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The Journey of a Lifelong Learning Executive

Even when in a stable career position, continuing education is important to help expand one’s horizons. Photo by DOD EMP Eric Armstrong.

It’s not your usual adult education story, but I doubt it is that unusual. My wife decided that she would get her Master’s in Psychology as we live in a small rural town in northern Nevada (pop: 18K). This is a mining town with a very diverse international cultural base and a high level of education. There is no institute of higher learning here except for a small community college which only offers two Bachelor degree programs.

Obviously we needed to go online for learning. In my wife’s case the criteria for her program were:

  • The University had to be accredited across the US.
  • The program had to be accepted by state licensure boards in every state
  • The program had to be affordable (she had no access to tuition assistance)
  • The program had to be offered online with some on-campus learning
  • The program had to be flexible in recognizing mentors and internship opportunities due to the limitations in our area.

When we had finished doing all our research and review, Walden came out on top. After about eight months of classes my wife challenged me to join her in earning a Master’s.

My company pays 80% of continuing education so there would be little additional financial impact, and as a second student at Walden we would receive a discount on my wife’s education.

Why should I go back to school? I’m a 50 year old executive in a stable company with solid prospects for continued employment. In fact mining is an industry that encourages employment longevity.

I am a life long learner, I read avidly and try to stay up to date on a broad spectrum of topics, from space exploration, ecology, art and history and science fiction writing. I expected the opportunity to engage with intellectuals pursuing higher education would be mentally challenging and a return to my academic past that I had enjoyed as a child and young adult. Plus a Master’s degree is fast becoming the required norm for executive positions and my company encourages education.

I was somewhat disappointed that in an age of Skype and teleconferencing ; the educational institution I was enrolled in did not have these modern connections built into the course requirements. In fact students are left very much to their own devices as to how they connect to complete collaborative online projects. This was disappointing to say the least, as I have a high need for control and a desire to excel I found I had in many courses to put myself into a leadership role to ensure my grade did not suffer from the lack of effort put forth by other students.

I found the majority of the students I interacted with were not the intellectual challengers I expected to meet, many are younger students who do not have global work experience or executive experience to share. However education is about sharing and mentoring as much as it is about learning from others so I have focused on that aspect.

In all going back to school to earn a Master’s degree has been a rewarding and engaging experience. I have read books and articles I would not have picked up on my own that have had bearing on my work. I have been able to maintain a perfect GPA and set an example for my own children who are full time University undergraduate students. In fact all four of us in my family are in school at the same time. I will be the first to graduate in August followed within a week by my wife.

It has been an interesting journey.

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