20:24 PM

Commissioner Zuger a Role Model for New Sarpy County Partnership

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Sarpy County employees won’t have to look hard to find an example of how a Bellevue University education can pay off. County Commissioner Brian Zuger holds two degrees from Bellevue, including a Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and a Master of Public Administration.

Sarpy County announces new tuition program in partnership with Bellevue University.

Sarpy County employees can take advantage of a new program, offered in partnership with Bellevue University, which features tuition reimbursement of up to $5,250 for County employees and $2,500 for employees’ immediate family members. The program is available to full-time, degree-seeking students at Bellevue University. There is no cost to the County or taxpayers for the program.

Zuger, who is running unopposed for Sarpy County Treasurer this fall, earned his bachelor’s degree when he was 40 and his master’s at 42. He didn’t let age stand in his way, and others shouldn’t let it stop them either, he said.

“For a lot of people, age is a barrier to entry. They think, ‘I’m an old dog, what am I going to learn in this program?’ or ‘It’s too late for me’.”

But Zuger said being an adult student today makes more sense than ever before.

“There's less risk for them to go do this now because it's not as big a financial burden. I think it's going to be very beneficial for Sarpy County.”

Zuger first enrolled at Bellevue University in 2010, 18 years after he graduated from high school.

“I was looking for an education that that catered to professionals,” he said. “I took both of my degrees online, but it was nice to know that if I ran into an issue I would have a local person to talk to.”

Zuger describes himself as a “leadership junkie” and felt his undergraduate program was a great fit.

“It really challenged my perceptions as to what it meant to be a leader. I think it helped me to find my leadership style,” he said. “I really enjoyed that part. It allowed me to be very introspective and challenged the perceptions that I had.”

Zuger credited longtime University professor Del Stites as being particularly influential during his bachelor’s degree program.

“He taught a logic class and challenged us quite a bit,” Zuger said. “I like to be really challenged to test my thought processes and how I processed information.”

When Zuger decided to pursue a master’s degree, he selected Bellevue’s MPA program with an eye toward a leadership position with a nonprofit organization.

“I wanted to go to that next level with a nonprofit, that's what the MPA really came into focus for me and I've always kind of a public-policy junkie,” he said.

As part of his degree, Zuger liked the style of the MPA cohort program, which puts students into a group that advances through the program together. This allows students to get to know one another and to take advantage of their peers’ expertise and experiences.

The cohort program “really allows you to focus on your passions,” he said.

These days Zuger is passionate about Sarpy County and his upcoming term as County Treasurer.

“I'm going to miss my time on the Board (of Commissioners). I love being a policy maker and having the ability to impact the direction of Sarpy County,” he said. “I think our Treasurer's Office is run very well. I'm really looking forward using the skills I learned at Bellevue to build on the culture of collaboration.”