University of Arizona Global Campus faculty member is likely to be one of the hardest-working retirees you’ll ever meet.

“I have a hard time sitting down and not doing anything,” says Dr. Schmitz, just weeks before her “second retirement” in February 2024. “I’m not a person who can sit there and watch TV all day. I like to keep my mind and body active.”

Emphasis on the word “active.” Dr. Schmitz has been one of the University’s leading voices since the mid-2000s, when she shifted her career to academics following a long and successful tenure in the nonprofit sector.

“When I retired from my career as a nonprofit CEO, I started teaching for fun,” she recalls. “I’m still active in nonprofits, and I’m very busy all the time, which is one of the reasons I want to retire and slow down a bit.

“I really just want to spend about 20 hours a week teaching, because I do like to keep myself busy, and the rest of my time, I want to work with a nonprofit.”

Professional Parallels

Though they look different on the surface, Dr. Schmitz says there are more similarities than differences when you compare her nonprofit and educational roles. She entered the former after earning her bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in social work degrees, starting her career with Chicago-based ChildServ (now Kids Above All) and later became Chief Executive Officer of Guardian Angel Community Services.

“As CEO, I did everything from finances to fundraising to development and operations,” Dr. Schmitz explains. “The only difference is we were a nonprofit, so rather than reporting to a board, I reported to the board of directors.

“It wasn’t that much different from the for-profit sector, except in accounting and the way we need to report our income. We still work with balance sheets, revenue statements.”

Dr. Schmitz later earned her PhD in business, and that foundational understanding of business and the critical facets that can be taught – motivation, change management, operations, and creating culturally sensitive environments, for example – made it easier for her to transition into academics and the faculty role she’s long enjoyed at Forbes School of Business and Technology®.

Plans for the Future

Having spent the last 15 years of her career with UAGC, Dr. Schmitz has a greater grasp on what it takes to succeed – as a student and as a faculty member. In addition to teaching the first course for incoming PhD students, ORG 7102, she mentors and coaches members of the UAGC faculty, creating resources they can use to help themselves.

Though the University may be losing her full time come February 2024, her presence as a leader on campus will remain.  

“Teaching helps me keep reading and learning,” Dr. Schmitz says. “I can’t seem to want to let go of that ‘love for learning’ – when you teach you learn as well, and I learn something new every day when I’m teaching.

“Mind, body, and spirit. I talk about this with my husband. You have to keep all three of those active, especially as you grow older.”

When asked what will be different about retirement this time around, as she’ll continue to keep doing what she loves, Dr. Schmitz says this time, there will be no party.

“I had a big party with 250 people after my last retirement,” she says. “I don’t see much changing now in my daily life, though I just signed up for a bunch of yoga classes. I’ll do TRX and might add in a ballet class.

“That’s what I’ll do, work on turns and spins.”

Getting to Know Dr. Schmitz

We recently sat down with Dr. Schmitz to get to know more about her life and her experience in the worlds of business and education. Check out our interview to learn more about Dr. Schmitz as we prepare to bid a fond farewell to this dedicated faculty member.

UAGC: What are your proudest accomplishments at UAGC?
Dr. Schmitz: “Working with Dr. Peggy Sundstrom to revise the curriculum in the PhD in Organizational Leadership and Development (PhD-OLD) program, and developing resources and tools for our faculty members. We have two courses for our faculty members, and I developed all of the resources for them.”

UAGC: What have you enjoyed most about your career at UAGC?
Dr. Schmitz: “The people. Both the people that I’ve worked with and the students. If you can’t tell, I’m kind of a people person. That’s why I chose nonprofit work. Dr. Sundstrom was a joy to work with, a true partner. I told her, ‘People work for people, I worked for you, and I’ve really enjoyed working with you.’ My friends who work in offices, when I tell them I’ll miss the people, they say, ‘You don’t even see those people,’ but I talk to them or interact with them on a daily basis. It’s the people.”

UAGC: In what ways has education changed since you began teaching?
Dr. Schmitz: “I think it’s become much more student-focused than in the past. That’s very important to me. Organizations and universities are embracing this and creating a culture of care for students. We understand that their lives may not be perfect for returning to school, but we want to help them be able to achieve their goals. There is much more focus on students.”

UAGC: What are your thoughts on the future of online learning?
Dr. Schmitz: “I just see growth because I do think more and more universities are entering the online sector or merging with online components. I think the struggle is ‘What do we do with all these buildings that schools will no longer need?’ Where I live, the local shopping mall is half-empty, and they’re building whole residential areas all around making it a community. It’s an interesting way to deal with a desolate mall. I’m wondering what will happen to [academic real estate] when there is more of a focus on online education.”

UAGC: What’s your advice for future students?
Dr. Schmitz: “Make sure you have the time to do what needs to be done. My husband is an engineer by trade, and when he bids out a job, he uses a doubling method. Whatever amount of time he thinks he’ll need, he doubles it. I think students need to use that method when they want to do a degree. Something will come up. Your kids will get sick. You might have more work. If you give yourself some wiggle room, I think that can remove the barrier to completing. And this is from someone who likes to fill up every hour of her day. Give yourself the time you need to do the work.”

UAGC: What’s your advice for future faculty?
Dr. Schmitz: “If you haven’t started, start saving money. When I was 20 years old, in one of my first jobs, they brought someone in who talked about IRAs. I started then, and I wish more young people would understand the value – put money into long-term investments, and start when you’re young. That’s the biggest piece of advice I would give people. Invest. Invest in your future, and act like the money is not yours. I did it even when I was struggling financially; I never changed the amount; I just kept it in there.”  

What Retirement Looks Like

In addition to keeping her academic and nonprofit commitments, Dr. Schmitz plans to focus her free time in retirement on the things she’s most passionate about:

  1. Reading: “I love to read anything that keeps me on the edge of my seat. I like thrillers, suspense books, those are my favorites.”
  2. Movies: “I still like to go to the theater. Marvel movies, any action movie, but don’t take me to a horror film. That, to me, is not exciting.”
  3. Exercise: “I walk every day. Five to six miles every day. That’s my peace of mind, how I take a break from everything.”
  4. Travel: “In January, my husband and I always take a cruise where we don’t do anything. We like snorkeling, we like climbing mountains, anything outdoors.”
  5. Dance: “My husband and I have been doing ballroom and Latin dancing for 31 years. Salsa is the dance that is danced the most throughout the world, and we do that once a week, sometimes twice a week.”


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