Their Story – Stephen Nehring
This is the sixth story in a series of articles featuring the Board of Directors of College Success Arizona.
College Success Arizona is a 501(c)3 educational foundation founded in 2005, to increase the number of bachelor’s degree holders in the state of Arizona by providing scholarships and College Success Services to high potential, low-income students. The vision of College Success Arizona is to create an educated workforce ready to take Arizona into the future.
These articles are designed to give a more personal insight into each of our Board Members, to give them the opportunity to share why they care so deeply about Arizona, college attainment, and the mission of College Success Arizona.
1. Please tell us a little about your background.
“I was born and raised in St. Charles, Iowa, a small farming community just south of Des Moines. I attended Northwest Missouri State in Maryvale, Missouri and received a degree in marketing and management. After college, I started working with Farmers Insurance and was there from 1990 until 1998. During that time frame, I completed my MBA in management and international business from Webster University. From Farmers Insurance, I went to a small technology company for two years before moving to Sprint. I was with Sprint from 2000 to 2011, managing their ethics and compliance program. While I was with Sprint, I had the opportunity to oversee their merger with Nextel Communications. In late 2011, I moved to Freeport McMoRan and have been here since managing our global compliance program.
I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, and wanted a different life; different than working on the family farm. In my opinion, farming was a great way for me to grow up. I learned how to work hard, while still being able to find time with my friends. But, I was one of three people out of my high school graduating class of forty eight students who even went to college at all.” I am married to William Gilgour and live along South Mountain in Phoenix.”
2. What does your organization do? What do you do within your organization? What are your responsibilities?
“Freeport McMoRan is a premier international natural resources company that operates large, long-lived, geographically diverse assets with significant proven and probable reserves of copper, gold, molybdenum, cobalt, oil and natural gas. We have seven different locations around the world.
Within the company, I run the global compliance line. All of our employees go through our compliance training. We have a strict code of conduct and need to ensure that all of the countries where we do business are abiding by US and local laws; we also track the policies and procedures within each country to guarantee we operate within each country’s own particular laws. I work with our employees, helping them work through the challenges faced when working through a specific country’s cultural policies and procedures.”
3. What other projects, activities, groups, are you involved in?
“We try to be involved in our community. William is a nurse at Maricopa Integrated Services and works at various locations throughout the valley, all of which assist various income levels in the community. Together, we are involved with many organizations regarding awareness, such as child immunization and health fairs. We really like to give back to the community. We donate to the local animal shelters often. We even got our dogs from a local shelter.”
4. How did you come to be associated with College Success Arizona? Who was your connection? What made you want to support us? What made you so passionate about our mission?
“I came across College Success Arizona through my company. A big part of Freeport McMoRan is about figuring out how to help out the communities we’re located in. We are able to sign up, through the company, to represent Freeport McMoRan in the community. I was chosen by the executives to do so and met with Rich Nickel, the President and CEO of College Success Arizona. I knew right away that College Success Arizona was an organization I wanted to work with.
5. What is your vision for the Arizona of the future?
“In the ideal future Arizona, every kid will continue on after high school with some type of education; not always traditional four-year college, because that pathway is not for everyone. There are amazing trade schools and small business opportunities. Just because college isn’t for everyone does not mean you’re not smart or strong. You may just need a different path.”
6. Why do you feel increasing Arizona’s College Attainment Rates is so important?
“It’s hard to get a job nowadays without a college or higher (trade) education. College allows kids to understand all that is needed to have a successful career. Math is important. Languages are important. You just need to understand what is needed out there in the world. There are huge opportunities for engineers, writers, and bilingual people. We just need to encourage more students to try because it’s so much easier to learn when you’re younger.
Success rates are the easiest way to measure things, however, getting a degree doesn’t always mean they’re going to be successful. We need to find ways of not only helping our kids receive a degree, but also how to use it.”
7. If you had a message for a student just beginning their college career, what would that be?
“I would ask them, ‘Why do you want to go to college?’ Then I’d have them write it down. Every time you have a bad day, go back and look at it, because there’s a reason you’re there. You always have to remind yourself that there will always be good and bad days.
It needs to be about you and understanding what you want and how you’re going to get it.
Also, it’s ok for you to change your mind on a degree or career. Find what it is that you like. Your picture or design of what you see today may be a little bit fuzzy, and that’s ok. It’s ok if you modify your path; you can pick out the things that you like out of what you’ve been doing and modify your path to fit those likes.”
Junelle Bautista is a Communication and Engagement Intern and attends the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.