Business graduate Eric Dust leaving behind basketball court for job at Boeing after earning his degree

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Eric Dust

Eric Dust was looking to challenge himself as a college basketball player when he made the decision to transfer to UMSL, but the move to St. Louis also helped position him to launch a career away from the court. He will soon begin a job as a procurement analyst at Boeing after graduating with a degree in business administration on Sunday. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Eric Dust found himself with free time for a change over the past two months while winding down his days at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

His college basketball career officially ended March 7 – though not before he helped the Tritons to 20 victories in a season for the first time since 1990-91.

With mandatory workouts, weight training and study sessions suddenly cleared from his schedule, Dust decided to sign up to play intramural dodgeball and sand volleyball, though still managed to join his former teammates for some of their offseason workouts at the Mark Twain Athletic Center.

The business administration graduate also has had to spend a little time apartment hunting, but he was spared the anxiety so many graduating students around the country have felt the past few months when he accepted a job as a procurement analyst at Boeing.

“It’s really nice just knowing that I don’t have to stress about it and worry about it,” Dust said recently. “I could just focus on finishing the last few weeks of school. It’s been a huge weight off my shoulders.”

He’s excited, too, about what’s in front of him, working for a supervisor and as part of a team he already had a chance to get to know last summer during an internship with the group based in St. Louis.

It’s not lost on Dust that he likely wouldn’t have either opportunity had he not made the decision to transfer to UMSL two years ago.

Eric Dust

Eric Dust was a fixture at forward for the Tritons, averaging 11.3 points and a team-best 5.4 rebounds during his senior season while helping the team win 20 games for the first time since 1990-91. (UMSL Athletics photo)

A 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward, Dust began his college basketball career at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Lightly recruited as a high school player in Taylorville, Illinois, he still managed to make an early impact with the NAIA program, starting 12 games as a freshman and emerging as its go-to player his sophomore season, when he averaged 17.8 points and 7.9 rebounds.

That production left Dust wondering if he’d have an opportunity at a higher level of college basketball where he’d have a chance to get all of his education paid for with an athletic scholarship. He was still conflicted about leaving his teammates and coaches at St. Ambrose, but he started reaching out to other coaches to see what opportunities might exist.

“He called and emailed us and just said he’d really like to try a different level,” Tritons men’s basketball coach Bob Sundvold said. “I think he was looking for a more specific business degree too. So we brought him down for a visit. He worked out with our guys, and we took him around. Our business school just knocks everybody out when they come here and check it out. He loved it.”

His parents liked what they saw from UMSL, too, so Dust didn’t hesitate long to accept when Sundvold ultimately offered him a scholarship.

“He was just so stable and solid, and we really were looking for that,” said Sundvold, who added Dust while in the midst of overhauling his team’s roster with an 11-man recruiting class in 2017.

Dust carved out a role that saw him start 14 games as a junior, and he became the second-leading scorer in a balanced attack as a senior, averaging 11.3 points and a team-best 5.4 rebounds while helping the Tritons have a breakout season that included winning 18 of their first 22 games.

“It was kind of a risk I took,” Dust said. “In my head, I was thinking of the worst-case scenario, which is that I’m going to go there and kind of maybe regret leaving and not playing. But I was confident in what I could do.”

Even before he learned how things would work out on the court, Dust was discovering what UMSL could do for his future. He attended the fall job fair his first semester on campus, making his way around the room at the Mark Twain Athletic Center and shaking hands with various company reps while handing out his resume.

That’s where he first connected with someone from Boeing, and soon he was invited to interview for an internship. Dust’s degree emphasis is in marketing, but he felt well prepared when he landed that position working in supply chain management.

“What’s great about taking classes and getting my degree from here is you can go into whatever side of business you want,” he said. “I’m technically a marketing major, but I’ve had just as many classes in finance and supply chain.”

He spent much of last summer gaining hands-on experience working with the Boeing 777X team to come up with a procurement plan for the commercial jet, whose wings are built in St. Louis. He helped produce timelines for contracting and vetting suppliers and tried to formulate affordability strategies.

Dust made a good impression, and his supervisor let him know he’d be an ideal candidate for a full-time position should one open up. But Dust was starting to wonder if that opportunity would come or not.

Mitch Millstein, the associate director of Center for Business and Industrial Studies and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain and Analytics, learned of Dust’s position in limbo while attending the faculty-alumni basketball game in March. He wound up meeting with Dust and reaching out to a couple of Boeing contacts, including alumna Julie Sullivan, on Dust’s behalf.

Dust isn’t sure how helpful that prompting was, but around the same time, he got a call from his former supervisor who offered him a full-time job after graduation.

“It’s kind of what we talk about,” Sundvold said. “We use St. Louis. That’s part of St. Louis that we use in recruiting. You’ve got a chance to really network here, and you’ve got a chance to use the business school or this university for a springboard, and he’ll be a poster for that.”

Dust couldn’t be happier.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” he said of coming to UMSL. “The way I was looking at it, I was kind of hoping for the best, preparing for the worst and just kind of taking my chances, but my friends, teammates and coaches, everything’s been great. It’s a great degree, especially on the business side of things, so I’ve absolutely loved it here, and I would tell anybody to come here.”

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