Leadership and Organizational Studies, M.A.
Why did you choose this graduate degree program? What interested you in this particular
field of study?
I knew that I wanted to get a master’s degree and initially I was looking at doing an MBA program, but I was having a hard time getting excited about it. I knew that I wanted to take courses that helped me to be a better leader within my organization and to better facilitate our organization’s growth, but I wasn’t overly excited about the accounting and marketing aspects of an MBA. As I was researching other types of graduate degree programs, I came across the Master of Arts in Leadership and Organizational Studies program at CBU. As I read the description of what the program was all about, I found that it was exactly what I was looking for in a graduate program.
What did you like about being in this program at CBU?
One thing that I really enjoyed about being in the program was the small class sizes. I also liked being in a cohort with the same students each semester. A combination of those two things allowed me to really get to know my classmates and professors. I felt that this was especially important in a program such as this, because we were all able to draw strength from one another and to provide hope and encouragement, even when things were rough. Juggling school, work, and family really does get rough and discouraging at times.
I also liked that within this program, people came from a wide variety of professional backgrounds. This was important for me because it allowed me to see the practical application of concepts and principles from many different perspectives, which helped me get a better overall understanding of a concept. I also really enjoyed the Christian environment of the school. Almost all of the professors had their own unique way that they incorporated Christianity into the courses, and it really helped bring a sense of peace into the classes, even though we may have all been stressed or worked up about school, work, family, etc.
I will say that you absolutely get out of the program what you put into it. Most of the people in my cohort were all in, trying to absorb all that they could and trying to improve themselves. I believe that those individuals truly benefitted from and were changed by the program. Those only in it for the degree will walk away with just that and nothing more. To me, the degree was important, but the things I learned were so much more valuable.
What did you think about your professors?
All of the professors that I had were very well versed in the particular subjects that they were teaching and I felt as though they took a vested interest in helping each student get as much out of their course as possible. I also feel as though I benefitted because the professors came from a variety of backgrounds, both from education and from the private sector. They provided me with insights and real-world applications from their wealth of knowledge and experiences that has proven to be invaluable to me. I found that my professors were always willing to take time outside of class to answer questions, address concerns, and to mentor me, in order to help me glean as much as possible from the subject that I was studying.
Did you complete any field work?
As part of the conclusion to my graduate degree program, I had the opportunity to work on a semester-long project at my current business. The scope of the project involved me implementing a variety of principles and concepts from each of my courses and into to my business. Altogether, I spent over 170 hours on this project, but my company and I are still feeling the benefits of this project, a year and a half later. Although it sounds like a lot of time, and it was, I was able to structure it in a way that I was able to incorporate much of it into my day to day responsibilities at work. It provided a very practical way for me to apply some of the more significant things that I learned from this program into a real-world situation.
How did you grow while in this program at CBU?
During my time at CBU I grew in many ways. Going through the experience of juggling a demanding job, a family, and a rigorous school schedule, I learned a lot about who I was and what I could do when I really put my mind to it. I learned to be a better listener, a better leader, and a better employer. Applying those same principles, I also feel that I am a better father and husband because of it. I learned what it really means to put my trust in God, especially when the path is rocky. I developed the skills to change the culture within my organization and to help us develop a vision for the future. My approach to leading an organization and the way that I view my employees has been forever changed for the better, based on what I learned during this program.
What have you done since graduating?
Since leaving CBU, my job title has not changed. I was already the CEO of my company; but I knew that I personally had room to improve and I knew that our company could do better which is why I went back to school. Based on several changes that we have made as a company, many as a direct result of what I learned during my time at CBU, we have seen tremendous growth (31% in my first full year after graduating). More exciting than that though is that the way we have grown.
In the past during times of significant growth, it has added a ton to my plate leaving me in a state of constant stress, and there have been tremendous growing pains for our company as a whole. Even with this significant growth we have been able to avoid many of the problems that we have had in the past when expanding. Using what I learned in grad school, I have been able to teach my management team how to better handle problems, how to make better hiring decisions, how to better inspire their staff, among many other things. This has led to our growth feeling much more manageable and it has led to significantly higher morale within our company.
How has your time at CBU prepared you for your life and career after grad school?
I can’t say enough about how much my grad school experience changed me and prepared me to truly lead my company. I learned many skills and techniques for being a leader, rather than a manager, which I still use on a daily basis. The biggest thing that my time at CBU did for me, however, was to raise my vision of what was possible. I used to almost dread going to work and I felt like our company was good, but at about the max of where we could be. In many respects we ran things like a mom and pop organization. For many employees, their job was just that, a job.
I now have employees who have bought in to the company and what we are trying to do for the long haul. I learned how to empower my staff and I learned how to completely change our corporate culture. I also began to run things more like a legitimate business rather than as a mom and pop. Once these things happened, the increase we have seen in our business was a natural result.
Is there anything you learned at CBU that you still use in your professional life
There is a tremendous amount of what I learned while in grad school that I use in my professional life on a regular basis. One of the most significant concepts for me personally was that I learned the concept of getting the right people into your organization and in the right positions. Just because someone knows what they are doing, doesn’t mean that they are the right fit for your organization or that they are in the best role possible within your organization. Trying to implement this and to practice it on a daily basis has caused me many sleepless nights. It has also led to me having to make some painful decisions; but ultimately it has done wonders for our company. My management team has all bought into this way of thinking and at the end of the day, morale is significantly up and we have never had such a large number of solid employees that buy into the vision of the company and that are simply all in.
Another major takeaway for me from my time at CBU was that I learned how to clearly think things through in order to make better decisions than what I had been making up to that point. I learned about all of the things in life that affect our decision making. Some of these things may lead to us make decisions based on fear, emotion, irrational thoughts, etc. rather than just making a decision based simply on the merits of the situation. I learned how to mentally take a step back and look at the whole picture rather than just focus on a tiny aspect of it like I used to do. On a daily basis, I am faced with difficult choices, but I now feel more equipped to make them, and this way of approaching things pays off for me on a regular basis.
How are you making a difference in the world? How are you living your purpose?
I do have a few charities that I am somewhat involved in and have hopes to become more involved in over time, however the two biggest ways that I am trying to “live my purpose” right now has to do with my family and with my employees.
While at CBU I learned the importance of having a good work-life balance. Because my job is demanding and because I was taking on too many of my employees’ problems rather than empowering them to address problems themselves, I was constantly in a state of feeling weighed down by work, and I frequently didn’t have time for my wife and kids. I feel that by implementing much of what I learned, I have freed up myself to a point where I can spend significant amounts of quality time with my family. There was a point where I never thought that was a possibility, and it feels amazing. A couple of my children have some unique challenges and they need my time and my love. Overall, at this stage in my life, I feel as though being there for my kids and giving them the love, attention, and support that they need is paramount.
I am also very passionate about improving the quality of the lives of my employees. I am proud of the fact that I have been able to significantly increase wages over the last couple of years and to focus our company’s growth in areas that will support us being able to continue to pay better than average salaries for our industry. I have also tried to add extra perks around the office and to regularly do nice things for my employees in order to show them that they are appreciated. Additionally, I have focused a significant amount of time in finding employees with compatible personalities so that most of my employees genuinely like the people that they work with. I know that these things may not seem like a big deal to many, but I genuinely love to know that I am a part of making my employees’ quality of life just a little better.
Would you recommend CBU to others?
Yes, and I have. It’s a great environment, it is academically rigorous, and I feel that professionally speaking, it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Quit coming up with excuses why you shouldn’t pursue your education; just take a leap of faith and go for it. I know it’s scary, but it’s worth it in the end.