Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice: Fortune 500 Experience in the Classroom
As a student, I had always learned from traditional professors. The talented men and women of academia standing in my lecture halls each week were, from sunrise to sunset, professors in every way. Many had been teaching full-time for years. Some had not worked outside of a classroom in decades. And, in 1987 when I began working at Oracle fresh out of college, I learned quickly that there was a missing piece between the education I had received and the real world I was entering.
My degree in Computer Science got me through the doors, but it was the knowledge I gained on the job at Oracle that helped my career thrive for 13 years; I ended my tenure in 1999 as Regional Vice President. I understand firsthand the important relationship between in-class learning and real-world application. As a faculty member at University of Phoenix, I prepare my students for success in their current and future careers by offering my unique professional experience alongside the centralized program curriculum, in a way that is immediate and impactful.
I began teaching at University of Phoenix in 1992. Since then, I have taught both Technology and Business courses ranging in subject matter from Database and Software Architecture to Business Systems Management. The learning platform at University of Phoenix has always appealed to me. Because the centralized curriculum, topics, outcomes and objectives are developed by the dean’s office in collaboration with the faculty and remain consistent across learners and faculty. I am able to teach to these topics, and expand upon them through the perspective of my own unique experiences and how I have applied the material in my past and current professional roles.
It is essential that working learners comprehend not only the theory, but when, where and how to apply the theory to real business problems in real organizational settings. In one of my current courses, my students are preparing presentations for a company database solution. The course material helps them identify the technical solution, but it is my practitioner experience in the field that helps them apply it in a realistic way. I ask my students to prepare their presentations not for me, but for a boardroom of executives. In speaking to this executive audience, I help them understand the importance of engaging them with the recommendation, providing clear analysis, suggesting next steps, and offering detailed implementation recommendations. My experience enables my students to take a technical recommendation and shape that into a business solution for a corporate audience.
In another instance, a Project Management student of mine made a recommendation that was actually implemented at her company. The student proposed to her management team a more efficient customer support group based on reorganized process flows to better serve customer and organizational needs. I always encourage my students to be agents of change within their organizations, and to take what they learn in the classroom and transfer it to their workplace.
Often times at University of Phoenix the relationship between working learner and working faculty member is mutually beneficial. I provide my students with real insights into my organization and industry. Students get a sense of what suppliers and customers may be doing, where the industry is heading, common issues such as competition and globalization, as well as networking opportunities within the field. Conversely, my students help me develop many skills that are necessary in my own professional roles. Because my students are working adults and not traditional college students, many of the coaching and teaching techniques I develop with my students also prove effective with my employees. Furthermore, the curriculum exposes me to new models and concepts that, like my students, I can take from the classroom and apply to my business.
Today, I am a faculty member and campus chair at University of Phoenix. My professional experience remains the most valuable asset I can bring to my classroom, whether from my current professional role or my past roles. I always enjoy seeing students develop skills and abilities that enable them to make a career change and take advantage of the opportunities out there in the market. The one piece of advice I can pass on to my students is this: be a lifelong learner. In this industry, technology changes rapidly and constantly. It is important to understand both the business and the technology inside and out, and to choose the technology that you love.
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/.