K-State president Kirk Schulz has received many honors, but the latest one comes from the organization he says helped him achieve success.
Schulz began his year-long presidency of the Coronado Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America in January. “If I look at a lot of the leadership skills I use now as president of the university, many of those really were founded when I was in Boy Scouts,” he said.
Schulz said those skills include communication, collaborative working and acknowledging he doesn’t always have the answer. He even credits the organization with helping him get his first job.
Schulz, an Eagle Scout, had that distinction on his resume when he applied for a chemical engineering assistant professor position at the University of North Dakota in 1990.
Schulz said the search committee chair told him that he was also an Eagle Scout, which drew him to looking at the rest of Schulz’s credentials and background. “True story,” he said. “It really helped me.”
Schulz’s resume still includes his Eagle Scout honor. “There are very few things that you’re going to do in high school that anybody going to care about in 20 years,” he said. “That happens to be one of them.”
Schulz has been involved with Boy Scouts since he was a Cub Scout in Norfolk, Va. Even though he is from an urban area, he had a healthy appreciation for the outdoors because of his parents.
Schulz said his family used to take “National Lampoon’s Vacation”-style trips. “We did two weeks and went out to Arizona,” he said. “We saw the Grand Canyon and all that stuff and tent camped the whole way.”
Schulz’s love for the outdoors led to his progression into the Scouts. To become an Eagle Scout, he earned merit badges in a variety of areas such as first aid and citizenship, completed community service hours and coordinated a “significant service project” for other scouts.
Schulz said becoming an Eagle Scout was special because it represented the culmination of something he strove for since he started. “I’ve always been one of these people that if there was a top-level standard, I always wanted to do that,” he said.
Other great Boy Scouts moments occurred when both of his sons became Eagle Scouts. Schulz served as assistant scoutmaster as they worked toward that goal.
“I think that helps that bond a lot because you really are communicating and doing things together,” he said. “With video games today and all those other distractions, being outside and camping, hunting and fishing is very important for that bonding time.”
Schulz’s adult involvement with Boy Scouts began in 1988 when he served as scoutmaster for his church’s troop while earning his doctoral degree at Virginia Tech.
As council president, Schulz said the two main goals are to increase scouts in the region and explore a comprehensive funding campaign for summer camps. He said the Boy Scouts are trying to create a more relaxed atmosphere for the older crowd to keep them involved.
“It’s really exploring career opportunities and things like that as opposed to maybe some of the regular outdoor activities,” he said.
The Coronado Area Council serves more than 3,700 young people across 32 counties in north central and northwest Kansas. Schulz said the lessons he learned can be important to others as well.
“I think scouting teaches young men life skills and leadership development,” he said. “Those are skills that regardless of whether you’re a college professor, working a manufacturing job or in anything you do, it’ll help you in life.”
Schulz acknowledged that scouting might become less appealing to some boys as they get older. He said this is especially true for an urban area such as where he grew up.
“In an urban environment, there are a lot of people who haven’t been camping before,” he said. “If you’re going to do that stuff in high school, it can seem uncool or nerdy or whatever you want to characterize it.”
Schulz said it’s okay if other interests have come along during that time, but he thinks boys in middle school and high school are missing an opportunity.
As his boys are starting to leave home, Schulz said he and his wife still enjoying being outside. He also likes to go on the occasional camping trip.
“I don’t get to do it very often because of my job,” Schulz said. But he does not expect the desire to ever change. “I’ll probably be 80 and still enjoy being outside.”