Ryan Schmitt is the first to admit he “stumbled” into the construction industry. Once he decided on a career, though, UNF played a key role in his business success, which includes being president of his own company, Petticoat-Schmitt Civil Contractors Inc. Schmitt received his first bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Florida and started working construction as a temporary job while he looked for a career position. However, he discovered while working at a Jacksonville construction company, that he liked the field. He decided to enroll in what was then known as UNF’s construction technology program and receive another bachelor’s degree. “My UNF bachelor’s degree gave me a terrific boost in my career,” he said. After graduating in 1993 summa cum laude, he received a big promotion. “They definitely wanted me to take a much bigger role in the company after I received the UNF degree.” His increased role kindled in him a desire to learn more about the business aspects of running a construction company and led to him receiving his M.B.A from UNF in 1998. “UNF is very accommodating for students who need to work while going to school,” he said. “What I especially liked in both the bachelor’s and master’s programs was the interaction with the business community. The University does a great job of connecting with business professionals.” With the business degree, Schmitt said he gained a better understanding of operating his own business. Such an opportunity presented itself in 2007 when he bought an existing construction company that today is Jacksonville’s Petticoat-Schmitt Civil Contractors.. Through his leadership, the company has grown significantly and employs 30 workers. In 2012, it was listed among INC Magazine’s 500 fastest-growing companies. Schmitt has maintained his connections with UNF by serving on the advisory committee of the Construction Management Program. He’s also active in the community, serving as a board member for Seamark Ranch, a privately funded home for abused and abandoned children in Clay County. Professionally, he has been active on the local, state and national levels of the National Utility Contractors Association, an organization representing utility and excavation contractors. He was the chairman of the group in 2012. With 26 chapters across the country, Schmitt said it has been an honor to testify before Congress on industry-related legislative issues. Perhaps his most rewarding experience, Schmitt said, is the opportunity to come back to campus and interact with current students interested in entering the construction industry. “We (the advisory committee) have opportunities to evaluate the programs and get to meet students at the annual Hard-Hat banquet,” he said. He wants to make sure he gives current UNF students the same opportunities he had when he “stumbled” into the industry.