Recent Blog Posts
BY: DR. CINDY GUILLAUME AND DR. CASEY REASON
The common core curriculum has been a long time coming. While much has been said about the challenges of its implementation, one thing is clear: the common core curriculum is a sure sign, as Thomas Friedman has reminded us, that the world is flatter and faster and those flattening elements are having an impact on the steps me must take to be competitive, which includes more thoughtfully examining what is happening in every classroom in the United States.
What makes the common core so unique is the fact that for the first time ever there is a national conversation about the specific learning outcomes in math and language arts. While we have had recommendations in the past from national organizations in math and language arts, we have never established an agreed upon set of specific learning outcomes in these subjects that all schools in the United States are asked to achieve (source). Other countries like China, Singapore, and Norway do have a published national curriculum, and those countries all rank higher in both math and language arts than the United States (OECD, 2014).
So why did it take so long? The answer is simple. Local control. One of the more formative aspects of K-12 public education in the United States is our adherence to the importance of local control (Edgar, 2008). Local communities are afforded the opportunity to establish schools that meet their standards and have choices and priorities matching local preferences. This has been a wonderful attribute that allows a local school to indeed create learning opportunities that prepare the student to be a meaningful contributor to the local community.
The downside of all this local control has been uneven expectations and, at times, exceedingly low standards (Duncan, 2012). Before the common core curriculum, it wasn’t uncommon to find high schools where graduation didn’t require more than two years of math. That math experience wouldn’t necessarily have even included Algebra.
These lower expectations may have been acceptable in local school districts and surrounding communities based on regional jobs and expectations for work standards in the near future. However, that was then. Today, the internationalization of almost everything we do has made the working environment excruciatingly competitive and is forcing schools throughout the United States to broaden their horizons and indeed think about their curriculum against a broader national and at times international standard as they prepare students for an economy that will be altogether different than the economy most of us grew up in. Local control was based on the assumption that the local community would inherit the benefits (Edgar, 2008). Today, there is a much greater level of mobility and competition from all corners of the world are emerging.
Indeed Thomas Friedman was right. The world is getting flatter, faster, and more deeply interconnected. And the common core curriculum, although imperfect, is helping all students get ready for it.
Duncan, A. (2013, June). Duncan Pushes Back on Attacks on Common Core Standards. Speech presented at the American Society of News Editors Annual Convention, Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C.
Edgar, W.G. (2008). 21st Century Challenges to Local Control. Presented to the Washington State School Directors Association.
OECD (2014), PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can do – Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science (Volume I, Revised edition, February 2014), PISA, OECD Publishing.
BY: ALANNA VITUCCI
Christopher Martinez (Ph.D., Business Administration / Homeland Security, candidate) grew up in the inner city of New York and Worcester, Mass. Today, he is an Assistant Special Agent in Charge of 70 other special agents, intelligence analysts and task force officers.
He has enjoyed an eclectic career that has included serving on active duty in the Navy and as Army reservist. As a federal agent he has investigated contraband and human smugglers, worked as an undercover operative and held international assignments.
As a teenager, Martinez’s path in life was anything but clear. “No one in my family had gone to college. I had influential teachers and counselors in high school that steered me to a program called Upward Bound – a program that encourages and assists first generation underprivileged inner-city kids go to college. I was accepted by the University of Massachusetts, but instead I enlisted in the Navy.”
Martinez spent five years in the Navy, based in San Diego, in a career that resembled the Air Force. “I was a naval air traffic controller that never went to sea,” he laughs.
It was during this time that Martinez decided the time was right for college. “My unit commander was a huge education advocate. He inspired me to start my degree – I worked during the day, and despite having a young family, I went to school at night,” said Martinez, who graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a bachelor’s degree in aviation management.
After serving in the Navy, and hoping to become a special agent, Martinez joined the U.S. Customs Service as a Detection Systems Specialist. His role was to intercept smugglers via aviation technology at the California-Mexico border.
“Two years after joining the Customs Service, I was promoted to an intelligence specialist and we moved to Charleston. In 1991 I realized my dream and became a special agent. That was followed by six years in Miami where I investigated money laundering and narcotics crimes, sometimes undercover,” he recalls.
After eight years on the East Coast, Martinez and his family returned to the West Coast. They were stationed in El Centro, California when he took a job leading internal investigations.
Following his term in the Navy, Martinez had joined the Army Reserves as a Warrant Officer. Six days after September 11, 2001, while stationed in El Centro, he was activated and sent to Fort Mead, Maryland, where he served in the Army as a counterintelligence officer. He was released from active duty one year later. “While it was a challenge to be away from my family for that period of time, I was honored to serve,” he says.
It was after seven years in El Centro (including his year at Fort Mead) and thinking that an international appointment would be interesting, that Martinez transferred to Washington DC.
“In the military they teach you to do the absolute best that you can do, whatever you are assigned to do,” he explains. “That is advice that I have always tried to follow, whether I was being observed or not.”
That dedication to doing his best was noticed when Martinez was assigned to DC and led to his first assignment overseas. “It seems I had impressed several people. When I was in DC my name was recognized and I was recommended for a six month assignment in Bogotá.”
While in DC the Department of Homeland Security was created and all U.S. Customs Service special agents were transferred to a new agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Six months in Bogota was followed by three years as the ICE attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Panama City, Panama. Martinez oversaw ICE relationships with seven Central American countries: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala.
“It was a fascinating period,” remarks Martinez. “While I reported into my ICE chain of command, I also worked directly for the American Ambassadors in all seven countries. On a monthly basis I would sit down with the equivalent of these countries attorney generals or their representative. Imagine having a standing monthly meeting with the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder!”
There is a lesson in Martinez’s international assignments. “Who knows if those assignments would have come my way had I not always been committed to doing my best no matter who was watching, or not? Obviously, someone was. ”
After three years, Martinez and his family were rotated stateside where he investigated human trafficking and smuggling. In 2009, he was promoted to assistant special agent in charge.
“Along the way, I completed a master’s in teaching from Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Fla. I chose Northcentral University for my Ph.D. in Homeland Security because I’d like to teach at the college level. I’ve had some interesting career experiences and I’d like to share them with the next generation.”
So, if Martinez could go back in time and tell the apprehensive young man who joined the Navy instead of going to college anything, what would it be?
“These days, I’m a believer in the advice of Denny Green, the former coach of the Minnesota Vikings” he says. “Specifically, as long as you exhibit desire, determination and dedication, you can be successful no matter what your circumstances are.”
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
BY: MARISSA POULSON
When it comes to choosing your higher education career path, it’s all about finding the best fit for your interests and goals. Like most fields, higher education is exceedingly diverse and caters to a range of professionals with varying levels of education and expertise.
“The qualifications and requirements are quite different for administrators and professors – as well as in research institutions and teaching institutions,” acknowledges Karen Ferguson (Ph.D.), assistant dean of the NCU’s School of Education. “The best advice I can give is to take the time to reflect on what type of higher education professional you want to be. Then research the minimum qualifications.”
We’ve compiled some common higher education career paths to highlight the versatility of a higher education career, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether you are a teacher with dean-sized dreams, want to transition into academia, or feel like you’d be a good fit for a position in research or administration, higher education provides plenty of career options.
As the cornerstone of the education field, teaching is often the go-to path for many higher education professionals. It includes numerous options based on your level of education and teaching experience.
In some cases, a master’s degree may qualify you to teach at a community college or as an adjunct for multiple schools, both face-to-face and online. At the doctoral level, you may find opportunities at a 4-year public or private college, or depending on where you earned your degree, on the tenure track at a research university.
Teaching experience is also important in academics. If you are looking to get your foot in the teaching door, you may start off as a TA, lecturer or assistant professor. If you are experienced in one field, you may qualify as a program chair and have oversight of curriculum and other faculty.
Each school is different and has its own requirements for teachers. Be sure to do your homework beforehand to find a school that best fits your education and experience.
Academia simply does not function without quality curriculum. Higher education relies on countless subject matter experts to help develop cutting-edge curriculum that is relevant to society and employers.
This is when professional experience outside academia can be incredibly useful. For example, if you’ve spent your career as an accounting professional, you probably have a great idea of the knowledge and skills that today’s graduates need. Your career input could be invaluable in aligning the curriculum and outcomes to reflect the accounting field.
Higher education has a lot of moving parts, and institutions need employees to help manage and support all of the different areas.
Common areas in higher education administration include:
- Alumni Relations
- Business & Finance
- Career Counseling
- Human Resources
- Institutional Research & Planning
- Public Relations & Communications
- Residential Life
- Student Affairs & Services
With all of these options in academic administration, it’s important to consider your degree choice. A degree specialization gives you the opportunity to tailor your education to a specific area of administration. There are also plenty of short-term certificate options available to help you develop your niche down the road.
Research is an area that affects both academics and administration.
Before coming to NCU, Associate Director of Programmatic Research, Melissa Helvey worked in a Brain, Behavior and Cognition lab at Northwestern, took classes and taught a Statistics course. “I have always had an interest in science and research,” says Helvey. “I like to know how things are ‘proven’ and what that information is telling us.”
For example, institutional research helps inform campus decision-making and planning through assessment. “By actively assessing student learning, we can determine if a student is learning and meeting their program learning objectives, and if not, where changes in a program need to be made,” explains Helvey.
Research faculty play a vital role in university academics. While their research contributions help their colleges and universities receive valuable funding and grants, they must often split time between teaching and working on their research. Research faculty must also have a firm grasp of research methods, statistics, a strong ability to synthesize information and extensive publishing experience.
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
BY: ALANNA VITUCCI
For Rebecca Erb, (Ed.D) life headed south – fast – on the first day of retirement.
“I decided to avoid the reality of retirement by driving South to visit the states that I had not visited before: Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama,” laughs Erb.
Erb had retired in March 2013 after six years as the Superintendent of the Tuscarora School District, which is located in Pennsylvania approximately 90 minutes north of Washington D.C. “I began my teaching career as a social studies teacher in two different school districts before becoming the Principal of Tyrone Area High School in 1997, and then moved on to become the Superintendent of Schools at Tuscarora.”
But Erb’s retirement was only a partial one. She had begun teaching at Northcentral University in 2010. These days she facilitates Teaching as Reflective Practice in Secondary Education (ED4008) in the B.Ed. program and School Law (EDL5008-8), Education Policy and Practices (EDL5022-8), Contemporary Issues (ED5001-8) and Action Research Capstone (ED6002-8) in the M.Ed. program.
Erb has on average 30 students at any time. “One of the most fulfilling parts of being a principal and superintendent was mentoring young teachers. NCU’s one-to-one teaching model is similar to how I mentored my teachers. I have a chance to learn about them, what they are interested in and the challenges they encounter. That allows me to tailor my feedback to their specific circumstances.”
And there is a wealth of information that Erb shares from her 30-year career in education. “When I was a principal a few of my colleagues were working on school leadership standards for Pennsylvania that were aligned to National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) standards. Following their lead, I had the opportunity to be involved in the development of Pennsylvania’s Inspired Leadership (PIL) program,” she explains.
“I implemented PIL in the Tuscarora School District by requiring the principals to complete the required training. Getting the district leadership team on the same page made a huge difference as we worked together to improve facilities, develop quality curriculum, and increase student achievement in the school district” notes Erb.
Higher education today is much different than when Erb started teaching, let alone completed her Ed.D. at Penn State University. “I had to drive to class and carve out time for a required on-site internship. Not to mention that I practically lived at the library. There was no extensive online library available then, just stacks of books and card catalogs,” she notes.
Erb is fond of quoting the idiomatic expression of unknown origins “we live in interesting times.”
“I teach for an online graduate school, but I live in a farmhouse that has been in my husband’s family since the William Penn Land Grant,” shared Erb. (The William Penn Land Grant – for history buffs – was awarded to William Penn by King Charles II in 1681. It is on display in the Library of Congress.)
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
BY: MARISSA POULSON
Sheila Thomas (Ed.D., Higher Education Leadership, candidate) has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education, working at both public and private institutions. During her career, she has been able to combine her passion for education with her interest in professional development.
“My area of expertise is continuing education,” explains Thomas. “My current position [is] State University Dean of Extended Education at the California State University Chancellor’s Office. I am responsible for facilitating workforce development, strategic communication, policy review [plus] advocating for extended and continuing education.”
While many academic administrators get their start in the classroom, and move through faculty ranks to dean and provost, Thomas, who earned her B.A. in Communications from Azusa Pacific University and her M.A. in Humanities from Cal State Dominguez Hills, never had a real interest in teaching.
“I think teaching and administration are both rewarding careers,” admits Thomas. “But for me, I like helping people. I think of my office as ‘information central’ and my staff and I do our best to answer questions and provide information.”
Educational conversations today often center on how higher education institutions are preparing students for the workforce, and Thomas’ office is at the forefront of facilitating solutions.
“I enjoy interacting with the workforce development community in the field and building… valuable partnerships,” she says.
“I have [also] made professional development for emerging leaders a priority,” adds Thomas, who serves on state and national boards and is active in professional associations, including the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, Association of Continuing Higher Education, American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, and the National Professional Science Masters Association.
When it came to her own professional development and earning that coveted doctorate, Thomas relied on her experience working for an array of higher education institutions, including her current role at the largest university systems in the country. Her calculated approach to finding the right school included the necessary combination of quality, flexibility and affordability.
“Having worked in higher education my entire career, I know the importance of regional accreditation,” states Thomas. “I also needed a program that was online and had flexible scheduling, and that I could pay for every month without needing student loans.”
Thomas began her journey at NCU in 2007 when she enrolled part-time. While her progress has been slow and steady, she’s thrilled to have made it to the dissertation stage.
“My dissertation is entitled Defining a Successful Leadership Pathway: Women in the Academy and the Role of Institutional Support,” shares Thomas. “I’m really enjoying my research and I love the fact that my program fits well with my current position and career goals. I can use the information and my research immediately in my job.”
So what would be her advice to students when it comes to staying engaged and motivated in a program (or extensive project like a dissertation) over a long period of time?
“I learned early on that pursing a doctorate is a marathon not a sprint. There are stops and starts along the way, and sometimes you feel you are taking steps backward. I have tried to keep my goal firmly in mind and visualize that diploma hanging over my desk,” explains Thomas. “And…have a plan for your education. If you are in a doctoral program, choose a dissertation topic that you are passionate about and can sustain your interest [in],” she adds.
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
As we prepare for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, it’s only natural to stop and think about what we can take away from tonight as well as the next two weeks of competition.
Each athlete in the Olympic Games is competing for a chance to take home a coveted Olympic medal, but tonight’s Opening Ceremony symbolizes something else entirely. Tonight is about unity, pride and teamwork.
These Olympic athletes have an honor that few us (minus our dedicated men and women in the military) ever experience: the opportunity to represent their country. While many of us will probably never represent our country on the international stage, we can’t forget that we are all part of a larger whole. Whether in business as colleagues or fellow students at a university, or even simply as Americans or the human race as a whole, we are all members of a larger team. In order for the team to be successful, we all have to work together.
As Dr. Thomas Pucci, core faculty for Northcentral University’s School of Education puts it, “On a truly successful team, individual goals become secondary to the goals of the organization.”
So as you watch tonight’s Opening Ceremony, take a minute to remember what the Olympics teaches us about teamwork. Each country may be vying for the top spot in the medal counts, but in the end, the Olympics is a win for all of us. It’s the whole team, nations from every corner of the globe coming together in one spot in peace, in unity, and yet still full of pride for their home country. What could be better?
BY: MARISSA POULSON
Commander Valerie Morrison (D.B.A., 2013) joined the Navy Nurse Corps as an Officer Candidate in the Bachelor Degree Completion Program with a long range goal: obtaining her master’s degree.
“My father dropped out of school to enlist in the Army during WWII and my mom only had some technical schooling as a secretary after high school,” shares Morrison, “but both of my parents were adamant that the five of us kids would go to college.”
In 1991, Morrison completed her bachelor’s degree and was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy Nurse Corps. Eleven years later, she achieved her original goal, earning her Master of Science in Management from the Naval Postgraduate School.
While at school, Morrison had been inspired by a retired naval officer with a D.B.A. “He always brought examples from his consulting work with the City of Salinas to his policy course,” she recalls. “He was the example of how I wanted to advance my education.”
A year later, she attended an educational fair while working at Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fla., and knew NCU’s online format would provide the flexibility she needed to obtain her doctorate. She enrolled in the D.B.A. in Management program and started her coursework in 2003. By 2009, she was working on her dissertation proposal when she was deployed to Kuwait.
Morrison was ready for it, but just four months later, her deployment ended abruptly and she returned to the States, her head swirling.
“It is difficult to explain how much mental preparation you make in order to deploy (leaving a then 2-year-old and 5-year-old with your husband and mother-in-law). Reintegration is a very real challenge for military families…including mine,” she admits.
In fact, it seemed that her NCU coursework was the one constant in her life so she jumped back into it. Instead of progressing like she planned, however, she earned her first “U” grade, which led to an elongated leave of absence from NCU (“to get my head together”).
Morrison returned to NCU in 2010, around the same time she was selected for a great career opportunity as the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Navy Nurse Corps—a two-star Admiral.
“Working for the top nurse in the Navy is an awesome thing, but it also required many hours and lots of travel,” she says. “However, failure was not an option.”
That commitment was tested again, when in late 2011, Morrison was diagnosed with a cancerous sinus tumor. While the surgery was a great success, precautionary radiation treatments packed a punch she wasn’t expecting.
“Being a nurse, I thought I would end the radiation treatments, be tired for about two weeks, and go about my happy way, but I was tired! Luckily, I was able to take an extended time off from work and put 100 percent effort into my dissertation manuscript.”
Morrison’s determination paid off. She successfully defended her dissertation – Examining the Relationship between Workplace Stress and Intent to Leave of Navy Nurses – on March 27, 2013.
When the Director of the Navy Nurse Corps retired in August, Morrison continued to move forward, now serving as the Career Planner for new Director of the Navy Nurse Corps.
“One of the great things about my job is that I get to work on behalf of the roughly 6,000 active, Reserve, and federal civilian nurses who work for Navy Medicine worldwide,” shares Morrison. “Every month, I travel up to Newport, RI, to Officer Development School, where I welcome the new ensigns. It’s so motivating to be around the future leaders of the Navy Nurse Corps.”
Morrison is also working to advance her professional standing through her research. “My abstract was accepted for a poster presentation at the Virginia Nurses Association Education Day in September. I also presented at a Joint Clinical Nurse Specialist Symposium in July, and have been asked to present to a Ph.D. Theories course at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in October,” she reveals.
Additionally, Morrison is studying toward certification as a Nurse Executive (for higher level nursing professionals) and was selected to serve on the American Nurses Association Advisory Board for Nurse Fatigue (promoting health and safety for patients and nurses).
Despite everything on her plate, Morrison also volunteers as the Delegating Nurse as her kids’ school, and enjoys being a full-time mom and spending time with her family.
So how does she do it all? “I have several calendars—my Outlook calendar, a desk calendar, a wall calendar on the fridge, a weekly calendar on the pantry door. I plan the year, the month, and the day,” she laughs. “If I can do it; anyone can do it.”
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
Since its beginning, online education has been criticized for its struggle to facilitate quality collaboration in the virtual classroom. In an effort to combat its critics, pioneers in the industry have tried almost anything – from required learning teams, to the adoption of discussion thread posts and conference calls, and even overhauled learning management systems.
As history tells us, holding students accountable for participation in a collaborative environment has proven to be a difficult task in the online classroom, but thanks to a few recent social trends it’s becoming easier with each click of the mouse. Whether you’re an instructor searching for ways to help engage your virtual students or a student trying to make a group project assignment work, consider trying one of these options to create a more pleasant online collaboration experience!
If you’ve worked in an online group setting, you know that one of the most difficult tasks you face is combining every document submitted in to one “master” document. Good news! You can get rid of that headache by choosing one of these easy document sharing methods.
Google Docs simplifies the task of updating a running master document by allowing your entire group to access and make changes to the same document. Just log in to your Google Drive, open the desired document, make your changes and save for the group to see. If your students or classmates are concerned about access, rest assured – it’s free when you sign up for a Google account!
If you’re looking for something a little more mobile-friendly, try Evernote. You can share documents, download the mobile app for on-the-go viewing, and even make lists of items still needed for project completion. Just share with your group members to ensure you’re all on the same page. The basic account is free, but you can choose to pay for an upgrade that unleashes a whole list of sharing possibilities!
If you’re looking for a little face time with your document sharing, try hosting a Google+ Hangout! Invite everyone in your group to a video conference call to discuss your changes to documents in Google Docs, talk through questions you have about topics in class, and work together to make your final product the best it can be. The best part is it’s free! If you’re interested, sign up for a Google account (also free) and you’re good to go!
Do you take your studies on the go? iMeet can help you stay connected with your classmates or students wherever you may be. You can connect with up to 15 people at once, share documents, take notes and chat with attendees all from your computer, smartphone or tablet. This one’s not free, but the features are well worth the cost!
With each passing year, standards for student achievement in K-12 classrooms across the country continue to rise. Most recently, the wide-spread adoption of Common Core State Standards has forced a new focus on student achievement and application of real world knowledge and skills. In an effort to help students exceed these expectations and succeed in the classroom, proactive educators must seek continuing education that can be immediately translated in to the classroom.
With this goal in mind, online degrees and certificate programs have quickly become the solution. “Choosing between a certificate program and degree program should really be tied to the student’s goals,” says Dr. Karen Ferguson, Assistant Dean for Northcentral University’s School of Education.
“A degree program will provide students with both a breadth and a depth of information in their chosen area. A certificate, on the other hand, tends to be very focused and specific. Students should choose between the two based on their personal goals and professional requirements.”
In today’s competitive market for online education, fewer requirements, a completion date that is often as short as a few months, and a lower cost for total tuition have given certificate programs the edge – for now.
“Certificate options demonstrate to your school leadership that you are dedicated to continuous improvement and learning,” explains Dr. Ferguson. “Often, certificates are a nice addition because students can learn focused content that may not have been offered at the time they earned their degree.”
For example, earning an education certificate in early childhood education, e-learning or education leadership would serve almost any educator well. While these specializations are common among online schools, NCU’s School of Education has taken specialized to a higher degree by becoming hyper-focused on the needs of teachers across the country attempting to adapt to the Common Core State Standards requirements.
“NCU offers certificates in a number of areas, all of which will support our students’ goals. One of our recent additions is the Mathematics Excellence in the Common Core post-baccalaureate certificate. This unique certification in education
is designed specifically to help educators who are currently teaching mathematics to implement the Common Core State Standards,” says Dr. Ferguson.
Whether completing a degree program for advancement or a certificate program for added knowledge, online continuing teacher education is now the go-to solution for educators looking to prepare their students for success. For more information on all of NCU’s Title IV funded certificate programs, visit www.ncu.edu.
BY: ERIN WALSH
You have just received a passing grade on the last assignment of the last course of your degree program. You’ve been living for this day for months –years even. You finally have the time to reconnect with your family and friends and tell everyone you know that you’ve accomplished your goal. How do you feel?
Many of you probably assume you will relieved, excited, even euphoric. However, accomplishing a long-term goal can lead to a wide range of emotions.
“People often experience mixed feelings at the end of a rigorous process,” explains Darren Adamson (Ph.D.), associate professor for NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences and director of curriculum development for the MFT programs. “These feelings can range from exhilaration to disappointment. Some individuals may feel guilty and anxious while others are proud of their accomplishment and feel satisfaction.”
According to Adamson, many factors can lead to these different emotions, including:
- Accomplishment of a long-term goal or task
- Meeting your own and others’ expectations
- Overcoming the different challenges within your goal or task
- Changes in your formerly predictable schedule
- Failing to acknowledge an uncertain future
- Questioning the reality of your accomplishment
If you find yourself feeling differently than you expected post–graduation, the first thing to remind yourself of is that it’s completely normal! While your feelings may be confusing, they are actually quite predictable. Take advantage of the wisdom learned by those who have gone before you and try some of these tips to help you manage your emotions.
- Let your feelings be what they are and do not worry about them—just feel them.
- Celebrate your accomplishment with family, friends and other graduates. If possible, attend your commencement.
- Accept praise from others—it may feel unreal at first, but many of them saw how hard you worked and know what you sacrificed for this achievement.
- Compare where you were when you started your program and where you are now. Accept and own the changes.
- Be deliberate in your planning for a career change or advancement. It won’t happen without you!
- Access all the support resources available to you in your efforts to use your degree to your career advantage.
Most of all, remember that you’re not alone.
Just because you graduated, that doesn’t mean your connection with your school has to end. Get involved in NCU’s alumni association and network with others who have similar career interests. You may find that staying connected is the best reality check for remembering and celebrating everything you’ve accomplished.
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
At Northcentral University, the role of our Academic Advisors is not just administrative. Our advisors strive to be supportive and encouraging of our students, advocating for their success. NCU’s Academic Advisors direct students to academic resources and especially in the online environment, act as consistent point of contact to help students navigate the University’s policies, procedures and various departments.
After many years of being privy to how students learn best, what works, and what holds them back, our Academic Advisors now present the Top 5 Tips that successful students use to complete their programs successfully:
Time Management: Students often report their biggest struggle is making time for school work. Balancing academic obligations with family, work and professional obligations can be difficult. If adequate time is not set aside for assignment completion, students can fall behind quickly. Managing time effectively is one way to show your commitment to the program and honor your professional goals.
Utilization of Resources: Many of our most successful students understand the importance of seeking a variety of diverse perspectives. Taking advantage of tutoring, peer and instructor feedback, and APA and library resources will ensure students are up-to-date on requirements, and ultimately make them more confident about their work. For doctoral students this is especially important because of the nature of the dissertation phase where there is much more back and forth between editing and revision. The ability to incorporate feedback and synthesize information and insight from a wide variety of sources is something that successful students take the time to learn and do well.
Proactive Communication: Successful students communicate proactively and seek assistance as early as possible when experiencing difficulty with the academic process. They do not wait very long for a response before reaching out in another way or seeking confirmation that an initial communication has been received. Academic Advisors and your instructors should be informed if extenuating circumstances are preventing you from submitting assignments in a timely manner. In this way, successful students work to resolve problems while they are manageable and before problems begin to snowball.
Professional Application: Successful students often have a professional context in which to apply their learning that works to their advantage. Students who are passionate about their subject and who concentrate on networking and building a professional name for themselves while still in school will feel even more confident when approaching graduation and professional application. At the same time, professional networking and experience in the real world application of a course of study facilitates a student’s ability to complete high quality coursework. Successful students look early and often toward their ultimate professional goals and how the topics they research or the concepts they study will enhance their understanding and assist them in their professional life.
Confidence: Advocating for oneself can portray a student in a positive and confident way. Our most successful students are able to communicate succinctly and considerately when defending their theories, coursework and desire to fully understand feedback or policy. It is not uncommon for advisors to hear a student express concern that being assertive to self-advocate might lead to negative repercussions. In fact, the result is just the opposite when critique and questioning of rationale is articulated respectfully and with a confidence to acknowledge any misunderstanding.
BY: KARA HAWKING
Academic writing is one of the most difficult skills for graduate students to master. Combining hours of research, condensing your learning onto a few pages and ensuring it reads effortlessly – versus a string of citations and paraphrases strung together – is not an intuitive skill. It is a learned ability.
But believe it or not, almost every student struggles with the writing process at some point in their academic career. Even the best writers are not immune to receiving feedback.
Current NCU student and Senior Marketing Manager, Alexis Castorina, has learned the value of applying instructor feedback. “Since receiving [constructive] feedback, I’ve been more actively reading economic news and finding ways to apply what’s going on in the world as supporting information in my papers,” Castorina explains.
For advice on how to become a more effective academic writer, Higher Degrees reached out to Susan Krause (M.Ed.), NCU’s Writing Center Coordinator. Krause’s daily interactions with students seeking advice from the Writing Center has given her an inside track to the most common mistakes graduate students make in their writing.
Over time, Krause has developed the following list of helpful academic writing tips and resources:
- Good academic writing starts with critical reading. Learn to think critically by questioning everything you read and you will become a better writer.
- Understand what plagiarism is by reviewing the NCU Academic Integrity section in the NCU Writing Center.
- Read and apply the feedback received from your instructor. There will be room for improvement on every assignment.
- Bookmark Chapter 3 in the APA Manual (6th ed.). It contains valuable information on clear and concise writing that all students can benefit from.
- Keep a copy of The Academic Writer’s Handbook (3rd ed.) by Leonard J.Rosen by your laptop.
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
The holiday season is a time for family, good food, recalling holiday seasons past, and making new memories. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be like.
Let’s face it – not every family’s holiday celebration is straight out of a movie. If your family gathering feels more like World War III than a celebration of holiday joy, you’re not alone. Help make this holiday season a little more bearable by using the tips below.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
If you walk in expecting chaos, you’ll get it! Take the time to mentally prepare for the time you’ll spend with family. Make a conscious effort to go with the flow and not let the drama affect your mood. Having a positive attitude about holiday get-togethers is the first step toward harmony.
Make a Game Plan
It might sound silly, but having a game plan for the occasion is a must. Think about how you’ll answer the awkward questions your Aunt Sue will ask, who you’ll sit next to for the meal and even your limit on glasses of wine. The only person you can control is yourself, so having a plan for the tough moments is a good first step.
Think Before You Speak
Are you irked by a comment your sister, cousin or uncle made at last year’s holiday feast? It’s probably best not to re-hash the details over this year’s meal. Make an effort to stop, breathe and think before you speak. Just think – you may have been spared 364 days of hurt if Uncle Joe would have counted to three before embarrassing you in front of the family!
Find a Holiday Season Buddy
We all have that one friend who can bring us back from the brink, right? No, not the one who agrees with every word of your rant, but the one that calms you down and gives you a little perspective. It’s time to enlist their help for the holiday season. You don’t have to bring them as a plus one to the party, just have them on standby for your most stressful moments. Once you step out the front door, pick up your phone and let it all out – they’ll understand!
Having a small panic attack about the marathon family party circuit you’re about to start? We all love our families, but sometimes we just need a break! Make sure you plan for a little alone time before party season starts. Whether you call your Holiday Buddy to vent, watch a movie, read a book or just stare at the stars after a long night, the guests at your next event will reap the benefits of the time you spent unwinding.
It’s Okay to Say No
Every family goes through rough patches. If it’s been a particularly stressful year, it might be best to take the holidays off. Choosing to spend your holiday season with friends rather than family doesn’t mean you love them any less, it just means you’re choosing not to stir the pot. So, go have some fun with friends and hope for a more positive 2014.
BY: ALEXIS CASTORINA
Career coaching and professional development businesses are becoming more popular as professionals seek solutions to help them stand out in a crowded job market, refine existing skills and explore career options. Whether you are looking for a new job or want to improve in your current role, the career coaching experience can continue to pay dividends for coachees for many years following a completed program.
What is career coaching? Is it similar to a mentorship program?
Career coaching helps individuals clarify their career goals, present themselves in the best manner in professional situations, and even search for a new job or career path, in order to attain a more satisfying career and personal life.
According to Elisabet Rodriguez, founder and president of Rodriguez and Associates, a Pittsburgh-based firm specializing in career coaching for women’s advancement, career coaching and mentorship are very different. “Mentoring is an ongoing experience and relationship. It is one of teaching and learning,” she said. “Coaching is more short-term. It is to address a specific issue and to correct it.”
Rodriquez is actively involved in executive leadership programs for multinational companies, teaches a women’s executive leadership program at Duquesne University, and is author of Can You Afford to Ignore Me? How to Manage Gender and Cultural Differences at Work.
Mentoring involves networking for career development and strategic thinking. Career coaching addresses a very specific situation that, if not corrected, can derail you or prevent you from performing at your best, according to Rodriguez.
“A good example of a situation in which someone would benefit from career coaching is if a person claims, ‘People say I come off as aggressive in meetings. I want to modify my behavior so people do not perceive me as being aggressive.’”
A career coach will help you to rationalize the situation and can help provide a clear analysis of the situation or behavior you want to correct.
How do you find a career coach? What is the cost?
If there are behavioral traits that you would like to change about yourself or there is a situation at work that you would like an objective opinion on in order to help you find a solution, then a career coach may be a good investment for you.
There are thousands of career coaches across the country. Each coaching service is different. Some only focus on certain attributes in professional development. Additionally, while there is a certification process for career coaches, it is not required, and a person can present themselves as a career coach without being certified.
The range in price can vary according to your needs and your role within a company, but hourly rates for career coaches can range from an average of $150 per hour to thousands of dollars per hour for very senior level professionals and executives.
If you’re employed at a mid-sized or large organization and are interested in a career coach, a good first step is to contact your immediate supervisor and human resources department. Many companies contract with career coaching services, and if they don’t, can offer recommendations based on your goals.
What to expect from career coaching?
“Typically when you’re working in a corporate environment, the experience lasts six to eight months,” she said. “However, the length of time depends on why the individual sought out coaching in the first place.”
During the coaching process, the coach will provide homework and guidelines to modify the behavior of the coachee. The coachee provides their coach with examples of how they are behaving in certain circumstances. The coach will then measure progress to see how a behavior is being changed.
Rodriguez noted that the coachee must sustain a sense of awareness and be alert in order to change a behavior. “A good coach can help you stay on a very clear path, and when you’re experiencing difficulty, a safe place to go, and provide direction on how to move forward.”
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
Diane Hamilton (Ph.D., Business Administration, 2008) is an alumna with more than 25 years of business and management-related experience in software, pharmaceuticals, corporate training, finance, and real estate.
Hamilton currently teaches at several universities, is a contributing writer for business-related websites like Investopedia.com, and is the author of three books: It’s Not You: It’s Your Personality: Skills to Survive and Thrive in the Modern Workplace, How to Reinvent Your Career: Make Money Doing What You Love, and The Online Student’s User Manual: Everything You Need to Know to be a Successful Online Student.
Higher Degrees caught up with Hamilton to learn more about the topics she has written about including online learning, understanding personalities in the workforce, and reinventing your career.
How does a person who has just finished a degree change his or her career path?
If you want to change your career path, it may require some additional training and experience. Some people get degrees in a specific area and then change their minds about what they want to do when they graduate. If a degree is broad like a business degree, there are more options than if the degree is not, for example, Portuguese Communications. It may be as simple as adding a certificate or as complicated as obtaining a post-graduate degree. Many schools have added career planning as part of their training. I teach one course where students must take personality assessments and do assignments within a career center.
What role does someone’s personality play in the workplace?
I believe personality plays a big part in whether someone is successful in their job. Many companies administer assessments like the Myers Briggs MBTI. This may be very helpful to determine whether tasks fit personality preferences. I have a strongly extroverted personality which helped me when I was in sales. Now it helps me because I can give lectures and share insights in class.
How can people make a living doing what they love?
It may not be possible to get rich doing what you love (at least initially). Sometimes you have to pay your dues in jobs you do not love in order to finally reach the level you desire. Many people are unrealistic in their expectations for what jobs pay. It is important to have a clear goal prior to entering school if possible. If you do not discover what you love until you graduate, it may be more challenging. However, as with any goal, there may need to be smaller more attainable goals set to reach the overall goal. For example, I am a better teacher now than I would have been had I gone directly into teaching in my 20s. All of my experience led to my ability to add more to the classroom discussions. I had a lot of jobs there were not wonderful. However, they all taught me something that has helped me in my dream job that I have now.
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
Eating candy can help you become a better student! Wait, haven’t you been trying to tell your parents that since elementary school? Well, as it turns out you were right all along. Indulging in sweets (in moderation, of course!) might actually help you get the most out of your study time. If you’ve been holding off those sugar cravings for years, sweet relief is finally here!
In order to maximize the benefit of each delicious bite, it’s best to have a game plan (and shopping list) in place. So before you grab your wallet and run, take a few minutes to browse the advice below.
If you think you’re doing yourself a favor by opting for the sugar-free version of your favorite study time snack, you might be wrong. As it turns out, just a little bit of sugar may go a long way in helping you power through to the end of your coma-inducing reading assignment. In fact, recent studies show that not only will you get to the end with a sugar boost; you’ll have focused better throughout. Now, rejoice and grab that bag of candy you’ve been eyeing. Anything with sugar will do!
Chocolate-Flavored Mood Booster
Ah, chocolate. The taste alone can help brighten even the darkest days, but did you know it contains a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) that can actually enhance your mood? In fact, it’s proven to help relieve signs of depression. So, what does that have to do with your study time? You get to enjoy those M&M’s you’ve been dreaming about while writing your next paper, of course! But seriously, think of it this way – if you’re in a better mood, you’ll study longer. If you study longer, you’re bound to get better results on those papers and tests!
Having trouble focusing on the task at hand? Grab a peppermint! Studies at the University of Cincinnati show that you’ll concentrate better and even become more alert, not to mention the added benefit of having the freshest breath around. If a bag of peppermints isn’t your first choice for a sugary snack, try stopping by Starbuck’s for a peppermint hot chocolate or grabbing a piece of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark for a mood-brightening bonus!
Gum-Smacking for Stress Relief
For many students, battling stress is an everyday occurrence. If you find yourself battling anxiety, try chewing a piece of gum to ease the pain. The repetitive nature can help release nervous tension, letting you focus on the task at hand. If you’re a little skeptical, check out a little research on the benefits of chewing, then pick up a pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum and start reaping the benefits. And don’t forget – none of that sugar-free stuff!
BY: KARA HAWKING
Certificate programs are an efficient way to expand your knowledge without committing to the time and cost of an additional degree. They can be completed for fun, or as part of a career development strategy.
David G. Moore Jr. (Ph.D.), curriculum and assessments faculty in NCU’s School of Business and Technology Management is a self-described collector of diplomas and certificates. Moore holds undergraduate certificates in culinary arts and bartending, plus commercial and workplace Spanish. This is in addition to Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) certificates.
Although he has completed certificates for personal knowledge, Moore is a staunch believer that certificate programs allow students to revise their career path without completing a second or third degree. In fact, according to US News & World Report, “for some… a certificate or just a few courses are enough to get a promotion – and a raise.”
“Let’s say a student has an undergraduate degree in computer science and has been working in software development for several years,” says Moore. “If they decide they want to move into a managerial role, a certificate in project management would be perfect for them. It augments their existing technical skills with the necessary project management skills to start seeking a more supervisory position.”
While some, like Moore collect certificates for fun, for others they become part of a licensing requirement.
Shannyn Stern, vice president and controller at Northcentral University is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In order to maintain her certification, Stern is required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing professional education each year. Enrolling in a certificate program allows Stern to fulfill her annual professional education hours while at the same time adding a new certificate to her resume.
Although educators are not required to complete professional development courses, it is an expectation that they will do so. Taking coursework to gain endorsements on top of their teaching certificate is a way for teachers to ensure continued professional growth.
NCU’s Assistant Dean of the School of Education, Karen Ferguson (Ph.D.) asserts that “academic certificates demonstrate content mastery, a dedication to lifelong learning and professional development. Certificates… demonstrate to school leadership that [teachers] are dedicated to continuous improvement and learning.”
With the demand for fast and convenient education solutions rising, countless 100 percent online certificate programs are now available in almost any professional field out there. In fact, Drexel University offers an online graduate certificate in creativity and innovation!
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.
Remember being a kid and looking forward to the holiday season each year? There was nothing more exciting than getting time off school, spending time with family, listening to cheerful songs on the radio, eating great food and opening presents, lots of presents. Ah, the good old days! Now you’re all grown up, and the holidays represent something completely different. Sure, all of the excitement is still in the air, but there’s something about having to plan, cook and host it all that makes the season just a little more stressful.
Don’t let the thought of everything you need to do to prepare for the holiday season become overwhelming! You can get back to enjoying the final days of 2013 by properly preparing for the stress the season brings. Take a few moments to sit down, breathe and take in these suggestions for making your life just a tad easier.
Plan Your Time
If you’re anything like the rest of us, your holiday to-do list is a few miles long. From shopping to baking and family time, the last few weeks of each year are packed full of preparation for can’t-miss gatherings. Planning for the chaos is your best defense against obligation overload, so use this opportunity to start a positive time management habit – calendar blocking. Then, make a commitment to stick to your plan.
Set a Strict Budget
The holidays emphasize the spirit of generosity and it feels good to share your holiday spirit with others. If you’re stressed about fitting all of the gifts, food and charity contributions in to your budget this year, you’re not alone. Holiday spending (and the stress that goes with it) can get out of control fast, so take the time to set a strict budget. Not sure where to start? Check out this how to article complete with budget worksheets and tips on tracking, tweaking and limiting your spending.
Make a Holiday Playlist
When you’re out fighting crowds and standing in the checkout line for hours, it’s easy to forget that the holiday season is really about family, friends and being thankful for togetherness. If you find yourself standing at the edge of a holiday breakdown, try listening to a few holiday songs that can bring you back from the brink. In fact, it might be a good idea to be proactive and craft a holiday playlist ready for blasting through your headphones at a moment’s notice. If you’re in need of a few suggestions, try browsing Billboard’s list of hot holiday songs.
Spread the Holiday Spirit
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get from giving back to your community. Volunteering for a local food drive, food bank or church not only helps your community, it helps you to become more grateful for the gifts you have in your life. If you’re having trouble finding a volunteer opportunity to feel passionate about, try VolunteerMatch.org. With a database full of opportunities to give back across the country, you’re sure to find something close to home.
Thanksgiving dinner is arguably the most anticipated meal of the year. What have you done to prepare? If your answer is “nothing,” don’t stress. You’ve still got (a little) time to pull together an impressive feast. Start by browsing the recipes below, craft a well-organized shopping list, and then make a mad dash to your local grocery store to grab the necessities before they’re gone!
Let’s face it, the turkey is the star of the day. But with so many options for this famed-fowl, which direction should you go? Beginners might choose to start with this Class Roast Turkey recipe from famed Chef Emeril Lagasse. If you’re a seasoned veteran of turkey preparation, try using turkey brine recipe to bring a little unique flavor to your bird. Finally, for those feeling especially adventurous this holiday season, give the fried turkey a try. You can’t go wrong with a little deep-fried goodness (don’t forget the safety goggles!)!
From apples and cornbread to pecans and sweet sausage, it seems everyone has their own Thanksgiving stuffing style, but which best fits your feast? There’s no right answer – just go with your gut! If you’re looking for something a little different this year, check out Country Living’s 21 Recipes for Thanksgiving Stuffing. Or, for those that stick with tradition, use this tried-and-true Classic Bread Turkey Stuffing from Betty Crocker. Whichever recipe you choose, don’t stress – stuffing is used to playing second fiddle to turkey!
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
You’re either a lumps or no lumps kind of family, there is no in between! Admit it – you’re probably only truly safe at the Thanksgiving table if you stick with tradition on this one. But if you’re willing to risk it, try Giada De Laurentiis’ Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs or Paula Deen’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes. You won’t be disappointed!
As for the gravy, your best bet is to stick with simple. The potato (and anything else that ends up getting smothered) should take center stage, so don’t overdo it! Check out this No-Fail Make Anytime Turkey Gravy if you’re up for the challenge of making it from scratch. If not, Heinz has a great option in a jar – we won’t tell!
Green Bean Casserole
No Thanksgiving spread is complete without a green bean casserole. While each family’s rendition might look a little different, that undisputable taste is the same. Whether you use the traditional Campbell’s Classic Green Bean Casserole Recipe or took yours from Betty Crocker, this one’s a crowd-pleaser at any gathering.
It’s the classic cranberry conundrum – whole or jellied? Here’s a tip for Thanksgiving table harmony – include both! Now that you’ve got that settled, consult the designated cranberry experts for canned options and a fresh recipe – Ocean Spray! If you’re looking to save time, pick up a few cans at your local grocery store. Up for the fresh and from scratch route? This Fresh Cranberry Sauce recipe is sure to satisfy even the most critical cranberry fan.
A piece of pie – no matter the flavor – is the perfect ending to your Thanksgiving feast. While every family has their favorites, there’s no denying the classic pumpkin pie is a must-have. Once you’ve made sure to include pumpkin, feel free to go wild! From pecan to sweet potato and apple, The Food Network’s collection of the Best Thanksgiving Pie and Tart Recipes is sure to inspire. Not in to baking? Pick up a few flavors at your local grocery store and pop them in the oven for a few minutes before serving to get that homemade taste.
BY: JORDAN MARLOW
With the job market becoming more competitive, embracing technology to assist in the search for your next career is a necessity. The following apps can help you reduce the inevitable headache that comes along with a job search.
Linkedin – Available on IOS & Android for Free
Linkedin is the professional’s social network. It allows you to create an online resume shared with a network of friends, colleagues, and likeminded individuals within your field. It also works as a job search engine, which gives you the ability to connect with recruiters, companies, and leaders within your industry. Linkedin not only allows you to search for job openings in your area, but also sends emails with new job postings you may be interested in exploring based on the information within your profile.
Indeed, Job Search Engine – Available on IOS & Android for Free
Indeed provides an easy to use two-step search to help you find careers available in your area. Using career specific keywords and in combination with your location, Indeed provides a list of all the careers matching your search criteria. Search results can be filtered to show the newest posts on top, giving you the ability to apply for the newest jobs available.
CareerBuilder – Available on IOS & Android for Free
The CareerBuilder app allows you to search for jobs via a broad quick search and can help you narrow your search with an advanced search option. The advanced search option allows you to select multiple cities, set your salary range, as well as several other helpful options. Much like the LinkedIn job alerts, you can also register to receive email alerts that will provide you with new career postings that fall within your selected criteria.
Pocket Resume Pro – Available on IOS & Android for $2.99
The Pocket Resume Pro app lets you create and send a stylish resume from your phone or tablet. Pocket Resume keeps your resume mobile, allowing you to update on the go and send your professional and creative resume via PDF.
SimplyHired – Available on IOS & Android for Free
The self-proclaimed “world’s largest job search engine,” Simply Hired is available in an easy to use app. With over five million jobs listings from newspapers, bulletin boards, and company postings, your search results could be seemingly endless. SimplyHired allows you to filter results based on your career needs such as contract work, full-time, or part-time. The app also allows you to save your favorite postings and automatically saves your search history to help keep track of successful or not-so-successful searches you’ve performed.
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.