Practicing What I Teach: How My Fortune 100 Experience and Teaching are Intertwined
I began teaching at University of Phoenix in June of 2006. While I was finishing my Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership at the School of Advanced Studies within University of Phoenix, I was informed of the opportunity to teach courses. My advanced education as well as my nearly 35 years of professional experience within Fortune 100 companies and my passion for research and education made me a perfect fit for the University of Phoenix educational system.
After graduating with a degree in business from Illinois State University, I started out as an IT Programmer for Sears Roebuck & Company in 1977. There, I worked my way up to Project Manager, then to Systems Manager and finally to Senior Systems Manager. From 2003 to 2005, I worked for Allstate Corp. and then in 2006, I worked for Nationwide Insurance Company as an Advisory Services Consultant. In addition to doing my own research and writing a book on leadership, I’ve negotiated a billion-dollar service level agreement contract and I’ve managed $10 million budgets. I’ve also managed data architects, tech support teams, QA teams, offshore resources, application developers, outsource service providers and much more. When it comes to business, you name it and I’ve pretty much done it.
Personally, I am aligned with the philosophy of education for the adult learner at University of Phoenix and the concept of bringing real-life application into the classroom. It’s easy to read and talk about theory from a textbook, but how does that information apply to real-life business scenarios? A professor at a traditional university may not be able to help students bridge this gap. Because I am a practitioner of the skills and knowledge I teach, I am able to help students make connections between theory and real-life application. To do this, I take examples from my work experience.
If we are discussing hiring practices, for example, I will probe my students with questions about how companies recruit new employees. In addition to sharing my professional experience, I will ask students to bring their experience to the table. We usually talk about how one company’s practices compare to those of another company. We also debate what has worked well for companies and what hasn’t worked well. In my career, I’ve had to make tough decisions on hiring, firing and promoting individuals within an organization, so I can share that knowledge and experience with the class. Then, because most students in my classes are aspiring leaders, I’ll ask how they would change a company’s recruiting process if they had the opportunity to do so.
A reason that I believe in the educational methods at University of Phoenix is due to the feedback I receive from many of my students. This happens all the time. Students take what they learned in class one day, implement it the next, and tell me how well it worked.
Many students provide this type of feedback for one of the courses I teach at the associate’s degree level. It involves personality types and learning techniques. I teach students that no two people and personalities are the same, but knowing that does not fix a dysfunctional business team. One has to understand how his or her personality type clashes or compliments that of other team members’. These important elements are crucial to the students’ success in business.
I also teach that there are other factors affecting teams such as job roles. One example I use is the concept of the insurance company’s sales agent versus the insurance company’s risk department. Insurance agents want to sign up as many people as possible (to generate revenue) and it is the risk department’s job to decide if the person qualifies or is a liability to the company (to minimize expense). In my experience with insurance companies, I have seen the risk department and the sales agent clash because both feel the other prevents him or her from doing his or her job. Both entities of the business must understand that the other side is there to ensure the overall success of the organization. Once that understanding is reached, business goals and objectives are met with greater ease and both teams are more functional.
Teaching students with my professional experience has enhanced the learning of my students. Like me, nearly all University of Phoenix faculty members have experience in the fields they teach. Sharing my knowledge and skills in the classroom is a career passion of mine. I love learning new things, developing myself and then teaching others. University of Phoenix gives me the opportunity to do that.
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/.