Tasha Schwikert and Matt Sheahan are an odd couple. Schwikert, 29, is a Las Vegas native and former Olympic gymnast pursuing a law degree, while Sheahan, 35, is a former New Yorker who just moved to Sin City a few months ago in hopes of earning a master’s degree in hotel administration.
But what binds the two is that each recently won a lucrative $75,000 scholarship from the Las Vegas Business Academy, a nonprofit organization founded by businessman Rino Armeni to graduate students pursuing business, hotel administration and law degrees who are “tuition challenged.”
Schwikert is a student at the Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, while Sheahan just entered the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV.
Schwikert, who attended UCLA after competing in the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, began law school in the fall of 2012. She initially was intrigued by environmental law and is currently spending a semester away at the University of Oregon. She is dating former UNLV basketball player Mike Moser, who is a graduate student at the University of Oregon and playing basketball for that college this season.
After Schwikert graduated from UCLA in 2009, she worked for a sports agency in Los Angeles and discovered that some aspiring agents at the company were studying in a part-time law program. She audited some law school classes in late 2011 and enrolled at the UNLV law school the following year.
It looks like the former Olympian is also interested in business law, and will look into studying intellectual property and trademarks when she returns to the UNLV law school for the spring semester.
“As a gymnast, I trained so intensely at a young age,” Schwikert said. “Law school is new and exciting for me.”
She said the scholarship of up to $75,000 will cover a “significant amount” of her law school expenses.
While Schwikert was born and raised in Las Vegas, Sheahan just moved to Las Vegas to pursue his degree at the hotel admininstration college at UNLV.
In 2003, he graduated as an undergrad from Pace University in New York State and then earned an MBA from Fordham in 2009. In between, Sheahan was a struggling actor in Los Angeles, drawing a few bit parts in the TV show, “The Practice,” while working in the hospitality field.
After returning to New York and garnering his MBA degree, Sheahan worked for UBS, a financial services firm. But he said he was laid off from UBS and re-assessed his career, choosing the hotel administration college route. Sheahan said plans to focus on food and beverage.
Sheahan hopes to complete his masters degree in December 2014.
He said Las Vegas is an ideal place to study hotel administration because of “education outside the classroom.”
“I love it out here,” said Sheahan, who moved from his west-Midtown apartment in Manhattan.
Armeni, who founded the Las Vegas Business Academy in May 2011, said Schwikert and Sheahan won the scholarships because they’re not only bright graduate students but show business world leadership skills.
“We look at their smartness and we also look for a pre-disposition for leadership,” Armeni said. “We want smart people, but also leaders. Otherwise they can’t be the Navy SEALs of business. When they present themselves and promote our organization, their leadership shows up when they speak. They had all the qualities we look for.”
Armeni said his nonprofit is funded by a major annual fundraiser and also donations from corporations.
Alan Snel can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel