What They Are Saying

Arts Administration


"Arts Administration allows you to use both sides of your brain and to capitalize on the skills you already have as an artist or performer. I am very proud to have earned the certificate and grateful for all the support and encouragement I received from Frank Mack and my other UConn professors."

- Joy Pace, Arts Administration graduate

 

Joy Pace, Arts Administration

Joy Pace, who recently completed the Arts Administration Online Graduate
Certificate Program, proudly hangs a UConn flag outside her home in Louisiana.
Joy Pace, Artistic and Executive Director Itinerant Theatre Lake Charles, LA

 

Learning the Business Side of the Arts

When you run a small not-for-profit performing arts organization on a shoestring budget, you better be prepared to wear all kinds of hats, from marketing director to chief fundraiser to accountant. At least that's what Joy Pace discovered after several months on the job as Artistic and Executive Director for the Itinerant Theatre in Louisiana, a nonprofit professional theater company for which she was one of the founding board members.

The name—Itinerant Theatre—fits the performing arts company to a tee. As Joy Pace explains, a key part of its mission is to bring an affordable, professional forum for the performing arts directly to artistically underserved communities. "We are wanderers—we take our performances to places throughout Louisiana that are culturally underserved."

Joy had been serving as the theater's Artistic and Executive Director for about a year, when she realized she was missing a big piece of the knowledge she needed to manage the business side of the organization. "While I knew all about the creative parts of the job, I really didn't know enough about marketing, accounting, fundraising, or working with a board of directors—everything I did was trial by error," says Joy, who holds a BA in Speech and an MFA in Directing.

That was all about to change.

Joy received a postcard in the mail promoting UConn's Arts Administration online graduate certificate program. As she explains, "I couldn't take any time off to go back to school and there's nowhere locally to get the skills I needed. When I visited the website, read about the program's focus, and learned that I could take each of the four online courses one semester at a time, I was sold."

Since graduating from the program in May 2016, she says that the knowledge she gained has been invaluable. "The program was incredibly helpful and beneficial. It addressed all of the business aspects of managing an arts organization like ours."

Learning how boards of directors work.

The Governance and Leadership for the Arts course, Joy explains, enabled her to better understand how a board of directors works and how to inspire its members to handle many of the tasks that had been bogging her down. "I had been taking on so much that many people thought it was the Joy Pace Theater Company, rather than a collaborative organization with a great team working together to put on outstanding performances in a fiscally responsible way. With the new skills I acquired, we now have board members helping with a variety of projects, including one member who will soon be taking on our Kickstarter Campaign for us."

Sharpening her marketing and financial skills.

The program also helped Joy sharpen her marketing and financial skills. "I'm the only paid staff person, so all of the critical business skills were on my shoulders. Through the program, I learned how to write different types of marketing materials and use different marketing tools to target specific audiences. We also had the opportunity to examine a variety of marketing approaches used by theaters all over the country to figure out what was working and what wasn't ... and I learned how to read financial statements and audit reports. I draw on these new skills every day."

So what surprised Joy most about the program? "Thanks to the online tools we had at our disposal, it was very interactive. I was able to connect with many people from around the world, including an American women living and working in Korea. She was in a couple of my classes."

Using both sides of your brain.

If you're concerned that moving into the Arts Administration field will detract from your artistic side, Joy says not to worry. She continues to use many of the skills and draws upon the work ethic she developed as an actor and director, such as her ability to persevere through long hours of practice to get a performance just right, using her creativity and vision to direct a performance, and orchestrating groups of people to work collaboratively. "Arts Administration allows you to use both sides of your brain and to capitalize on the skills you already have as an artist or performer. I am very proud to have earned the certificate and grateful for all of the support and encouragement I received from Frank Mack and my other UConn professors."

__________________________


"My art is still my focal point—I may not be playing or teaching as much now, but I am working towards the greater goal of fostering arts in our community, thanks to the Arts Administration online graduate certificate program." - Daniel Brandl, Arts Administration graduate

 

d_brandlDaniel Brandl, graduate of the Arts Administration certificate, is making
a big impact on the performing arts community in Eastern Connecticut as
the Executive Coordinator of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra.

 

Orchestrating a New Career

After many years as a successful musician, playing the jazz circuit in clubs around the country and serving as music director for several different organizations, Daniel is now having an even greater impact on the arts community because of the new job he landed. He credits having earned his Arts Administration Online Graduate Certificate from UConn for his current career success. 

Daniel has always loved music—no small wonder considering he grew up in a musical family. His dad is an organist; his mom, a singer; and his sister, who graduated from UConn, teaches music.

You could say music is in his blood and he's done it all—he's played piano as part of a jazz trio in various clubs across the country and served as Resident Music Director for the Spirit of Broadway Theater (SBT) in Norwich, CT. He's also given his time as music director at his local church, served on many arts committees, and helped dozens of friends in the business find gigs.

"I realized I wanted to do something that was bigger than myself—something that would enhance the local performing arts community. I wasn't sure what that something was until I served on the board of directors during the time when the SBT was transitioning into the Chestnut Street Playhouse," says Dan.

Yes, you can do it all online!

As Dan tells it, the company was floundering after its executive director had left. "I got very interested in understanding why the theater fell into financial and artistic turmoil. At the same time, I was becoming interested in working on the business side of performing arts. So I Goggled nonprofits, 501C3, and arts administration. The UConn online graduate certificate program website came up immediately. That's when I said to myself, "You can go back to school for this? And you can do it online? I thought that would be so cool!"

When he began the program, Daniel—who is married with two young children—taught music at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, while performing in various community theaters at night. Because the program was offered online, he was able to work on assignments when it was convenient for him. "There were deadlines, but I never felt pressured because I could learn and work at my own pace. I set aside time on the weekends, later in the evenings—even during the day when I knew I had some extra time here and there. I really learned to multi-task."

Understanding how to be fiscally responsible.

It's a good thing, too. In his current job as Executive Coordinator of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, Daniel handles everything from cultivating new donors to managing social media to deciphering financial statements—all skills he took away from the certificate program. "I now know how to develop relationships with potential donors and how to write direct mail letters and press releases that get results. I can look at a budget or audit report and know what it means, which is critical to running a fiscally responsible organization."

Dan also learned a lot about dealing with conflict. "When I joined the organization, both the executive director and I were new. There were some volunteers who weren't sure they wanted to stay on. The Governance and Leadership for the Arts course helped me learn how to nurture our volunteers so that they feel vested in the organization."

So what was the online aspect of the program like? As Dan recalls, the online interface was extremely easy to use. And he never felt lost because, at any time, he could reach out to the professors and they always answered his questions quickly. And he adds: "The people who teach the courses are all UConn professors."

The bottom line?

Daniel says that taking the certificate program led to his being able to get interviews with several outstanding nonprofits. "I went into interviews with real skills and even a portfolio of sample letters, press releases, capital campaign fliers, and other materials that I could give to a prospective employer and show them that I had the skills they would need on day one. My art is still my focal point—I may not be playing or teaching as much now, but I am working towards the greater goal of fostering arts in our community, thanks to the Arts Administration online graduate certificate program.

"There are a lot of for-profit online programs out there," he adds. "I could have chosen another program. But I chose UConn because I knew I would get credentials from a highly reputable institution with a great name. And if I want to continue with my education, I can use the credits I've already earned toward a master's degree."

Digital Media

"The online platform was detailed and well organized, allowing us to go at a reasonable pace. Yes, there was a lot of material, and you had to read quite a bit. And that does require you to be self-motivated. But it was well worth it in the end. I have a graduate certificate from a highly reputable university and I got the experience I need to pursue my love of digital animation." - Bryan Hilversum, Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate, Spring 2017

Bryan-Hilversum

As a self-trained web animator, Bryan Hilversum knew he needed to get up to speed on using the Adobe Creative Suite platform if he were going to further his skills in animation. UConn's Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate Program fit the bill perfectly!

 

Nurturing His Creative Side

Sometimes, you find out what you really want to do in life after you've already invested in a college degree. At least, for Bryan Hilversum, that's exactly what happened. He had earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 2014. But a year later, when he found out about UConn's Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate program, he quickly realized that the skills he could gain would enable him to make a living pursuing his love of animation.

Bryan Hilversum, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Business & Technology from the University of Connecticut (UConn), was already working full-time when he found out about UConn's Digital Media and Design (DMD) Online Graduate Certificate program. "I was so bummed out that I didn't hear about the program until the summer of 2015, when I had already been out of school for a year. Some of my friends had majored in DMD, and I was wishing I had done something like that while I was still in college," recalls Bryan, who currently works as a Solutions Specialist at Verizon Wireless in Hartford, CT.

Exactly what he was looking for

Bryan decided to research online DMD courses. When he came across UConn's program, he knew it was exactly what he was looking for. As he notes, he had a fairly solid technology background, but wanted to expand his creative side, specifically in motion graphics and web design. And of course, he wanted to learn Adobe Creative Cloud, today's gold standard design environment for all things digital. Says Bryan: "I have always loved animation and during my undergrad years, I taught myself how to use Adobe Flash Professional. But at that time, cartooning was just a hobby. I knew I'd need a lot more experience to turn my hobby into something that I could do as a profession."

A “reel” hands-on experience

Bryan began the program in the summer of 2016, finishing the fourth—and final course—the following spring. The first course, DMD 5000: Creative Digital Fundamentals, turned out to be one of his favorites. As Bryan notes: "We not only learned how to use After Effects, but Photoshop and Premiere as well. The course was very hands-on. We had to create short videos that would eventually become a reel of videos. Each week, we'd learn something new, for example how to create a background or how to stretch and move an object. We'd also have to explain exactly how we created the video, so that the professor was sure that our coding had been done correctly. Today, I feel very confident in my ability to use these tools."

In fact, since graduating from the program, Bryan has teamed up with a friend who owns a green screen technology company and occasionally contracts him to help create short movies for the company's clients. "For example, we might be asked to create a fun 30-second video with a mom and dad as reindeer and the kids in the sleigh, combining real images with animation," he explains, and adds: "My job is to come up with ideas and create the assets, something I wouldn't have known how to do without having gone through the program."

Learning to create the code

Bryan also thoroughly enjoyed the second course, DMD 5070: Introduction to Web Design I. Says Bryan: "To understand web design, you must understand the core elements behind the design. And that involves coding. Sure, you can click around pre-rendered assets, but you're not learning anything. Anyone can click and drag. In the web design course, we learned how to create the code ourselves," says Bryan, who adds: "The professor assigned us to an online interactive coding platform with a progress meter that measures how well you've learned the material as you advance step-by-step through the tutorials. It was fun and really helped me track my progress."

What about the online platform? Did it provide a robust environment for learning? In Bryan's words, HuskyCT/Blackboard was "Awesome! The platform was detailed and well organized, allowing us to go at a reasonable pace. Yes, there was a lot of material, and you had to read quite a bit. And that does require you to be self-motivated. But it was well worth it in the end. I have a graduate certificate from a highly reputable university, and I got the skills I need to pursue my love of digital animation."

Big money

The last course, DMD 5720: Digital Media Analytics, opened Bryan's eyes to video marketing. "Television advertising is a dinosaur. It used to cost millions for big motion picture companies to create TV ads. Now people like me, with some skills and experience, can create content." And that's exactly where Bryan sees his career headed. "There's big money in creating animation for video marketing. Eventually, I'm hoping to be a position where I can do what I love and make a good living as a professional digital animator."


"The program was great because I learned about so many aspects of the digital marketing world. And while I was in the program, I was able to use my new skills at work every day—in fact, many of the class projects directly correlated to my job. It was like double the learning!"  - Elizabeth Smith, Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate,  Summer 2017

e_smith

With Liz Smith's demanding job in South Carolina, she couldn't commit to a full-time Master's program. But when she found the Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate Program, she quickly realized it was the perfect fit for her needs.

 

Double the Learning

Taking a full-time Master's program would have required Liz Smith to quit her job and potentially move out of state. So she did some research and found an ideal solution. The University of Connecticut's Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate Program gave her the skills she needed to move up in her job at Sea Pines Resort—all at a price she could afford. 

When Liz Smith decided it was time to go back to school, she weighed her options. If she went back for a Master's Degree, could she afford it? And what about her full-time job at Sea Pines Resort in South Carolina? Would she have to give that up in order to pursue her educational dreams?

Fortunately, after doing some research online, Liz, who had earned her undergraduate degree in English from West Virginia University, found the perfect solution: the Digital Media and Design (DMD) Online Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Connecticut (UConn). As she explains: "It seemed like the best fit for me. The content was exactly what I was looking for. It was affordable and best of all, I could do the courses on my own time and at my own pace, within deadlines of course." Plus she says, since she may eventually return to school for an advanced degree, the fact that she can transfer the credits to a Master's in Fine Arts program at UConn, which offers several concentrations in the field of DMD, was another big bonus.

New skills lead to promotion

When Liz started the program in June 2016, she had some experience in editing, writing, and HTML coding. But she knew she'd need to acquire additional skills in order to move up with Sea Pines. That's exactly what happened! Says Liz, who at the time was a Marketing Assistant: "As I progressed through the program, I was able to take on many new projects thanks to the new skills I was learning. Best of all, as soon as I completed the program, I was promoted to Digital Marketing Coordinator."

Today, she manages the social medial channels for Sea Pines Resort, a luxury beach and golf resort on Hilton Head. She also coordinates its email campaigns and is responsible for updating the website and managing content for the resort's mobile applications. "The program was great because I learned about so many aspects of the digital marketing world. And while I was in the program, I was able to use my new skills at work every day—in fact, many of the class projects directly correlated to my job. It was like double the learning!"

For example, Liz explains that during DMD 5700: Digital Media Strategies for Business, she and her fellow students were asked to build a digital marketing plan. "It was so ironic for me, because at that time, we were working on our marketing plan for Sea Pines," says Liz. "Being enrolled in that course was a huge help in learning how to plan ahead and how to test out and report whether a campaign was working or not."

Learning code to create graphics from the ground up

Liz also found the courses to be "hands on." As she recalls, in DMD 5070: Introduction to Web Design I, the professor would provide a sample screen shot of a web page, with text and images. The students were then asked to replicate the screen shot through HTML coding. "It was so much fun; you'd learn as you'd go along. We actually wrote code, building the site on our own." Liz also became proficient in using Adobe Photoshop to edit images—and to create graphics from scratch. Today, those skills have become indispensable to her job.

So was it easy for her to jump into the online learning world? Not entirely, says Liz, who had never taken an online course. "I was hesitant at first. But I was so surprised to find it as interactive as it was. A decent chunk of our grades was based on posting comments on other students' work and responding to comments. It was a great way to see what others were working on and to get feedback and new ideas from someone other than the professor." And she adds, "All of our reading assignments, and all of the tools we were introduced to were on the leading edge of digital and very relevant to my job. The professors were also so knowledgeable and always accessible by email."

Creative and analytical thinking merge

In summary, she notes that while Sea Pines Resorts still relies on print for a lot of its promotions, the digital component of its marketing has grown tremendously over the past two years. "Everyone is on their phones and connected to social media," says Liz, who adds: "Whether you're interested in the analytical or creative side of DMD, this program is perfect. There are two courses in each area, so you'll get both perspectives. For example, I gained insights into how to identify the right digital channels for my target markets, while getting the skills I need to help with the development of the creative content."

Exercise Prescription

"Online learning has several advantages over a traditional classroom setting, especially for someone like me. I loved it because of the convenience factor. I work full-time and I'm a full-time Doctoral student, so being able go online when I had time was great. I also had the chance to interact with people from all over the country, many of whom worked with different types of patient populations than I do. That interdisciplinary expertise provided for a great learning environment."  - Greg Panza, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate

Greg-Panza

While working towards earning the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, UConn PhD student Greg Panza conducted a systematic review that was just published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society—something he could never have accomplished without going through the program.


A Big Confidence Booster

Greg Panza has an extensive background in Exercise Physiology, but he knew his skills were lacking in a few areas within the field. Looking to build his confidence prescribing exercise programs for the special populations he works with at Hartford Hospital, he enrolled in UConn's Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate Program. He came out with a whole lot more than just confidence.

Sure, Greg Panza knows a lot about Exercise Physiology. After all, he's a third-year Doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut (UConn), and he's an Exercise Physiologist at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT. He also earned his Bachelor's and Master's in Exercise Science. So why would he feel the need to enroll in the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate Program at UConn?

For several reasons, says Greg. First and foremost, he needed to build his confidence working with special populations of patients. "I work in a cholesterol clinic and care for and conduct clinical research with patients with all kinds of health problems," he explains. "During the program, we were presented with a wide range of case studies from which I learned the mechanisms of many chronic diseases and conditions, as well as the behavior characteristics of certain patient populations."

Knowing the "gold standard" like the back of his hand.

In addition, Greg says that while he had a good idea about the content of the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (GETP 10th edition), he knew he needed greater familiarity with the book, which is considered the “gold standard” in the fields of Sports Medicine, Kinesiology, and Health and Fitness. In fact, Dr. Linda Pescatello, his professor and head of the Exercise Prescription Program, was the senior editor of this gold standard. As Greg explains: "With the courses based on the information in the guidelines, I came out of the program knowing the guidelines like the back of my hand. I feel so much more confident in applying the principles appropriately in real world settings and choosing protocols for patient testing."

Walking Greg through the publishing process.

Another reason Greg praises the program so highly is the experience he gained in scientific writing. In fact, for the second course, KINS 5508: Exercise Prescription for Individuals with Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions, the students were required to conduct a systematic review. Greg focused on analyzing literature that investigated the effects of exercise interventions on cognitive function among people at risk for, or diagnosed with, Alzheimer's disease. "There are so many steps involved, but Dr. Pescatello thought my work was worthy of publication and thankfully, helped me through the entire process. In fact, with her guidance, I turned my systematic review into a meta-analysis, which just got published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society."

No background in psychology? No problem!

There was also a behavioral component with each course, notes Greg, who especially appreciated this aspect of the program because he had no background in Psychology. "I've had patients in the past who have had trouble adhering to their exercise program. We learned how to use several different behavioral models that would help us ensure that patients are better able to stick with the prescribed program. I remember one patient with high cholesterol who was on the borderline of having to take medication if he didn't make some lifestyle modifications. I used the trans-theoretical model of behavior change to assess his readiness to change and to find any sticking points that were holding him back. We worked through the issues, and two months later, he was adhering to his exercise program and his cholesterol had dropped."

Online on his own time.

The online platform, HuskyCT/Blackboard, was another big program plus. Says Greg: "Online learning has several advantages over a traditional classroom setting, especially for someone like me. I loved it because of the convenience factor. I work full-time and I'm a full-time Doctoral student, so being able go online when I had time was great. I also had the chance to interact with people from all over the country, many of whom worked with different types of patient populations than I do. That interdisciplinary expertise provided for a great learning environment. We were also expected to post comments on the discussion board, so there was constant back-and-forth dialog every day, all day long. If I were in a classroom, I'd only interact with other students once or twice a week at the most."

There's one final reason Greg is so delighted he choose to go through the program. As he notes, he has had extensive experience giving presentations. But at one point in all three courses, the students had to record themselves giving a presentation. "Each of us was required to post our recording on a web page that everyone else could view. After it was posted, you'd lead a discussion based on the presentation. Other students would ask questions and you'd have to field them accordingly. I'd never done that before."

A graduate certificate from "one of the best in the country."

In conclusion, Greg highly recommends this program to anyone in the exercise field. As he says, "The certificate is coming out of UConn's graduate school in Kinesiology—one of the best in the country. That your graduate certificate is coming from such a prestigious program speaks volumes and will definitely be attractive to employers. The program provided me invaluable tools that I use in my work on a daily basis and has truly helped me grow professionally in my career."


"If I had gone to another graduate school, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to earn a PhD, along with two graduate certificates that I believe will definitely help me from a research standpoint. I tell anyone who asks about my experience that they'll receive a certificate in something very unique and have earned a great credential from one of the best known Kinesiology departments in the country—a clear advantage if you're looking for a new job or want to advance in your current situation." Kate Dibble, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, December 2017

Kate Dibble


While at UConn working towards her PhD, Kate Dibble earned the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate—and some great new skills she's already putting to practice.

A Real Natural

When one of her professors recommended that Kate take the first course in the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate Program, she was immediately hooked. The curriculum fit perfectly with her PhD program in Human Development and Family Studies and provided her the skills she needs to add Exercise Prescription to her already extensive list of skills.

Kate Dibble is well on her way to earning her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut (UConn)—and she's currently working towards earning a graduate certificate in Quantitative Research Methods. Somehow, she also makes time to work as a Graduate Research Assistant under Dr. Linda Pescatello, Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology and UConn's resident expert in Exercise Prescription.

So when Dr. Pescatello suggested that Kate take KINS 5507: Fundamentals of Exercise Prescription to satisfy one of her PhD program's specialized course requirements, she jumped at the chance. Says Kate, who is studying breast, uterine, stomach, and digestive cancers, "It's really important for me to learn, from a research and interventional perspective, how to prescribe exercise safely and cohesively for cancer patients. When I learned more about KINS 5507, it seemed like such a natural fit with my PhD program. Part way into the first course, I knew I wanted to invest in earning the full certificate."

Right up her alley.

Taking the second course, KINS 5508 – Exercise Prescription for Individuals with Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions, was right up her alley. "There was a cancer module in this course and that intrigued me," notes Kate. "But what really fascinated me was discovering how important it is to prescribe an individualized exercise program tailored to the patient's unique needs. Even family history of cancer or other diagnoses can impact the success of an exercise program."

For example, Kate explains that going on a treadmill at the gym might be great aerobically, but for someone with cancer, it may not even hit a portion of what they need to be doing. What if the person has a metabolic condition? What other medical issues need to be taken into consideration? "After completing the course, I realized that each patient, with his or her unique limitations and treatment regimen, warrants a different exercise prescription," she says, and adds: "We also learned the value of taking a holistic approach to help ensure that patients can maintain the exercise program—and even enjoy it."

Evidence based.

There was another important aspect of every course that Kate found to be tremendously valuable: everything she learned was "evidence based;" that is, the concepts and strategies introduced in the courses were derived from or informed by objective evidence. Not surprising, says Kate, since UConn is a Research 1 University, a category that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education use to indicate universities in the United States that engage in extensive research activity. "Dr. Pescatello presented many case studies grounded in real science, including studies based on actual breast cancer patients, and how the side effects of treatment can affect cardiovascular health and how that impacts exercise," she notes.

Defined start and end dates.

Kate, who describes herself as a "big organization" person, especially appreciated how the three online courses were broken into separate modules, with a clear start and end date. "I had never taken an online course before, but I thought the HuskyCT/Blackboard platform was just great. The interactive discussion board was incredibly helpful. With all the posting back and forth, I learned so much from my classmates, and I think they learned from me as well. There was so much material, including case study assignments, major papers to read, and a systematic review to conduct, but with the weekly modules, the material was well organized and manageable."

Learning how to write a whole new way.

Most importantly, Kate completed the program in December 2017 with a whole new set of skills beyond learning how to develop individualized exercise prescriptions for patients with chronic diseases. As she explains, she has a strong Psychology background. After all, she earned both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Psychology from UConn, and she understands how to do meta-analyses. But prior to the program, she had no experience in writing and formatting Kinesiology studies for publication.

Yet today, with Dr. Pescatello's assistance, Kate is turning her final paper from the KINS 5508 course into a poster, Exercise prescription for breast cancer survivors with cardiovascular disease treatment side effects: A systematic review, which she will present this spring at the annual Society of Behavioral Medicine in New Orleans. "Switching from a Psychology-based to Kinesiology-based writing style was very difficult for me. There was such a big learning curve, but with the help of Dr. Pescatello and my classmates, I'm thrilled that I have the opportunity to present my poster at the meeting and that it will be published in the Society's Annals of Behavioral Medicine. We also plan to submit the full results for publishing at a later day."

A PhD and two graduate certificates - all from UConn.

Kate isn't exactly sure what the future will bring. She still has another two years to complete her PhD and will earn her Certificate in Quantitative Research Methods in 2019. But she does know she'll either pursue a teaching position—she'd love to stay at UConn—or become a researcher specializing in the study of cancer for a medical center or governmental organization.

To anyone considering this program, she says: "If I had gone to another graduate school, I wouldn't have the opportunity to earn a PhD, along with two graduate certificates that will definitely help me from a research standpoint. I tell anyone who asks about my experience that they'll receive a certificate in something very unique and have earned a great credential from one of the best known Kinesiology departments in the country—a clear advantage if you're looking for a new job or want to advance in your current situation."


“I highly recommend the program to anyone looking to earn solid credentials in Exercise Prescription. UConn is very well known in the field. Having a graduate level certificate from UConn is no joke if you are trying to demonstrate your credentials to a prospective employer. There’s no doubt in my mind that having the certificate will help me get into PT school.” Regine Rossi, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, Spring 2018

Regine Rossi


Regine Rossi discovered that UConn’s Exercise Prescription program allowed her to combine her passion for education with her love of sports.

 

Brains and Brawn

Powerlifter Regine Rossi is an incredibly athletic woman who loves unconventional sports — like “Strongwoman,” which gives women a venue to compete in strength athletics. Currently, Regine can deadlift 315 lbs. and bench press 155 lbs. For a recent Strongwoman event, she had 60 seconds each to do as many deadlifts, axle and circus dumbbell presses, and “stones over bar,” followed by three running events: carrying a “yoke” 50 feet, a 100-lb. sandbag for another 50 feet, then a beer keg 100 feet — all as quickly as possible. She also loves a sport called “rucking” — the foundation of Special Forces training that entails shouldering heavy backpacks weighing up to 50 lbs. She not only hikes with the backpacks, but she also does push-ups, squats, and other calisthenics wearing the pack

Regine is also smart, really smart. In 2014, she earned her PhD in Education at New York University. Today, she is a Professor of Education at a small rural college outside of New York City. She’s also planning to go back to school for her Physical Therapy (PT) degree in 2019.

Last summer, Regine decided to pile more onto her plate by starting the first course of the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program. This spring, she completed the three required courses to earn the credential.

A fascination with exercise science

So what motivated her to enroll in the UConn program? Regine has always been fascinated by Exercise Science, which combines her love of athletics and her interest in understanding the science of human movement. In addition to her teaching position, being an advisor to 50-plus students at her college, and her commitment to working out, she is also a personal trainer. “I knew that earning the certificate would greatly enhance my skills as a trainer and enable me to help my clients live healthier lives through exercise, rehabilitation, and nutrition. I was also very familiar with UConn’s outstanding reputation in the field,” says Regine, who happened to come across the Exercise Prescription program when she was looking for courses to complete her science prerequisites for PT school.

Reluctant to take courses online – at first

It’s only natural that a professor at a college might be reluctant to take courses online. As Regine notes, “I teach traditional face-to-face classes. I am very accustomed to that kind of setting. But I have to be honest; after having participated in the Exercise Prescription program, I now actually prefer online.”

What changed Regine’s mind about the online platform? She credits the director of the program, Dr. Linda Pescatello, PhD, FACSM, FAHA, with creating a “classroom” setting that felt more personal than a traditional classroom. Says Regine: “As I know from experience, not all students feel comfortable talking in the typical classroom setting. And even if they do make a comment, there’s not always time for a thoughtful response by the professor. Dr. P. (as the students fondly refer to Dr. Pescatello) runs the program in such a way that she seems to be carrying on individual conversations with everyone, while encouraging others to interact with each other. I found it amazing how she was able to foster friendships between students. I have some great friends from the program who I have actually never met.”

In part, the secret to creating such an interactive online environment stems from the way the program is structured. Using the HuskyCT/Blackboard platform, Dr. Pescatello gives students discussion questions and students are required to post their responses on the discussion board each week. “Dr. P. responds to every single comment,” says Regine. “I feel like I know her better than any other professor I’ve had in-person.”

Learning directly from the expert in ACSM Guidelines

Regine was also very impressed with the program content, which is based on the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, considered the “gold standard” in the fields of sports medicine, kinesiology, and health and fitness. As she explains, “Dr. Pescatello has done so much to help shape ACSM policy and she brings all that expertise into the courses. The amount of information we were given was incredible, and we had many opportunities to practice what we learned, which was invaluable since there are so many moving parts to Exercise Science.”

In addition, Regine learned how to conduct a systematic literature review at a professional level and is working with Dr. Pescatello on preparing her research for publication. “Dr. P. connected me with one of her colleagues at ACSM, who provided several articles she had written on a topic similar to mine. That was so helpful,” notes Regine.

Strengthening bonds with her own students

Best of all, Regine is currently using the new knowledge she gleaned from the program, both in fine-tuning her personal training business, as well as helping students she currently advises. “We are a very close knit community. My advisees know that I do different sports. Now that I’ve earned the certificate, they frequently come in and talk to me about what they should be doing at the gym, and I can make specific recommendations to help them deal with pain issues or physical limitations. I feel like I have a stronger bond with them now.”

In conclusion, Regine adds: “I highly recommend the program to anyone looking to earn solid credentials in Exercise Prescription. UConn is very well known in the field. Having a graduate level certificate from UConn is no joke if you are trying to demonstrate your credentials to a prospective employer. There’s no doubt in my mind that having the certificate will help me get into PT school.”

Geographic Information Systems

"If you are considering GIS as a career, I strongly suggest that you look at UConn, which, unlike many schools, has a well-established, highly reputable Department of Geography. So as a student, you get access to the same superb level of instruction and expertise as other graduate students." Mary Buchanan,  Graduate, Geographic Information Systems Online Graduate Certificate Program

 

Mary Buchanan - Geographical Information Systems Online Certificate StudentMary expects that her training in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), along with an MA from the University of Connecticut, will set her on the path for success, no matter where her journey takes her.

 

180⁰ Switch
Mary Buchanan is now in graduate school with the Department of Geography at the University of Connecticut (UConn). She's working her way toward earning an MA in Geography—quite a switch from her undergraduate studies in Ornithology. She caught the geography bug—and specifically, a love for Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—in 2015, shortly after being hired as a Conservation Associate at Highstead Foundation in Redding, CT. That following year, she earned the GIS Online Graduate Certificate from UConn, and now she says, she's totally hooked!

When Mary Buchanan was an undergraduate at Connecticut College majoring in Biological Sciences, she originally wanted to concentrate in Ornithology. Had she gone straight to grad school after earning her BA, she thinks she would have stayed in the field of Biology, and most likely continued to pursue the study of birds.

Little did she know that taking two Geographic Information System (GIS) courses while an undergrad would steer her life in a new direction. About four months after graduating in May 2014, Mary landed an internship and later a job as a Conservation Associate with Highstead Foundation, a conservation organization based in Redding, CT. "I credit those GIS courses for my having secured my first internship with the Highstead Foundation," she notes.

In fact, half of what she did as an intern required the use of Esri’s ArcGIS, the most widely used GIS software in the world. "Sure, I had some basic knowledge of GIS, but I hadn't had much formal training in ArcGIS," she notes and adds that her supervisors on the job weren’t GIS users themselves. "When I first started the job, I sometimes muddled my way through – getting where I needed to go in GIS, but not very efficiently. I found myself constantly doing workarounds."

Learning the tricks of the trade.

To get the formal training she felt she was lacking, Mary enrolled in the GIS Online Graduate Certificate Program at UConn in January 2015, which she completed the following January. "I thought doing some kind of structured program with an actual curriculum would give me a much better grasp of the scope of GIS and how to take full advantage of the power of ArcGIS. And it really helped!"

As she quickly discovered, she was able to put the skills she learned in the certificate program to immediate use at her internship. "There were a number of different tricks that I didn't know prior to taking the various courses. Those tricks of the trade have saved me an enormous amount of time on the job and given me a much broader understanding of the tools within the ArcGIS tool boxes. I also really appreciate the Mastering ArcGIS textbook we were assigned and continue to use it today."

Jumping online when it was convenient. 

So what about the online platform? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Before enrolling in the program, Mary had never done an online course. What she found surprised her. "When I'm sitting in a classroom, there are no distractions. But working on assignments at my kitchen table required me to develop a different learning style. I had to be more self-motivated and hold myself personally accountable for getting the work done."

Mary also loved being able to jump on and off the HuskyCT platform (powered by Blackboard) when it was convenient for her, especially since her day-to-day schedule was erratic. "My work schedule at Highstead varied from week to week; I had to be available for my co-workers when they needed me. Plus I traveled around New England quite a bit. So it was very helpful being able to access the courses from my computer, no matter where I happened to be."

Practice makes perfect.

But were the demands of the program too much with her full-time job? "Actually, I am so happy I decided to earn the certificate while I was at Highstead, despite my busy schedule," she says. "If I had waited to enroll in the program, I wouldn't have gotten as much practice. And I never would have found some of the little tricks in ArcGIS functions like the changeable parameters in the selections tool, which literally saved me hundreds of hours of time. I also loved that we could design our own final project, which allowed me to explore an area that was of specific interest to me," and she adds: "The certificate program is well-rounded and something I found feasible to do along with other commitments."

Now onto earning an MA in Geography from UConn.

Mary did finally decide to return to school to get her Master's in Arts—but not in Biology. She chose the Geography Graduate program at UConn and expects to earn her MA in 2018. "After the experience at Highstead, I didn't want to lock myself into studying only one field. I realized how much I love GIS, how applicable it is to so many fields, and how much I still have to learn. I knew I wanted to pursue it further."

As a graduate student at UConn, Mary is now immersed in a landscape scenarios project for her graduate thesis. Among other functions, she plans to use GIS to create different mapping scenarios that will show potential ways sustainable agricultural land in Connecticut can be increased, for example expanding existing farms or looking at town-owned lands to lease to farmers. She expects one course she took—GEOG 5510 – Application Issues of GIS—to be especially useful. "The course gave me more practice in spatial analysis for real-world problems and experience in designing my own projects.”

Says Mary: "If you are considering GIS as a career, I strongly suggest that you look at UConn, which, unlike many grad schools, has a well-established, highly reputable Department of Geography. As a student in the GIS online program, you get access to the same superb level of instruction and expertise as other Department of Geography graduate students."


"The GIS training I received was important and helpful in providing a foundational understanding and skill set, especially of ArcGIS. If you have an interest in GIS, I think you'll find that earning this certificate is well worth the investment."  Frank Griggs, Geographic Information Systems Online Graduate Certificate Student

 

Frank Griggs - Geographical Information Systems Online Certificate StudentHaving completed the Geographic Information Systems
Online Graduate Certificate Program in 2015, Frank Griggs
now uses the skills he learned to further his PhD dissertation.


A Wise Investment

The subject of Frank Griggs' PhD dissertation led him to discover the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Online Graduate Certificate Program, offered through the University of Connecticut (UConn). Having completed the program in 2015, he now uses his new skills to conduct research in support of his dissertation. And looking ahead, he firmly believes that the investment in the GIS program will be well worth the effort when he starts looking for a job next spring.

You must really believe in the importance of taking the time to pursue a new skill, especially when you're already waist-deep in a very intense PhD program in Political Science. But for Frank Griggs, taking the Geographic Information Systems Online Graduate Certification Program was essential. As he explains, "My dissertation project examines claims that climate change will influence social-political conflict and violence by focusing on disaster-induced human displacement as a mediating condition. My project's subject matter is not uniformly distributed within and across countries. This makes the spatial analysis capabilities of GIS vital to evaluating whether or not such relationships exist."

GIS kept popping up.

Frank notes that he first became interested in GIS four years ago. As he became increasingly involved in his climate change research, references to GIS techniques and methods kept popping up. "As I delved further into my subject matter, I began to see untested hypotheses that are suitable to spatial analysis. Since I was already here at UConn for my PhD, it was natural for me to add the certificate to my course workload," notes Frank.

Frank chose a "blended" program, in which he took two courses on the Storrs, CT campus and two online courses, including one of his electives, GEOG 5520 – GIS Modeling of the Urban Environment. "The flexibility of the online courses enabled me to do coursework at times that were optimal for me, allowing me to take care of my other professional and personal responsibilities more easily," he notes.

A solid foundation in ArcGIS.

So, was Frank able to gain the training he needed in GIS by getting the certificate? Absolutely, he says. "The GIS training I received was important and helpful in providing a foundational understanding and skill set, especially of ArcGIS. Since earning the certificate, I've been able to undertake research for my dissertation that uses GIS spatial analysis. In addition, I still use the assigned textbook, which provides practical, clear information and corresponding examples."

Maybe academia, maybe private industry.

What's next on the horizon? Frank anticipates that he will complete his PhD program in the spring of 2018, after which he plans to seek a faculty position in a college setting, potentially even as a GIS instructor. But, says Frank, "If I can't find just the right job in academia, I know from other students who have earned the UConn GIS certificate, my GIS training could lead to a lucrative position in private industry."

In conclusion, Frank says, "I appreciate the course instructors for being available and gracious about answering my questions." Frank also felt very supported by Rich Mrozinski, UConn's GIS Instructor/Lab Manager and GIS Certificate Program Coordinator, and Dr. Chaunrong Zhang, UConn Geography faculty member/GIS Instructor. As Frank says: "I sure got my money's worth with all the visits I made to Rich and Dr. Zhang's office hours. I am grateful to them for their time and guidance. If you have an interest in GIS, I think you'll find that earning this certificate will be well worth the investment. "


"All of the courses I took were excellent; I got a solid working knowledge of ArcGIS. I was also given a choice of 10 different electives, which allowed me to tailor the program to my expertise in Natural Resources." — Jacob Conshick, Geographic Information Systems Online Graduate Certificate Program student

 

Jacob Conshick - Geographical Information Systems Online Certificate StudentJacob Conshick's skills in GIS have come in handy
in more ways than one.

 

 

Trees, Snow, Cottontails, and Oil Spills

What do these four things have in common? Geographic Information Systems (GIS)! In fact, GIS is used in an incredibly wide range of applications. Just ask Jacob Conshick. After having completed the GIS Online Graduate Certificate Program, along with his Master's in Natural Resources from the University of Connecticut (UConn), he works as UConn's in-house GIS expert. He also does volunteer work for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and is enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserve. How has his GIS training served him in his various roles? You might just be amazed!

It's no surprise to anyone living in the New England area that when Nor'easters scream up the East Coast, we can get dumped on, big time. UConn is no exception. This past winter, we received more than four feet of snow. So how do you make sure students are able to get to class as quickly as possible? How do you keep everything running smoothly?

Call in Jacob Conshick!

Call in Jacob Conshick! As GIS Analyst at UConn, Jacob draws upon the skills he earned from participating in UConn's GIS Online Graduate Certificate Program to determine the best truck and tractor routes to remove snow as quickly as possible. This is no easy task, considering the terrain and network of roads on campus. "We use the data in our ArcGIS system anytime there's an accumulation of snow to be sure we can get our roads plowed and open as easily and quickly as possible," explains Jacob.

Mapping one of the nation's official campus arboretums.

So what does he do when snow storms aren't keeping him busy? If you've ever been on the UConn Storrs campus, you might have noticed small metal tags pinned to trees. Each of those tags has a number that corresponds to a record of the tree in UConn's GIS system. One of Jacob's primary jobs is to map trees located on campus. So why is this important? UConn is one of the nation's official campus arboretums, and as such, we are required to keep track of our trees for funding purposes. In addition, having a record of the trees on campus is useful for teaching purposes—and of course, for maintenance and construction crews. Knowing the location and significance of our trees allows Facilities and Architectural Engineering Services to plan accordingly when it comes to everything from road realignments to the construction of new buildings.

"Using our GIS system, we track a lot of details about our trees—their species, size, location, any especially notable characteristics, among other data," says Jacob, who adds: "We even track if a tree has been planted in memory of someone. Today, we have about 4,000 trees that are part of our GIS data set."

At his own pace, on his own schedule.

Despite having a job in GIS now, Jacob didn't start out at UConn thinking he'd focus on this specialized area. But while earning his Master's in Natural Resources at UConn, he quickly realized the importance of acquiring GIS skills for any job he might apply for in the future. He started the program in 2014, ultimately taking the two required core courses online and his two electives on-campus. The credits he earned were also applied to his Master's degree.

"I've always been a big advocate for taking courses in a traditional classroom setting," says Jacob. "So I was really surprised at how much I liked the online portion of the program, especially because I could go at my own pace and schedule, as long as I met weekly deadlines. The faculty who designed the courses did an outstanding job at structuring the weekly modules. And the instructors always responded quickly whenever I had a question."

Course content: A+

Jacob also gives the course content high marks. "All of the courses I took were excellent; I got a solid working knowledge of ArcGIS. I was also given a choice of 10 different electives, which allowed me to tailor the program to my expertise in Natural Resources and to apply the principles of GIS in a variety of different ways. The textbook for GEOG 5500 – Fundamentals of GIS was a great resource as well. In fact, I still use it today."

In addition to his position at UConn, Jacob also does volunteer projects for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. For example, he's involved in a project using ArcGIS to understand and determine the location and distribution of Cottontail rabbits in Connecticut.

Using his GIS skills as a Coast Guard Reservist.

Jacob also recently joined the Coast Guard Reserve in order to, as he says: "Be part of something bigger than myself." As he explains, the unit he's assigned to is responsible for monitoring fishing vessels and responding to pollution problems, including mapping oil spills, throughout Southeast New England. "My unit supervisor is very aware of my GIS skills and has talked to me about ways the Coast Guard can utilize these skills in the future."

Jacob has already recruited two of his fellow Master's students to enroll in the GIS Online Graduate Certificate Program. "I think anyone in Natural Resources or Engineering would benefit from the program. GIS is a huge part of just about any job relating to the environment. I strongly urge you to consider taking this if you're not strong in the fundamentals of GIS. Employers are looking for candidates who show the initiative to dive into their specialty areas by getting grounded in GIS."

Engineering

Sean Kennick ’17, Mechanical Engineer, General Dynamics Electric Boat

"The Master of Engineering Program at UCONN allowed me to gain technical knowledge, sharpen my analytical thinking, and improve my career positioning while working a full-time engineering job. When I started the program three years ago, I was able to hand pick a curriculum that aligned with my technical interests and my career goals; a flexibility uncommon in similar programs."

Sean_KAside from the technical electives, the core classes in the MENG program provided insights into business and management that were both interesting and beneficial. Along my path, the professors were knowledgeable and understanding of full-time engineering professionals like myself, and were always accessible through video conferencing or by email. The final semester Capstone Project was my favorite experience of the program. I performed a structural analysis on an apartment building that subjected support members to various loading conditions and provided an assessment of structural integrity. The result was a project that highlighted the technical skills I learned throughout the program and is a focal point of my academic career that I am proud to reflect upon.



Brian Sheehan ‘16, Performance Engineer at Belcan Engineering Group Inc.

“UConn’s CDEE has allowed me to pursue my education and career goals while having minimal impact on my work schedule and personal life. The innovative course structure allows working professionals like myself to progress through coursework at a self-defined pace. The recorded online lectures and web conferences allowed me to be involved in all of the material from the comfort of my apartment or even at my desk at work."

UConn Master of Engineering Graduate: "As a graduate student in the Systems Engineering Masters of Engineering I find the course information is directly applicable to what I do professionally on a day to day basis. With engaging professors and a responsive front office the CDEE has helped me greatly in providing a way for me to study and work while not being overwhelmed.”


 

Health Professions Education

"Having taken the online program has definitely distinguished me from other applicants because it underlines my interest in health professions education. I can honestly say this program is the single most important thing on my resume that is getting me interviews."  Lucas Cruz, M.D., Health Professions Education Graduate

 

Lucas Cruz

Lucas Cruz, M.D., Resident, Internal Medicine, University of Connecticut,
is now landing 
great interviews for a future fellowship, which he credits
to his completing the 
Certificate in Health Professions Education Online
Graduate Program.

 

Putting the Learning
Back in Teaching

It could be called the morning routine—that first formal learning activity of the day when medical residents are brought together for "Morning Reports," a case-based discussion facilitated by the chief resident, with one resident selected to present the case. For many participants, it's an anxiety-provoking experience that puts them on the defense—not a great stage for learning, at least that's what Lucas Cruz found. He set out to do something about it. Thanks to the tools he acquired during the Certificate in Health Professions Education Online Graduate Program, he's already making a difference.

Lucas, who is currently in his last year of residency in Internal Medicine, was skeptical at first; he'd never taken an online course. But as he quickly found, participating in the University of Connecticut's (UConn) online certificate program turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made.

"All of my fellow students were either residents like me, nurses or other type of healthcare professionals with an interest in teaching—we all have incredibly busy schedules," says Lucas. "But the online format made it easy and convenient to participate. I also really appreciated the live web-based meetings on Thursday nights. I felt like a member of a cohesive group." And he adds:

"Our professor, Dr. Tom Van Hoof, is not only very dedicated to his students, but he also practices what he preaches. I could actually see how the strategies he taught helped me improve my own ability to learn."

Building as he learned

While theoretical concepts were introduced during each course, students were also given useful strategies for practical applications. And in fact, several of those strategies became the core of a three course project Lucas designed to help make Morning Reports more inclusive, enjoyable and based on real evidence for others in his residency program. As he notes, "I wanted to put the learning back in the teaching process by integrating new evidence-based strategies we were introduced to during the program," adding:

"I could have done a project for each course, but by using Morning Reports as the common theme for all three, I built the project gradually based on the knowledge I was gaining about the evaluation, planning, and implementation processes covered in the program. The project completed itself, almost in an effortless way."

Walking in blind

One of the key aspects of Lucas's plan was to make sure residents would be prepared to learn during each session. "One of the critical stages of learning is called predisposing, which can increase the student's interest, satisfaction, and retention of the activity," he notes.

As Lucas explains, the Morning Reports format gives one resident the opportunity to prepare and present a patient's case step-by-step. The participating residents, who have no previous knowledge of the case, ask questions to figure out the underlying issue. Throughout the process, the chief resident mediates the discussion and tries to help the residents narrow down the diagnosis to a few possibilities. Says Lucas:

"The resident walks into the session with no idea of what's going to be discussed, so there's no way to prepare. The discussion isn't very rich, so they don't learn as much. What's more, it can feel like an evaluation of their participation, which can create anxiety and does nothing to help residents retain information. And worse, it puts them in a defensive mode."

Preparing residents to learn

So how did Lucas address this issue? Among several other strategies, he created a pre-test that would be given to the resident one week before each session, asking questions based on the general topic to be discussed. This would ensure students were prepared beforehand without giving away the diagnosis, which would dilute the mystery and interest in the case. And Lucas emphasizes:

"The questions sent beforehand are designed to stimulate the residents to read more about the topic and understand gaps in their knowledge that might help them figure out what they should be looking for."

Lucas also designed in educational strategies to encourage participation in a non-threatening way and continue the learning to help reinforce the information the residents gained from week to week. For example, he proposed that for four weeks, the focus of each Morning Reports session be limited to one major medical specialty, allowing residents to build on their base of knowledge before moving onto another topic.

Big upsides

The strategies Lucas created are now being implemented by two chief residents at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Says Lucas:

"The chiefs are very open to hearing my ideas and are now implementing them, one strategy at a time. They have already gotten great feedback from the residents themselves and are actually seeing that they have improved the learning experience."

There's been another big upside for Lucas personally. He is currently applying for a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care. Thus far, the interviewers have asked him about his interest in education and seem particularly impressed by his having earned the UConn graduate certificate credential. "Having taken the online program has definitely distinguished me from other applicants because it underlines my interest in health professions education. I can honestly say this program is the single most important thing on my resume that is getting me interviews."

 


 

"Dr. Van Hoof was a phenomenal instructor not only in terms of accessibility, but he walked the talk. He showed us just what active teaching is supposed to look like, and we built on our skills every week. I had heard he was a fantastic professor, and now I know he is!" — Jeannie Dodd, Health Professions Certificate graduate

 

UConn Health Professions - Jeanne Dodd

After earning her Master's degree, Jeannie Dodd decided
to jump right into 
UConn's Certificate in Health Professions Education online program  to cultivate the "teach the teacher" skills she'll need to develop and implement continuing education programs for residents and nurses at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA.

 

Walking the Talk

As Jeannie discovered during the Health Professions Education online program, the principles of active learning play a key role in ensuring that materials stick in our brains. But she didn't just learn the principles; her professor, Dr. Tom Van Hoof, continually used these principles to help his own students learn. "He walked the talk," says Jeannie.

Jeannie Dodd grew up in a family that places tremendous value on academic learning, so it's not surprising that she has an intense interest in continuing education. As Jeannie notes, she had the good fortune to spend her formative years as a student in the Department of Defense schools—one of the best educational systems in the world. From there, she headed to her local community college, then onto Rhode Island College, where she got her undergraduate degree in nursing.

For the past twenty years, Jeannie has worked in neonatal intensive care (NICU) units, while raising three children. "I knew I always wanted to advance my education, but I needed to put it on the backburner while my kids were young."

Finally, the time was right. Three years ago, Jeannie headed off to the University of Connecticut (UConn), where she earned her Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Master's Degree. Knowing Jeannie's interest in continuing education, the director of the program suggested that she look into UConn's Health Professions Education online graduate certificate program to round out her skills.

"It was made for me," says Jeannie, who jumped on the opportunity as soon as she completed her Master's. Just one year later, in August 2016, she earned the certificate. She intends to apply what she learned during the year-long online program to support the continuing education needs of nurses and residents at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, where she currently works full time as a NICU nurse practitioner.

Brain-based or "active" learning

"Made for her" is an understatement; Jeannie raves about every aspect of the program, especially how her professor, Dr. Tom Van Hoof, used brain-based learning tools to teach students the value of—and how to employ—active learning methods. "A great example of this was the synchronous classroom experiences during which Dr. Van Hoof used a meeting platform called Zoom that allowed class members to participate in Skype-like conferences called Zoom Rooms," explains Jeannie, who adds:

"It's like Hollywood Squares. Each of us had a square and was able to be on the computer screen together, all at once. While someone was speaking, the outline around the square lit up, and the student's name would appear in the bottom left-hand corner."

So how did Zoom Rooms complement the active learning model to which Dr. Van Hoof prescribed? Based on a specific program objective for that week, Dr. Van Hoof would assign readings from traditional theorists, supported by case studies showcasing the latest research from current experts in the field of continuing education. Students were given writing prompts on Fridays, which they would complete over the weekend and submit to Dr. Van Hoof. By the following Tuesday, he would provide feedback online. Then on Thursday nights, students were able to participate in a live discussion together in the Zoom Room. As Jeannie says:

"There was no need for him to do big lectures during which we would passively sit and take notes. We were already prepared to discuss the topic. He was actually following evidence that shows teaching material in a sequence like he did and ensuring students are prepared to discuss it, instead of coming in cold, is much more effective. He truly practiced what he preached."

Different points of view

Jeannie also greatly appreciated the program's multidisciplinary focus. As she notes, her courses included all kinds of health professionals, from doctors, pharmacists, and physical therapists to other nurses and even public health professionals. "When it comes to patient care, we are always encouraged to work in interdisciplinary teams. By being in the program with so many different healthcare professionals, I got a better understanding of their different learning needs, which will be most helpful later on when I get more involved with continuing education in my current job." And as she emphasizes:

"We don't work in silos, but sometimes it feels like we do. For me, being in a program during which I heard many different perspectives helped erase some of the boundaries of those silos."

The value of critical reflection

Each semester, students were required to complete a project, which Dr. Van Hoof suggested should be something relevant to the students' day jobs. The projects should also incorporate some of the concepts they learned during the course, with the ultimate goal of improving continuing education in the workplace.

Jeannie was particularly interested in a topic introduced during the program called critical reflection. "I had heard this term, but never really understood what it meant," she recalls. "The program got me thinking about it and how I could use the concept as an active learning tool." One of Jeannie's projects focused on helping nurse practitioners and nursing students develop critical reflection as a learning modality. "The goal of my project was to teach them how to constructively look at the way they handle clinical experiences and determine how their experience could guide future learning needs and ultimately, help them be better at their jobs."

As Jeannie noted, critical reflection was just one of many active learning techniques she took from the program that she plans to incorporate into her own work life as opportunities arise. "Dr. Van Hoof was a phenomenal instructor not only in terms of accessibility, but he walked the talk. He showed us just what active teaching is supposed to look like, and we built on our skills every week. I had heard he was a fantastic professor, and now I know he is!"

______________________

“I was introduced to theories of learning, with specific practical ways to apply the theories to medical education. These courses gave me the tools I need both to maintain future educational requirements and at the same time to dramatically improve the continuing education we offer.”

Marvin C. Culbertson, M.D.

______________________

“As Director of Pharmacy Professional Development at UConn, I was already familiar with education for pharmacists, but these courses took me to the next level and beyond.  The independent project was instrumental in the development and award of several grants for an educational program that is now offered nation-wide.”

Jill Fitzgerald, Pharm.D.

______________________

“The strategies I learned helped me craft the adult learning products I use every day in my private practice.  As a bureau speaker and CME educator, I use adult learning principles, curriculum design and evaluation tools to create an effective presentation. The courses were successful in teaching me those essential principles.”

Elena Schjavland, R.N., A.P.R.N, A/G.N.P.

Leadership and Diversity in Sport Management

"I highly recommend this program to anyone in the sport management field who is looking to strengthen their leadership skills. Or if you're seeking a new position, having this credential will be a great addition to your resume. The education I received was enormously helpful when I was with MIT and is now an integral part of the leadership style I'm taking with me to Wellesley College." — Lauren Haynie, Graduate, Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program

 

Lauren Haynie - Leadership and Sport Diversity Online Graduate Certificate

Lauren Haynie is taking the skills she developed at UConn—
and fine-tuned on the job at MIT—to her new position
at Wellesley College.

 

 

Making of a Leader

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for having an exceptionally diverse student population. But as Lauren Haynie points out, MIT's goal is to be a universal model of what a truly inclusive academic community looks, feels, and acts like. So when Lauren discovered the Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Connecticut (UConn), she recognized that earning the certificate would help her cultivate important leadership skills to support MIT's mission to "advance a respectful and caring community that embraces diversity and empowers everyone to learn and do their best."

After having worked in athletic training for more than a decade, Lauren Haynie was hired as Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at MIT in 2013. A few months later, she decided to seek additional training of some kind that would help fine-tune her leadership style to be more compassionate, empathetic, and sensitive to the importance of advancing MIT's diverse and welcoming culture. As she says, "Being inclusive has always been a major part of my life and it's a value that I wanted to continue working on as a leader."

She found exactly what she was looking for on the National Association for Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators' website. "I saw a banner ad on the site about UConn's Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program. It piqued my curiosity. When I clicked on the link and realized I could take all but one course in the summer, I was totally sold," says Lauren. "The fact that the program was offered by UConn, a world-renowned institution for both academics and athletics, was the frosting on the cake," she adds.

Easy to get up to speed on HuskyCT/Blackboard.

Lauren started the program in the Spring of 2015. She then took two courses over that summer, completing the final course the following summer of 2016. The online nature of the courses didn't faze her. During her college and graduate school years, she had taken several courses online, so she found it easy to get up to speed on the Husky CT Blackboard platform. "The asynchronous schedule was so convenient. And even when we had to collaborate with other students on various projects, it wasn't a big deal because everyone was so committed to the program," says Lauren.

That commitment also cultivated a strong sense of community, she notes. "If you think being in an online course means you're off working somewhere in a vacuum, think again. For me, I felt a strong sense of connection with the other students, most of whom were in multiple courses with me. We were all encouraged to talk about ourselves, both from a professional and personal basis. It was so helpful listening to other students share the challenges they faced in their jobs."

Initiating a "climate survey."

Over the course of this past academic year, she had the opportunity to implement the ideas and practices she learned. "MIT is all about innovation and pushing the envelop—not just in technology, but also in designing recruitment and hiring strategies to create a pipeline of top-notch candidates. While we know we have a diverse student and student athlete population, we wanted to find out what we were doing well, what we could do better, and how we could enhance the experience of all student athletes," notes Lauren, who adds: "One of the big takeaways from the program is very basic: while you may not be able to treat everyone equally, you can treat everyone equitably. Diversity is coming, whether we are prepared for it or not. I truly believe that as a leader, being proactive is far more effective than being reactive."

Toward this end, Lauren and her supervisor decided to initiate a "climate survey." One of the goals was to assess whether varsity students feel a sense of belonging in terms of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among other factors. "Sure, we think we're inclusive, but the evidence has been all antidotal. So our objective was to obtain baseline data that would help us determine if there were glaring problems, if our athletes and coaches needed additional training in diversity, or if there were other actions we needed to take."

Implementing learnings to strengthen diversity.

Working closely with her colleagues in her department, Lauren helped develop and implement the survey. With results in hand, MIT's Athletic Department is now putting together a framework for implementing many of the learnings from the survey in order to intentionally strengthen diversity throughout the department. "For example, we found that we need to wordsmith our job descriptions to provide more inclusive language. And we discovered that we need to cast a wider net to make sure our job postings are listed where a more diverse pool of candidates will see them," Lauren explains.

So why does diversity matter so much to Lauren and to MIT? As she explains, "MIT attracts the best and the brightest. Those students need to feel supported on a personal level, especially since our college years are often a volatile time of self-discovery. Cultivating an inclusive, supportive environment fosters excellence—in the classroom and on the field. I also believe that when people feel comfortable and accepted throughout their college years, those individuals are more willing to advocate for the university—as active alumni who give back in terms of volunteer time and philanthropic support. And being more deliberate in hiring women and ethnic minorities also helps in applying for National Collegiate Athletic Association grants."

New certificate credential, new job!

There was another big benefit that came out of Lauren earning the certificate credential. This summer, she is staring a new job as Senior Association Director of Athletics and Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. "Following through on earning the certificate demonstrates that I am willing to take on new challenges to develop more effective leadership skills and diversity awareness. I think that had a big impact on my getting the job," she says.

As Lauren concludes: "I highly recommend this program to anyone in the sport management field who is looking to strengthen their leadership skills. Or if you're seeking a new position, having this credential will be a great addition to your resume. The education I received was enormously helpful when I was with MIT and is now an integral part of the leadership style I'm taking with me to Wellesley College."

Non-Profit Management

Jessica Hinman Camp Courant Headshot

""This is an unprecedented program. It's helping me build confidence. And it provides the knowledge and practical application you need to be successful, not only for those of us in the nonprofit community, but for students who work in the fund-raising arms of corporations. The incredible connections I'm making with the faculty and other students in my courses are invaluable."

- Jessica Hinman, Director of Community Outreach & Special Events, Camp Courant."

After having worked in athletic training for more than a decade, Lauren Haynie was hired as Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at MIT in 2013. A few months later, she decided to seek additional training of some kind that would help fine-tune her leadership style to be more compassionate, empathetic, and sensitive to the importance of advancing MIT's diverse and welcoming culture. As she says, "Being inclusive has always been a major part of my life and it's a value that I wanted to continue working on as a leader."

She found exactly what she was looking for on the National Association for Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators' website. "I saw a banner ad on the site about UConn's Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program. It piqued my curiosity. When I clicked on the link and realized I could take all but one course in the summer, I was totally sold," says Lauren. "The fact that the program was offered by UConn, a world-renowned institution for both academics and athletics, was the frosting on the cake," she adds.

Easy to get up to speed on HuskyCT/Blackboard.

Lauren started the program in the Spring of 2015. She then took two courses over that summer, completing the final course the following summer of 2016. The online nature of the courses didn't faze her. During her college and graduate school years, she had taken several courses online, so she found it easy to get up to speed on the Husky CT Blackboard platform. "The asynchronous schedule was so convenient. And even when we had to collaborate with other students on various projects, it wasn't a big deal because everyone was so committed to the program," says Lauren.

That commitment also cultivated a strong sense of community, she notes. "If you think being in an online course means you're off working somewhere in a vacuum, think again. For me, I felt a strong sense of connection with the other students, most of whom were in multiple courses with me. We were all encouraged to talk about ourselves, both from a professional and personal basis. It was so helpful listening to other students share the challenges they faced in their jobs."

Initiating a "climate survey."

Over the course of this past academic year, she had the opportunity to implement the ideas and practices she learned. "MIT is all about innovation and pushing the envelop—not just in technology, but also in designing recruitment and hiring strategies to create a pipeline of top-notch candidates. While we know we have a diverse student and student athlete population, we wanted to find out what we were doing well, what we could do better, and how we could enhance the experience of all student athletes," notes Lauren, who adds: "One of the big takeaways from the program is very basic: while you may not be able to treat everyone equally, you can treat everyone equitably. Diversity is coming, whether we are prepared for it or not. I truly believe that as a leader, being proactive is far more effective than being reactive."

Toward this end, Lauren and her supervisor decided to initiate a "climate survey." One of the goals was to assess whether varsity students feel a sense of belonging in terms of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among other factors. "Sure, we think we're inclusive, but the evidence has been all antidotal. So our objective was to obtain baseline data that would help us determine if there were glaring problems, if our athletes and coaches needed additional training in diversity, or if there were other actions we needed to take."

Implementing learnings to strengthen diversity.

Working closely with her colleagues in her department, Lauren helped develop and implement the survey. With results in hand, MIT's Athletic Department is now putting together a framework for implementing many of the learnings from the survey in order to intentionally strengthen diversity throughout the department. "For example, we found that we need to wordsmith our job descriptions to provide more inclusive language. And we discovered that we need to cast a wider net to make sure our job postings are listed where a more diverse pool of candidates will see them," Lauren explains.

So why does diversity matter so much to Lauren and to MIT? As she explains, "MIT attracts the best and the brightest. Those students need to feel supported on a personal level, especially since our college years are often a volatile time of self-discovery. Cultivating an inclusive, supportive environment fosters excellence—in the classroom and on the field. I also believe that when people feel comfortable and accepted throughout their college years, those individuals are more willing to advocate for the university—as active alumni who give back in terms of volunteer time and philanthropic support. And being more deliberate in hiring women and ethnic minorities also helps in applying for National Collegiate Athletic Association grants."

New certificate credential, new job!

There was another big benefit that came out of Lauren earning the certificate credential. This summer, she is staring a new job as Senior Association Director of Athletics and Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. "Following through on earning the certificate demonstrates that I am willing to take on new challenges to develop more effective leadership skills and diversity awareness. I think that had a big impact on my getting the job," she says.

As Lauren concludes: "I highly recommend this program to anyone in the sport management field who is looking to strengthen their leadership skills. Or if you're seeking a new position, having this credential will be a great addition to your resume. The education I received was enormously helpful when I was with MIT and is now an integral part of the leadership style I'm taking with me to Wellesley College."

Occupational Health and Safety

"I wish I had taken the Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program 20 years ago. It would have made my life so much easier. The knowledge I have acquired is not only benefitting me—in fact, it led to my promotion. But it benefits my company as well. The more I know, the more I can reduce our liability, save on worker's comp claims, reduce the need for outside consultants, and most importantly, save our employees from getting sick or being injured on the job." — Dawn Cole, Occupational Safety and Health 

 

Dawn Cole loves her job—and from the mug she's holding, can you tell
she also loves cats?! When she's not working at Anaren Microwave, she's
home caring for six special needs kitties—the forgotten animals of society
that no one wants because of their disabilities.

 

Never too late to learn

Dawn Cole was a bit reluctant to jump back into school; after all she graduated from SUNY – Empire State College in 2008 at the age of 48. She had always believed that the older we get, the harder it is for us to retain information. When she expressed her concerns to the University of Connecticut (UConn) eCampus staff, they suggested she try one of the courses for the program she was interested in—the Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate—and then decide. But once she started, there was no looking back! As Dawn says, "I absolutely loved the program." And earning the credential also led to her getting a promotion.

It's never too late to learn. And learn is exactly what Dawn Cole did from the moment she started the Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program in the fall of 2014, until she completed it in December 2016. With the certificate in hand, she was promoted from Quality & Safety Coordinator to her current position as Senior Environmental Health and Safety Technician for Anaren Microwave in East Syracuse, NY.

Tuition reimbursement kicks in

Until enrolling in the program, Dawn had to learn the hard way: on the job. "I didn't have any formal training when I started here in 1997 as a Quality Control Inspector. Sure, I had taken a few one-day workshops here and there, but that was it," she notes. Then in 2013, her new supervisor reminded her that the company offers a tuition reimbursement program and suggested that she see if there were any courses that might fit her needs.

 So Dawn hit the computer, did a Google search, and found several potential programs—but only one that really caught her eye. "The UConn name popped out to me. I knew of its outstanding reputation; after all, I'm from Syracuse and we are arch rivals with UConn! I called the Program Director, Professor Paul Bureau, and also talked with Donna Campbell, who supports the eCampus program students. They were so helpful every step of the way; they even held a seat for me while I was waiting for the reimbursement funds to come through. And during the entire two-plus years I was in the program, they bent over backwards to answer questions and resolve any tuition reimbursement issues I had."

Not knowing what she didn't know

From the moment Dawn began the first course, AH 3570 – Health and Safety Management in the Workplace, she quickly realized how much she didn't know. "I had stumbled my way learning on the job. But that first course was a total eye opener.” Everything started to fall into place as she began learning the 'whys' behind all of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and her workplace safety policies. A lot of the course information had been reinforced through real-life experiences, which made retaining the information much easier.

“All of the professors were helpful and responsive," she adds. "I could shoot off an email in the morning before work, and I would almost always hear back by that evening when I got home."

Online is easier, right? Wrong!

So what about the online format? Did it meet Dawn's expectations? Dawn says that when she was in college, she had done a few of her undergraduate courses online. So the platform was not entirely foreign. But when she started with the UConn online program, she was in for a big surprise.

"Some people think online courses are easier, but they aren't—at least not the UConn courses," says Dawn. "I found that they were much more intensive than classes I had taken at SUNY. So if you are considering this program, be prepared to work. Each week focuses on a specific topic. The professor assigns reading materials, along with a corresponding question to which each student is required to provide an online comment, as well as asked to respond to three other students' comments. It took a lot of thought and concentration, so I consciously structured my time, putting aside a couple of hours every night to read the materials and participate in the online discussions."

Up at 4:30 a.m. with her diabetic cat

Dawn really appreciated having online access to a dedicated bulletin board where students in the program could post comments anytime—day or night. "I have a cat that needs insulin at 4:30 every morning. While I was up, I'd check the bulletin board and usually respond to someone's comment. Sometimes I would get a response back immediately! We had a ball! I got to meet so many people from all over the country; I even met someone from right here in Syracuse."

Confidence builder

What courses did Dawn feel were most helpful? As she says, "I am not a math person. So I was really scared about taking AH 3571 – Health Hazards in the Workplace, as I knew it included Industrial Hygiene and OSHA, meaning there would likely be a lot of formulas and calculations. But it ended up being my favorite course! Professor Pasiuk and Professor Bureau took the mystery out of the formulas by breaking them down in a way that made them easy to learn and use."

In fact, Dawn says that soon after completing the program, she was put in charge of doing a comprehensive solder metal assessment to determine levels of lead fumes in four different locations throughout the East Syracuse headquarters. "I had to get all of the test equipment together and calibrated, then run the program. Having taken the Health Hazards course gave me the confidence to tackle this challenge," she says and adds: "In another course, we delved deep into the Centers for Disease Control chemical database websites and learned how to access the information available there. That's also been incredibly helpful here at work."

Learning from other students was another big part of the program. Says Dawn: "The professors asked us to bring in real-life experiences. I remember one student from the Navy talking about what can happen in the confines of a ship. Another student, a firefighter, told us all about chemical spills his squad had dealt with. In the AH 3574 – Ergonomics course, I shared photos of our old—and new—microscopes and talked about the studies we did documenting the costs of neck and shoulder injuries and how preventing those injuries will ultimately pay for our new equipment."

In conclusion, Dawn says: "I wish I had taken the Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program 20 years ago. It would have made my life so much easier. The knowledge I have acquired is not only benefitting me—in fact, it led to my promotion. But it benefits my company as well. The more I know, the more I can reduce our liability, save on worker's comp claims, reduce the need for outside consultants, and most importantly, save our employees from getting sick or being injured on the job."


"If you want training that will help you in your job now, this is the program to take. Not only will you learn about present-day problems and issues, but you'll take away a new set of skills that you can apply to virtually any type of related Occupational Safety and Health job. What I learned in the program I use on a daily basis." 
— Ginger Parker, Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program

 

Occupational Safety and Health

Ginger Parker and her dogs, Allie and Daisy, take a hike in the
Las Cruces Desert 
of New Mexico.

 

Training for the Real World

Ginger Parker had been working as a Safety Specialist for several years before she decided to look for additional training to enhance her skills and knowledge. When she came across the University of Connecticut's (UConn) Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program, she knew she had come to the right place. From the moment she began the program in May 2015, she was able to put her new skills to work, protecting the safety and health of the students and employees at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.  

Ginger Parker is no neophyte. She has worked in some capacity in the Occupational Safety and Health field since graduating from New Mexico State University (NMSU) in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. In 2015, she was thinking about going to graduate school to further her knowledge in the field of Biology. But as she says, "I could have gone back to school to get my Master's of Science in Biology, but I knew that it really would not help enhance my knowledge and skills in the field of environmental health and safety. I wanted to find something that would enhance my current skills and advance me in my field—something that could help me get ready for opportunities that may present themselves in the future.”

Ginger started researching various programs. When she came across the Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program from UConn, she was immediately intrigued. "When I learned more about the faculty, I was impressed that they had real-world experience in a wide range of industries. It was a clear indication to me that the courses would be taught by experts who are up to date on what's happening now. "

In fact, says Ginger, throughout the program, the instructors often used the weekly assignments as an opportunity for students to go out into the field to observe and evaluate various workplace environments. As Ginger explains: "One assignment was to find someone in the industry to talk to about heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The instructor specified what we needed to look for and the questions to ask, as well as provided clear instructions to not put ourselves at risk. Some students contacted the building managers of their apartment complexes or managers at their workplace. I was fortunate because I work at a university. Our HVAC manager took me all around the building where the air handling system is located and explained how it all works. That was a real eye opener. It improved my understanding of 'sick building syndrome,' what it is, how it relates to indoor air quality, and what Occupational Safety and Health professionals can do to ferret out underlying issues and resolve them."

Ginger says she also left the program with a much better grasp of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. "Thanks to the program, I am able to find information about specific regulations and interpret them much more quickly and effectively. And I was able to immediately use my new knowledge on the job, particularly with my safety and workplace hazard inspections. Learning about OSHA regs was very, very helpful."

Another course, AH 3574 – Ergonomics, which is offered as an elective, has given Ginger the extra training she needed to perform ergonomic assessments. "I began doing these assessments when one of our safety specialists retired. Taking the course accelerated my knowledge base and skills so that I now feel more prepared to conduct thorough assessments or respond to workplace injuries as effectively as possible," says Ginger, who conducts these assessment not just on the main campus, but at the university's agricultural science centers located throughout the state. "I remember one time an employee asked me to look at the type of equipment being used in one of our agricultural centers to help him figure out why some of his staff had neck and back pain. We were out in the field for quite a while, looking at our tractors. I realized that the seats did nothing to cut down on the vibration that the operators had to withstand. I did some research and found replacement seats that are ergonomically designed specifically to reduce vibration."

Because Ginger works all over the state of New Mexico, she found the online platform to be a big plus. "Since I have to travel a lot at certain times of the year, I could never have participated in a traditional program. Thankfully, with the online platform, I was able to work on assignments from my hotel room." Ginger also adds that HuskyCT, which is powered by Blackboard, was very easy to use and learn. "A couple of times, when I had questions, I just contacted the instructors and they'd respond very quickly."

Ginger says she was especially surprised at the connections she made with the other online students. As she notes, "I thought I might not have the chance to interact with other people. But it was completely the opposite. We were required to participate in many discussions throughout the program. Even though I wasn't sitting in a classroom, it almost felt like I was there. And because I was enrolled as a UConn student, I was assigned a UConn email address and got all kinds of correspondence from the university—different activities, programs, announcements. I told our program director, Paul Bureau, that though I am a proud NMSU alumni, after being part of this program, I am also proud to say that part of me will forever be connected to UConn. Go Aggies! Go Huskies!"

Ginger has some advice for students thinking about enrolling in the certificate program. "If you want training that will help you in your job now, this is the program to take. Not only will you learn about present-day problems and issues, but you'll take away a new set of skills that you can apply to virtually any type of related Occupational Safety and Health job. What I learned in the program I use on a daily basis." And she adds, "If there are any textbooks required for the courses you choose, you may be able to rent them online. It was a great option for me. I could bookmark and highlight pages and sections, as well as easily access any websites embedded in the text."


"If you are concerned that an online credential isn't the same as earning credits on campus, don't be. Ivy League schools all across the U.S. offer online programs. At the end of the day, the certificate is from UConn. It's not only an online credential—it's a UConn credential, and that means a well-designed and planned online program that will suit your educational needs."
— Mehdi Hosseini, Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program

 

Mehdi-photo---OSH-student[1]Prior to moving back to Toronto, Ontario, Mehdi Hosseini worked on an oil
sands construction site in Alberta, Canada for Pacer Promec Energy
Corporation. In addition to his core responsibilities and duties as the
Project Controls Lead, he also helped implement initiatives to ensure
safety requirements were met at the project site.

 

Filling the Gap

 With his extensive various corporate and construction experience, along with exposure to various safety issues, Mehdi quickly realized the value and impact that health and safety can have on a company’s operation at the project level, as well as the personal level. That's why he made plans to educate himself formally in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) field. After the completion of his project in Alberta, he moved back to Toronto and decided to invest his time in taking the Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program from the University of Connecticut (UConn). This was also an opportunity for him to fill the gap in his resume while looking for a job and to add new skills to his resume that could open doors to new opportunities.

Whether you're a skilled trade worker or project manager, working at a construction site can be a rewarding experience. Regardless of your responsibilities, safety is the number one priority—not just on site, but in all aspects of your daily life—notes Mehdi Hosseini. As he points out, "A simple incident, such as a loose tool potentially falling while you are working high up can cost thousands of dollars for a company. It can delay the project—and delay workers from doing their jobs—for many hours while an investigation is conducted. That can be a huge loss for the company. A poor safety record can also hurt a company’s reputation and even cost lives."

And in fact, while Mehdi was working in Alberta, occasional safety stand-down investigations were conducted and all construction workers were required to stop working during the investigations. "The cost of safety issues can be in the millions in extreme cases," says Mehdi, who at the time, worked for the company on a project basis and was in charge of contracts, procurement, cost and document control. He was also involved in implementing safety requirements, which included attending daily "toolbox" meetings, half-hour meetings held each morning to discuss, train employees, and resolve safety issues.

When oil prices started to plummet in early 2015, Mehdi decided to move to the Toronto area to look for a new job. "From my work with Pacer Promec Corporation at the construction site, I realized the value and importance of Occupational Safety and Health firsthand."

Mehdi put his time to good use. Before launching into a job search, he took a hard look at his resume and realized that health and safety education could be an asset to his future career. "I've had a wide variety of experiences in engineering and construction. I knew if a potential employer were considering me for a project manager position, adding credentials in the OSH field would clearly advance my chances for future opportunities, especially with a certificate from a highly reputable university like the University of Connecticut."

Mehdi began the Occupational Safety and Health Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program in the fall of 2016, taking one course to start. The second semester he took three courses, then one final course the following semester to finish the 15-credit program in May 2017. To say the coursework was challenging is an understatement, says Mehdi. "The UConn program was more substantive than most of the professional development trainings, but less onerous and time-consuming than a full degree program," he notes.

Mehdi adds that the UConn Occupational and Health program is well designed, which made the learning experience smooth and enjoyable. Although the professors had different requirements for their courses, each course was structured with weekly modules, with each module divided into multiple safety sub-topics. For the weekly discussions, each student was asked to lead the discussion on one of the topics. To ensure that all topics were discussed, the instructor allowed a maximum of three students to discuss the same topic, but they could comment on all topics if they wanted to. Says Mehdi: "That way we were exposed to all of the topics. As I look back, I realize that those weekly modules, each with multiple topics, could have been a course in itself! I like the fact that each course was covering many sub-topics in health and safety. I sure got my money's worth!"

For Mehdi, such in-depth training provided a big advantage. "The topics included in each course were very specific and covered the majority of aspects of health and safety issues. With my past construction and engineering project experience, I was able to easily relate to the subject matter. Now, having the OSH certificate on my resume is giving me the opportunity to apply for a wider range of positions. It's filled the gap on my resume created from not having had a specific OSH-related position."

Throughout the program, Mehdi says he found the professors very helpful in terms of responding to questions. "That made it easy for me to be in an online program. When I needed help, the instructors were right there, just an email or call away. Their continuous support made the learning experience very smooth, enjoyable and rewarding. Great program!"

His advice to anyone considering the program? "I had the benefit of being able to totally focus on getting the certificate by taking three courses in one semester. But if you are working, you might want to take just one course at a time each semester. And if you are concerned that an online credential isn't the same as earning credits on campus, don't be. Ivy League schools all across the U.S. offer online programs. At the end of the day, the certificate is from UConn. It's not only an online credential—it's a UConn credential, and that means a well-designed and planned online program that will suit your educational needs." And adds Mehdi, "I've already had several interviews, which I credit in part to my having the UConn credential on my resume."

Postsecondary Disability Services

"A Master's in Education is great, but it has little to do with working with students with disabilities. Having the certificate from UConn will definitely help further my career. I'm already feeling the positive effects and am now getting interviews. Even though I only work part-time, I feel ready to show a prospective employer that I'm ready for full-time."  Adam Kosakowski - Postsecondary Disability Services Online Graduate Certificate Student

 

Online Graduate Certificate Program in Postsecondary Disability Services Student: Adam Kosakowski

 

 

Landing Interviews
There's nothing more frustrating than applying for jobs in a university or college setting and getting little response—especially when you have a Master's in Education. Thankfully, the tide is turning for Adam Kosakowski.

A graduate of Westfield State University in Massachusetts, where he received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, Adam quickly realized that teaching college math just "didn't feel quite right to me." As he says, "I really like the college-aged population of students, but I've realized I don't want to be a traditional math teacher."

Over the past year, Adam has worked part-time as an Assistive Technology Specialist at Western Connecticut State University. As he's discovered, helping students with special needs is right up his alley. So when his employer—a UConn alum—asked if he was looking for a career serving college students with disabilities, he said, "Absolutely, yes. That's when she told me about the UConn online certificate program and I immediately applied."

The more you put in, the more you get out.

It didn't take long for Adam to figure out that just like any college class, the more effort you put in, the more you get out of the program. "I've found that the harder I've worked, the more confidence I've gained. Now I feel like I can talk intelligently with a prospective employer. I can give them actual examples that demonstrate how I've applied what I've learned in the program to my current job."

So was it hard to get accustomed to being an online student? Adam is a math whiz—and he's familiar with all kinds of technology, so taking online courses is a natural for him. But he says, "It's easy to get up to speed quickly. It's basically an interactive website that works like a forum. You can start a thread, and your fellow students can comment on it. If you know how to use email and social media sites, you'll find this very intuitive and easy to use."

Engaged instructors, engaged students.

Plus Adam knows he can turn to his professors for whatever help he needs. As he notes, "Professor Lombardi has been incredibly supportive. I tend to work fast and get assignments done quickly. Even if I send in an assignment before the due date, she gets right back to me. She really cares about the course and pours herself into her job, and that helps me be more engaged."

Adam also points out that the online environment offers advantages that a traditional class setting doesn't. As someone who understands the benefits of assistive technology, he greatly appreciates that the PowerPoint presentations play like videos and include closed captions. "I'm not hard of hearing, but I really like to read along as the video is playing. It helps enhance my comprehension of the material," he says.


"Learning about what other professionals do in their school districts helps me think more creatively about what I can do now and in the future for students with disabilities. I think that anyone in a related field could easily apply the learnings from the certificate program to their jobs." — Lindsay Morales, Student, Postsecondary Disability Services Online Graduate Certificate Program

 

Online Graduate Certificate Program in Postsecondary Disability Services Student: Lindsey Morales

Lindsay Morales intends to combine her online graduate certificate
with her Master's in School Psychology degree—both from
UConn—to help high school students with disabilities successfully
transition into the next phase of their lives.

 

The Perfect Marriage
 Lindsay Morales, a recent Master’s degree recipient in Educational Psychology, who is currently enrolled in UConn’s NEAG School of Education as a 6th year candidate in the School Psychology concentration, will be earning her specialist credential in School Psychology in the spring of 2018. She had no intention of taking the Postsecondary Disability Services Online Graduate Certificate Program at UConn—until she started working with students at the University's Center for Students with Disabilities. She views the addition of the certificate to her Master's degree credentials as the perfect marriage of two specialties, eventually enabling her to help high school students with disabilities transition into whatever life may bring after graduation.

To say Lindsay Morales is busy is an understatement. In addition to her graduate school courses, Lindsay juggles multiple jobs—graduate assistant at UConn's Center for Students with Disabilities; research assistant to Dr. Allison Lombardi; an academic mentor for UConn's Student Athlete Success Program; and Clinical Assessment Examiner for Natchaug Hospital in Hartford, CT. Adding the certificate program on top of all this was no easy feat. But as Lindsay notes, she is learning how to bring effective transition services to the high school environment to affect positive outcomes. "The online certificate program is really preparing me to do awesome transition work as a school psychologist for high school students. It's been an amazing experience."

In fact, Lindsay sees the addition of the certificate to her Master's credentials as the perfect marriage between her training as a K-12 school psychologist and her interest in students with disabilities. She wasn't planning on enrolling in the certificate program, but when she began her job at the Center for Students with Disabilities three years ago, she realized how much she loves working with college students. And she works with a lot of kids!

Surprisingly, about 4,000 students from UConn look to the Center for assistance each year. This includes kids with ADHD, depression, anxiety, chronic physical disabilities – and some students with short-term issues adjusting to college life, among other challenges. As Lindsay notes, "If a high school student were having problems, like if their grades were slipping, the school psychologist would proactively reach out to that person. But in college, no one is going to chase you down if you're having a bad day—or if you lack basic self-advocacy skills and aren't getting to class. Fortunately, our Center has a great outreach and marketing program, so we are quite well-known on the UConn Storrs campus and students in need can seek our support as required."

A wealth of perspectives.

So what does Lindsay most appreciate about the certificate program? By far, it's the ability to connect with a diverse blend of professionals, from school psychologists to special education teachers. She also greatly values the exposure she has to guest lecturers, who bring their unique perspectives from other colleges and universities into the program.

"It's so interesting to hear everyone's thoughts on laws in their states or institutions," says Lindsay. "How students go about accessing services can look very different from one institution to the next, or from one state to the next. Learning about what other professionals do in their school districts helps me think more creatively about what I can do now and in the future for students with disabilities. I think that anyone in a related field could easily apply the learnings from the certificate program to their jobs."

Lively online discussions.

In addition, the HuskyCT/Blackboard online platform has far exceeded Lindsay's expectations. As she explains, for each weekly module, instructors post questions to which students are required to post at least one original answer. "I make my original post, then wait to see who comments. Then I engage with them in discussions, which can get quite lively. Certainly you can do the minimum to get by. But you wouldn't be accessing the rich information, articles, practice briefs, and other materials provided by the instructors. Like any course, you get out of the program as much as you put in." 

Getting a jump start on the future.

As Lindsay has discovered, developing connections with other students and the instructors has provided a great opportunity for networking. "When anyone in our cohort hears about research, employment, or conference opportunities, we all let the instructors know and they announce it to the class. It's an excellent way to get a jump start on future opportunities." With her Master's degree from UConn, along with her certificate credential and diverse work experience, there's no doubt many doors will open for Lindsay to make a big difference in the lives of students with disabilities.

Puppet Arts

"Thanks to the knowledge and experience I have been gaining, I'm able to put my new skills into actual use. I'm learning techniques to make puppets take certain actions that you wouldn't think you could, such as having a shadow puppet jump across a pond and showing the surface water actually rippling at the same time. I'm getting puppet arts training from a university with a world-class reputation in the field, while being able to continue working at a job I love."  Brandon Kirkham, Puppetry Arts Online Graduate Certificate Student

Brandon Kirkham
Brandon Kirkham poses with Edgar, Allen, and Poe puppets from the cast of SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN. Photos by Paul Ruffolo.

Brandon Kirkham, Brandon has been building puppets
professionally for more than 10 years. But with just two
courses from the Puppet Arts Online Graduate Certificate
Program under his belt, he’s taking his work as Design
Supervisor at First Stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to the
next level.

For the Love of Puppets

Brandon Kirkham has been immersed in theater for many years – first as an undergraduate student in Costume Design at the University of Evansville, then as a student in the Master's in Costume and Scenery Design program at Ohio University. Today, he works as Design Supervisor for a children's theater company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, called First Stage. As much as he loves theater, there's something about the world of puppetry that's taken hold of Brandon. While the Master's program at Ohio University allowed him to tailor his education to reflect his interest in puppetry, it wasn't part of the formal curriculum and didn't provide the in-depth training he was looking for to take his interest to the next level.

"At the time I was looking into getting a Master's degree, I knew about the University of Connecticut's (UConn) Puppetry Arts Master of Fine Arts program, but decided to stick with theater design," Brandon recalls. "But I had always wondered what it would have been like going to UConn. So when I saw a post on a friend's Facebook page about the Puppet Arts Online Graduate Certificate Program, I immediately knew it would be the perfect way for me to fill in my knowledge gaps and allow me to get a more formal education in puppetry."

Part of the "inaugural" class, Brandon has completed two of the four required courses: DRAM 5607 – Advanced Materials Techniques and DRAM 5613 – Advanced Shadow Theater. Both courses incorporated extensive opportunities to critique other students' work and to be critiqued. Says Brandon: "In any artistic pursuit, critique is essential. We are creating art to be viewed and knowing how your peers see your work helps you understand whether you are communicating your story and characters clearly, or not. I find VoiceThread to be a great platform for critiquing."

An interactive, collaborative sharing tool.

kirkham
Brandon Kirkham shows off the puppet cast of SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN. Photos by Paul Ruffolo.

So what is VoiceThread and how is it used in the Puppet Arts Online Graduate Certificate Program? An interactive collaboration and sharing tool, VoiceThread allows students to add images, documents, and videos – then other students can add their voice, text, audio file, or video comments. "VoiceThread allows you to be as close as possible to other students without actually being in the same space," says Brandon, who used the tool extensively to provide critiques and in return, received the same level of feedback. "Since the courses are asynchronous, I'm able to provide my critique at a time convenient to me, usually later in the evenings when my wife has gone to bed."

Putting his new skills to good use.

Brandon's experience to date has already made a big impact on his work at First Stage, which operates the nation's largest theater academy for children. As part of his job as Design Supervisor, Brandon is involved with 11 productions a year. Says Brandon:

"We seem to be incorporating puppetry into more shows, which conveniently coincides with my involvement in the online graduate certificate program. For example, Lovabye Dragon, a show we adapted from the book by Barbara Joosse, features three styles of puppets – hand, shadow, and a 14-foot walk-around dragon puppet that takes three performers to operate. I would never have known how to create intricate shadow puppets before I took the Advanced Shadow Theater course with Penny Benson.

"Thanks to the knowledge and experience I have been gaining, I'm able to put my new skills into actual use. I'm learning techniques to make puppets take certain actions that you wouldn't think you could, such as having a shadow puppet jump across a pond and showing the surface water actually rippling at the same time. We also had a session on learning how to use old-school projectors to achieve very intricate special effects, like having puppets appear to weave in and out of trees in a forest."

Learning some of the business side, too.

The program isn't all fun and games. As Brandon notes, "Using Blackboard to have online discussions, we are exposed to a lot of very interesting ethical topics, such as rights, royalties, and copyright rules." Brandon is also required to write research papers. But the effort he has put in thus far has been well worth it. As he says, "I'm getting puppet arts training from a university with a world-class reputation in the field, while being able to continue working at a job I love."

Brandon's final project: Lovabye Dragon shadow music video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvk31eeCDEc

Another class project: to emulate the style of Australian puppeteer Richard Bradshaw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRIK_1pHw3A

______________________


"If you can't get to Storrs, the online graduate certificate program is ideal. You can complete the courses from your home or studio, wherever. It's also a great way to test the waters to see if you're interested in getting an MFA in Puppet Arts from UConn. I know my degree will open all kinds of doors for me in the future." — Kimberly Van Aelst, Puppetry Arts Online Graduate Certificate Student

Kimberly---Puppet-Arts-Testimonial_350.jpg

Kimberly Van Aelst lives with her husband and
four-year-old son in Hamden, Connecticut – and
an ideal place to create puppets, especially with
her studio (shown here) located right on their
property, just steps from their home.


All About Timing

Timing is everything, at least for Kimberly Van Aelst it is. Since 2008, she had been interested in applying for a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Puppet Arts at the University of Connecticut (UConn), School of Fine Arts, Dramatic Arts. But life has a funny way of sneaking up on you and taking over. Finally, eight years later, the timing was just right, and Kimberly applied to the program. At the same time, she discovered the Puppet Arts Online Graduate Certificate program and decided to get some credentials under her belt while she was waiting to hear about being accepted.

Who would have thought someone with a Master's of Public Health, specializing in International Health, could end up in UConn's Puppet Arts MFA program? Kimberly Van Aelst did. While working overseas in Afghanistan as a Social Media Project Manager with Handicap International, she met a puppeteer who produced educational puppet films for children to help prevent land mine injuries. As she recalls, "It inspired me and helped me to envision a way to blend puppetry with my public health and occupational therapy background. I started thinking of applying to the MFA in Puppet Arts program in 2008. I remember telling my colleagues, 'One day I will be in the graduate puppetry program at UConn.'" 

Life can take over.

But like so many of us, life has a way of taking over. Kimberly and her husband, a professional freelance photographer, bought a house, got married, and had a baby. "We put other dreams on hold as we lived in bliss as new parents," says Kimberly, whose Mystic Aquarium wedding in 2011 became a YouTube hit, with nearly 5,000,000 views, when the couple's mariachi band was filmed serenading a Beluga whale!

While Kimberly continued to work in her field, she found time to cultivate her passion for puppetry, performing in puppet slams – in New York City, New Haven, Boston, and even on the West Coast – and with performance companies, such as Drama of Works in Brooklyn, New York. In fact, Kimberly developed a new puppet show piece called "WAAC the Puppet Show,"* which was recently showcased at Dixon Place in New York City during a World War II-themed slam hosted by Drama of Works. 

But finally the time was right.

In January 2016, the time was finally right, and Kimberly applied for the Master's program. Knowing she would have to wait to hear about acceptance – then wait several months before coursework would begin – she decided to jump into the Puppet Arts Online Graduate Certificate program and took DRAM 5607 – Advanced Materials Techniques. Says Kimberly, who also took DRAM 5613 – Advanced Shadow Theater to hone her skills in shadow puppetry: "I wanted to start accruing credits, get a feel for the Master's program, and meet some of the faculty. The online courses were fantastic."

So what specifically did she find so worthwhile?

During Advanced Materials Techniques, Kimberly learned all about puppet construction using a wide variety of materials and tools. For example, she says, "We learned how to design a puppet head and construct it out of neoprene latex. Our teacher, Paul Spirito, showed us exactly what adhesives and paints would work on latex, and how to add eyes, a nose, and even a mouth that can move." Kimberly also found VoiceThread, to which she uploaded her various project for critique, to be extremely easy to use.

Even though Kimberly has had a lot of experience in shadow puppetry, taking the Advanced Shadow Theater course from Penny Benson taught her how to use multiple projectors at once. She also learned how to incorporate her body into the performance while greatly improving her masking and rod techniques. "It was so helpful. Penny taught us how to attach puppet joints so they aren't stiff and how arms and legs can move and appear three-dimensional, rather than being flat and lifeless."

A great way to test the waters.

When Kimberly completes her MFA in 2019, she envisions developing puppets for local theater companies, such as the Downtown Cabaret Theater in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She encourages anyone with a love of puppetry to give it a try, even for people like her with a background in a field unrelated to performance arts. Plus she says, "If you can't get to Storrs, the online graduate certificate program is ideal. You can complete the courses from your home or studio, wherever. It's also a great way to test the waters to see if you're interested in getting an MFA in Puppet Arts from UConn. I know my degree will open all kinds of doors for me in the future, hopefully helping pave the way for me to develop and perform larger scale pieces in festivals around the world."

* WAAC stands for Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp.

Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management

"Eventually, I want to transfer the skills I gained in the program and do something on a broader scale—maybe city planning or working in the renewable energy field. Thanks to the UConn credentials I earned in the program, I feel like I have a fighting chance of pursuing my dream—even if I'm up against people with full Master's degrees." – Rachel Grigorian, Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management graduate

Rachel Duluth - Sustainable Environmental Planning & Management Online Graduate Certificate

Rachel Grigorian takes her UConn graduate certificate credentials
with her on the job, helping clients navigate complex environmental
regulations and resource management issues associated with new
home construction in Central Vermont.

 

Right in Her Own Backyard

Rachel embodies the expression, "Act locally, think globally." As Lead Landscape Project Manager at Rivers Bend Design in Vermont's Mad River Valley, she's constantly battling water and other resource management issues that affect her clients. Rachel is hoping that with her University of Connecticut (UConn) credential under her belt, she can take what she learned in the program—and on the job—to make an even bigger impact on sustainability in Vermont.

 

For Rachel, the real-world issues addressed during the Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management program couldn't be more personal. She, her husband Clayton, and their two children are among 350 people who live in the small rural town of Granville, Vermont. In her position as Lead Landscape Project Manager for a local landscape design firm, she helps manage complex environmental issues that arise during new construction projects.

Water, water everywhere.

"There's a lot of land available in Vermont, and everyone wants to build their dream home. But that can be a real problem because of the tremendous amount of water our state has combined with the steep geography of the Green Mountains," says Rachel. "So we do a lot of water runoff planning. We have to look carefully at the way water moves through ecosystems and properly plan for it so that we don't destroy the land and environment that attracted the homeowner in the first place."

As Rachel notes, participating in the program prepared her to tackle real problems she faces on job sites. "One course, Sustainable Natural Resources Management, presented case studies on the issues we face today in the areas of sustainable agriculture, fisheries, forestry, freshwater, marine, water, and wildlife resources. It had a big science base to it. I use what I learned every day in my current job."

The program went with her.

Rachel admits that if the program hadn't been available online, she wouldn't have had the opportunity to participate. As she explains, she got her undergraduate degree in landscape design from UMASS Amherst, but always wanted to do something in sustainability and conservation. Her sister went to UConn, so she naturally thought about getting a Master's in Landscape Design here, but decided she wanted to explore a different route. That's when she came across the Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management Program's website. "I was not only interested in the focus of the program, but also because the curriculum was online. Time was limited; I was working and getting my Master Gardeners certificate, so I was juggling a lot. Because it was online, I could participate on my own schedule," she recalls.

Rachel took the plunge and enrolled in the certificate program for the fall 2014 semester. At the time, her boyfriend, now husband, had moved to Vermont to take a job. "I had already enrolled in the program when Clayton moved. I ended up quitting my job at a landscape firm in New Canaan, Connecticut and moved to Vermont. Thankfully, I could just continue the online program without any interruption."

A fighting chance.

Rachel was surprised at how much interaction there was between professors and students. "It was just as good as being in a traditional classroom—if not better in some ways. I could post a question in a forum, and I knew I'd get multiple responses from students who might have a different take on the concepts or understand them better than me. I also liked that the program focused so much on writing proposals for projects. I learned how to craft proposals that would entice the audience I was writing for to read on." And Rachel concludes:

"Eventually, I want to transfer the skills I gained in the program and do something on a broader scale—maybe city planning or working in the renewable energy field. Thanks to the UConn credentials I earned in the program, I feel like I have a fighting chance of pursuing my dream—even if I'm up against people with full Master's degrees."


"If you are considering taking the SEPM online graduate certificate program, go for it! Not only will it enhance your ability to advance your career, but you can also apply the credits you earn to a Master's degree at UConn, which is exactly what I did. It was a real win-win for my family and for me!" – Michelle Kosmo, Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management graduate

 

michelle kosmo - Sustainable Environmental Planning & Management Online Graduate Certificate

Michelle Kosmo – student, mom, and Coast Guard Reservist –
has discovered that taking courses online is more time-intensive
than in a traditional classroom. But for her, that time was well spent,
giving her invaluable insights into other classmates' perspectives
and a wealth of real-world skills.

 

Master Juggler
You could call Michelle Kosmo a major multi-tasker. While pursuing her post-graduate education in natural resources, she juggled the demands of her family along with her duties as a Coast Guard Reservist.

 

Now it's all paying off. Michelle recently earned her Master's Degree in Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut (UConn). And she just completed UConn's Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management (SEPM) Online Graduate Certificate Program.

What was the key to her ability to manage multiple priorities at once? "Many of the classes I took were online, including all of the courses for the certificate program," she answers. "I didn't have to be in a set location at a specific time. I had a lot of flexibility and could complete the work on my own schedule. When you have a small child – and a significant commitment like I do to the Coast Guard – that's really important."

But says, Michelle, "Just because you can do the certificate program courses on your own time, don't be fooled. I found that they required about twice as much work as traditional classes."

That time was well-spent, emphasizes Michelle. "Each of the four courses gave us a wealth of information relevant to timely topics, while covering many different areas, from coastal environments and fisheries to open spaces and sustainable agriculture. And each course built on the previous one, culminating with a Capstone Project."

Great insights.

She also greatly valued the opportunity to interact with her peers, many of whom were working professionals planning to go into – or already in – the natural resources and sustainable environmental planning fields. "The discussion component of the class allowed us to make posts and reply to other posts on a regular basis throughout the program. That gave me incredible insights into other students' perspectives, which I don't think I would have gotten in quite the same way in the traditional classroom setting. I also found that the online format of the program helped enhance my understanding of the material."

Learning to resolve conflicts.

Most importantly, Michelle says, between the two required courses and the two electives she chose to take – NRE 5205 - Decision Methods in Natural Resources and the Environment and NRE 5210 - Communications for Environmental Decision Makers – she gained real-world, hands-on skills. "In our field, you're often dealing with disparate groups. Many times, they are individuals with extremely different agendas and perspectives. The program gave me the written and oral communication skills I'll need to convey my ideas in a way that helps resolve conflicts and facilitates negotiations. For example, I now know how to structure a meeting that keeps the conversation on track and helps build consensus."

Systematic PrOACT decision-making.

During the final NRE 5220 Capstone Project course, students were required to work on a group assignment to prepare an environmental plan, which gave Michelle the opportunity to utilize the knowledge she gained in the online certificate program. Her group assignment required her to work with two classmates to create a Green Space and Green Infrastructure Addendum for the City of Hartford's Plan of Conservation and Development. "We were required to work through the entire process of developing a comprehensive environmental plan using the systematic PrOACT approach to decision making. It's a great model because it shows your constituents that you have thought through the plan in a very comprehensive, structured way."

Go for it!

While Michelle is raising her young daughter, she plans to put her career in natural resources on hold—at least for the immediate future. But she says, every month she has the opportunity to use the knowledge she gained when she heads to Boston, Massachusetts to fulfill her duties with the Coast Guard Reserve. "I intuitively draw upon the new perspectives and skills I gained from my experiences at UConn; they have become integral to my way of thinking about the environment."

In summary, she says: "If you are considering taking the SEPM online graduate certificate program, go for it! Not only will it enhance your ability to advance your career, but you can also apply the credits you earn to a Master's degree at UConn, which is exactly what I did. It was a real win-win for my family and for me!"