Forging Valuable Friendships

PROVO, Utah – Apr 21, 2022 – Twenty years ago, as a senior in high school, Craig Hirschi sat in the cold in Brigham City, Utah, waiting for his turn to pass the Olympic torch as a torch runner for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. His friends and family stood on the sidelines, cheering him on. Now as a student in the executive MPA (EMPA) program at the BYU Marriott School of Business, Hirschi appreciates his classmates, who cheer him on in similar ways.

“I was nominated to be an Olympic torch runner by someone in my community,” Hirschi explains. “My family, friends, and classmates came to support me. Someone pushed me in my wheelchair down Main Street while I held the torch. Seeing that support from my community was way cool.”

While he feels grateful for choosing to enter the EMPA program, where he found another supportive community, Hirschi never imagined his life would lead him to BYU Marriott. After receiving two bachelor’s degrees from Utah State University—a journalism degree in 2006 and a business degree in 2008—pursuing a master’s degree was the last thing on Hirschi’s mind. 

However, in 2018, while working at his current job as a management and program analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), he connected with an old friend who was enrolled in BYU Marriott’s EMPA program. “Every time I talked to her over the following months, she encouraged me to apply to the program,” Hirschi says. “I thought, ‘No, I don't need a master’s degree for my job.’

“However, I eventually gave in,” he continues. “My grandpa had just died, and he deeply valued education. He challenged his grandkids to receive as much education as possible. After he died, I researched the EMPA program and prayed about applying. I felt prompted to apply, so I did.”

Now a third-year student in the EMPA program, Hirschi learns principles and skills in each class that help him in his current position, such as how to conduct a meeting or create an agenda. Hirschi has worked for the FAA for 11 years in various positions. The aspect of his job he most enjoys is working with people who have taught him important lessons about leadership and management.

 “My job is about the people I serve,” Hirschi says. “I help manage pay and benefits for air traffic controllers. If I can help my coworkers not worry about their benefits and just focus on doing their jobs, together we serve our people better.” 

Hirschi, who hails from Perry, Utah, also loves the EMPA program because of its people, particularly his fellow students. He and his teammates balance their strengths and weaknesses and bring their various life experiences and backgrounds to the table. Hirschi believes the unity among his peers improves the quality of their work and has led to the creation of lasting friendships. 

“My accomplishments in the EMPA program would not be possible without my teammates,” Hirschi says. “I’ve learned so much from them, and they have helped carry me through this program. I highly value the friendships I’ve formed in the program, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from my teammates.

“The memories I share with my classmates are what I will cherish most from my time in the program,” he continues. “My fellow EMPA students have always cheered me on and supported me, and I hope I’ve done the same for them.”

Craig Hirschi, a third-year student in the executive MPA program, attends a BYU football game. Photo courtesy of Craig Hirschi.
Craig Hirschi, a third-year student in the executive MPA program, attends a BYU football game. Photo courtesy of Craig Hirschi.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert