I Wasn’t Looking for a Career in Academe—It Found Me
The series of events that led to my arrival at University of Phoenix began when I was a senior executive at CBS. I had a lot of involvement in communication and strategic planning. Because of that I often was involved in public speaking—I really liked that. It’s an exhilirating experience, there’s a “high” I get from it. That led to me being asked to facilitate a class as a guest speaker at the CBS School of Management in its General Management Program. That experience was the advent of my interest in academia.
I also was writing. I authored books about online training and online learning that were being used by several schools to educate their faculty about this relatively new form of teaching. An instructor at University of Phoenix contacted me after hearing me speak at a corporate training session and recommended that I apply as a facilitator to teach at a local campus.
In the process, they discovered I had a doctorate and business credentials. The timing of it all was serendipitous—back then, schools everywhere were expanding and there was a corresponding need for competent, credentialed faculty members, particularly at the doctoral level. That’s when University of Phoenix recruited me to teach at its new Central Florida Campus. Thirteen years later I’m still at that campus teaching graduate economics and finance courses, and I’ve since become a facilitator and mentor for the doctoral program under the School of Advanced Studies (SAS).
Immersed in the best parts of academe
The thing that stands out for me about being a facilitator for SAS are the faculty members and administrators who stay with the University family—they want to help others learn, and it’s a genuine desire. There’s a collegiality and camaraderie I truly enjoy here that I haven’t found anywhere else. They’re interested in expanding their own mindset, skill set and research practices, which in turn, they share with their students.
University of Phoenix, because of its growing scale and scope, allowed me to take part in and entertain so many new encounters, including so many opportunities to help others. I have these honest, bold kinds of experiences where I’m face-to-face with these people—even online—and I have to be available, competent, an expert in my subject, not just a human database of information. I get to be expressive and communicative, no matter the medium.
I’m fascinated that I get to make a living helping others to better themselves. And I think I come out ahead. I get the chance to better myself because I’m getting an education through what I learn from my students and from my colleagues. I’m not sure how many people in other professions can truly claim this. It’s not a vocation—teaching is truly is an avocation for me.
Appreciating the value of our learning formats
From an academic perspective, where I believe University of Phoenix is leading the way is in recognizing the importance of both online and local campus learning formats, which optimizes learning for all kinds of students.
And the formats serve me well as a faculty member. For example, online teaching has given me freedom to teach wherever I am. Even if I’m traveling—which seems to be a lot—I can still be in touch with everyone. It allows for reflective thought and enables me to cognitively manage what I’m doing. Plus, everything is archived—my students and I can revisit an online discussion if necessary.
The immense online resources that University of Phoenix makes available enables students and faculty to access information anytime, anywhere. These resources allow for substantive use of time—which often is at a premium these days. They enable everyone to do more “real” work, from conducting research to creating content.
My favorite aspect of classroom teaching is interacting with people. I get to engage all the different senses and address the varied learning styles that students have. I don’t dwell on what I consider the negative sides of people. When I look at some of my students I see parts of myself at different stages; the elements I don’t recognize I can learn from. It reaffirms my existence that I’m part of something larger.
The enduring value of teaching
Passion can wane, particularly when applied to a career or career path. As an endeavor, teaching and facilitating higher-order thinking has more enduring value than just about anything I’ve ever done. It’s as if the experience is continually releasing these endorphins that keep me going.
In my 13 years with University of Phoenix I’ve experienced so much and have been honored to meet and work with so many wonderful people—students and colleagues alike. I encourage people to help others advance themselves in life. What could be better than knowing I have all these chances to leave something of value to others as signature to my life path?
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.