October 26, 2020

Equipping Future Business Leaders

Phil Strzalka

An Interview with Phil Strzalka, Director of the Business and Innovation Program

As we approach Winterim and students prepare for their internship experiences, we want to introduce you to Phil Strzalka, the Director of our new Business and Innovation Program. In this role, Phil works to provide opportunities for Wheaton Academy students to develop communication, strategic thinking, and problem-solving skills as tomorrow’s business leaders. Get to know Phil as he shares about his passion for business and his vision for this new program.

Q: Last year, you taught a business class during Winterim. Now you’re the Director of our Business and Innovation Program. What has that journey been like?

A: The Lord put it on my heart to get involved in business and entrepreneurship opportunities for Wheaton Academy students. Teaching the Business Innovation Lab during Winterim confirmed that desire.

As I prepared for and discussed the class, it became clear that Wheaton Academy parents and alumni love to talk about what they do and how they have impacted the world in both for-profit and non-profit markets. They love to mentor and engage with Wheaton Academy students.

During the class, I was so impressed by the contribution that each student made to the business plan we studied and created. There was so much engagement and interest!

When the class ended, I talked to Administration about how to infuse business and innovation skills and opportunities into our curriculum.  Steve, Kori, and Brad eventually asked me to take on the role of Business and Innovation Program Director.

Q: How has your background in business prepared you for this role at Wheaton Academy?

A: For the last 14 years, I have been a management consultant working with Colleges, Universities, and research-intensive academic health and science systems to transform their business operations. Prior to management consulting, I was a Partner in a large law firm with a focus on the human aspects of mergers, acquisitions, and other corporate transactions. In addition, I have formed a few businesses for myself. These roles have blessed me with the opportunity to see business success and innovation from many different perspectives. I am so excited to bring this experience and knowledge to our students at Wheaton Academy!

Q: Why are you passionate about business and innovation?

A: Business innovation and success is not random. It is not innate to an individual or a company. It can be studied, learned, and replicated. Innovation results as we realize the God-given talent that exists in us all.

Innovation is not just technology; it includes making changes to something established or introducing new methods in any industry (for-profit or non-profit). When we teach innovation, students learn to be curious and to apply critical thinking.

Innovation is implementing something different with impact. Students who innovate will make an impact.

Many people think that the biggest hurdle facing the would-be innovator is developing an idea. Developing an idea is easy, the hard part is in implementing it. Through new opportunities in business, we will teach students how to act upon and implement their ideas, to solve problems, and to be resilient in their pursuits.

Q: What is your vision for business and Innovation at Wheaton Academy?

A: Wheaton Academy has the opportunity to partner with a large community of for-profit and non-profit Christian business professionals and entrepreneurs to create an innovative business program that challenges students to think, be curious, and problem solve in today’s complex for-profit and not-for-profit business environment with a Christian, Living Curriculum, perspective.

The new Business and Innovation program will:

  • Update the school’s business curriculum by aligning it with the current business environment and today’s (and tomorrow’s) career paths.
  • Introduce students to for-profit and not-for-profit business experiences through internship or project-based assignments.
  • Create space(s) on campus for students to study, collaborate, innovate, problem solve, create, and operate businesses.

I am excited about the ways that this vision is being realized! Already this year, we performed a SWOT analysis of the current curriculum and are developing some new and exciting classes for the 2021-2022 school year. We are evaluating business certification opportunities and new co-curricular activities. We are interviewing business leaders, bringing their experience and enthusiasm into our classrooms.

Business students present their plan to investors at Wheaton Academy

Are you interested in mentoring students or hosting a student intern?

We are exploring internship opportunities and other ways for students to engage with surrounding businesses, parents, and alumni.  If you are interested in hosting students at your business or if you would like to share with students in a class via Zoom, reach out to Phil Strzalka: pstrzalka@wheatonacademy.org.