By Elizabeth Exline
To hear Christine Healy, PhD, SHRM-CP, PHR, CEBS, tell it, teaching was her destiny. Playing school was a favorite childhood game. As a gifted middle school student, she tutored other kids in math. When she was an adult, armed with a business degree and officially part of the workforce, she routinely trained others. And the whole time she grew up, she watched as her father taught at University of Phoenix (and loved it).
"I can remember when I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me, ‘You’re going to grow up to be a teacher,’" Healy recalls.
Call it fate or a self-fulfilling prophecy, but Healy found her way to the front of the classroom. It just came after a few detours.
Like the students Healy serves in her Strategic Human Resource Management & Emerging Issues course, Healy was a nontraditional learner. She’s moved 25 times during her 34-year marriage, largely thanks to her husband’s military career. As a result, it took Healy six colleges before she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration.
The bachelor’s, however, was just the beginning. As her husband contemplated his retirement from the military, Healy began to focus on her future.
"I made this crazy deal with him," she recounts. "I said, ‘If you put me through my master’s program, then when you retire, you can stay home and run that thing you love that sucks up all the dirt off the floor.’"
It was an offer Healy’s husband couldn’t refuse. Healy began her master’s program, juggling her family and a one-hour commute to and from school. (At the time, she says, online school wasn’t an option.) By the time she earned her degree, she and her family had moved again, this time to Texas, where she began her career in human resources (HR).
Eventually, Healy found herself in St. George, Utah, working full time in HR for an ice cream company. But when University of Phoenix (UPOX) opened its campus in St. George, Healy didn’t let a full-time position stop her from pursuing teaching opportunities.
"My father taught for UOPX for well over 20 years," Healy says. "He would always tell me what a great experience it was, so when I saw the St. George campus, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s my golden opportunity!’"
That’s not to say that adjunct teaching while holding down a full-time career was easy. But Healy believes teaching is a calling she can’t ignore. Yes, it means spending weekends grading while her husband watches TV. And yes, it means sometimes reading papers from 20 business students. But there are ripple effects, she says, of sharing with her students both the theory of her field and her real-life experience. She finds it too meaningful to take any other path.
As a result, Healy is a go-to resource for UOPX. She welcomes additional classes whenever they’re available. Strategic human resource management may be her specialty, but she has also taught a variety of other courses over the past 14 years, including ones in leadership, change management and negotiations.
But it is her approach that really distinguishes her classes. (It also earned her a nomination for Faculty of the Year 2020, which draws some 1,300 nominations from students, faculty and staff.) Healy invests herself in her students’ success, from knowing her students on a first-name basis to challenging them to think critically and be prepared for a demanding career in today’s workplace.
Healy describes her teaching method as Socratic, informative and integrative. That means she demands her students not only learn from her class but apply information and principles from other classes to her lessons as well. She argues that they need to be able to see the whole picture, and that comes from rigorous education.
But before students can expect to land a job, they have to be able to nail an interview. This is something else that Healy, with her background in HR, feels compelled to prepare her students for.
"When someone interviews with UOPX on their resumé, they need to be able to speak intelligently because they represent the University’s more than 1 million alumni," Healy says.
While Healy may require a lot from her students, she also recognizes the value they bring to the classroom. Adult students tend to juggle a lot (just as Healy herself has done). And they sometimes have situations come up that require creative workarounds and no small amount of empathy. However, they also bring valuable perspectives from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Healy says her classes combine people who have a wealth of real-world experience with students who are just starting out. The trick is bringing everyone together and then "making sure everybody comes out the better for it," she explains.
While Healy recognizes the potential in her students during a course, they also inspire her. Every year, she drives seven hours from her home in Utah to the graduation ceremony in Phoenix. After her husband asked Healy how the fourth graduation ceremony went, she replied, "Graduation was great. I think I’d look cute in a beret."
To wear the beret, you have to have earned your doctoral degree, which Healy successfully achieved in 2017. Like her students, she juggled work with her goals. And like her students, she recognizes the pivotal role UOPX plays in the path to achieving those goals. From always-on classes taught by real-world faculty to a commitment to Career Services for Life™, UOPX is determined to help its students succeed.
To Healy, attending commencement is a powerful experience. She loves looking at the hundreds of graduation caps, many of which are decorated to honor the moment, while reflecting on the journey it took to get there. "It makes me emotional just thinking about it," Healy says. "And it can’t happen if something like UOPX doesn’t exist.
"This university makes dreams happen."
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