Past, Present & Future Paper
University of Phoenix
Prof. M. Bendik, DNSc
August 2, 1999
Past, Present & Future Paper
The University of Phoenix offers business degree programs geared toward working adults. These programs allow full-time professionals the opportunity to advance their education while maintaining a career. The Bachelor of Science in Business Management program focuses upon developing managerial, decision-making, and evaluative skills. By completing individual and group assignments, the University aims to provide an education that is both academic and practical to everyday work experience. It was this aspect of the University of Phoenix that drew me to enroll as a student in this program.
I began my studies at the University of Phoenix in December 1997. The ability to learn in a classroom lecture setting and to apply knowledge toward group based projects has been an invaluable part of the school's curriculum. This paper, being written near the completion of the management major's core curriculum, will discuss and evaluate my personal experience with the University by comparing key areas of my knowledge and skills base at three different periods. The first portion will describe my standing prior to the beginning of the program. The second portion will evaluate where I am now at the completion of the management coursework. The final portion will state some of the personal, professional, and educational goals I have set for myself over the next five years.
Upon reminiscing, it is amazing to look back upon the previous year and a half and gauge what has transpired. When I came to the University in December of 1997, I had not been to school in over 6 years. My previous schooling had been at Arizona State University where I did not have educational or professional goals in mind and lacked the real-world experience to be able to relate course material to practical application in the workplace. Later, enrolling in the University of Phoenix, I possessed that experience but my study habits had grown rusty. I decided to renew my pursuit of my bachelor degree because I had committed to myself that I would obtain a degree and out of a desire to increase my marketability in an increasingly competitive employment market.
There are many valuable criteria for comparing then and now to show the impact of the University's education. When I started classes at the University, I had obtained approximately 5 years worth of work experience, including several years in management, and had become aware, at least in concept, of some important processes and values in business. I found myself in the position of vaguely understanding the how's of business, but unclear about many of the why's.
The curriculum and environment at the University of Phoenix have primarily affected several areas of my understanding of business, including my ethics, attitudes, knowledge base, communication skills (both written and oral), and interpersonal relationships. I believe that I have always held high ethical standards; however, prior to my coursework at the University, I had difficulty expressing those ethics and explaining the foundation for them.
My attitude towards upper management was mostly adversarial. A lack of understanding for the underlying reasons for some business practices led me to see things in terms of management, employees, and customers all competing with one another for attention and advantage. When a manager made a decision that would reduce costs or improve efficiency, my perspective would reduce the decision to a simplistic effort to gain advantage, rather than evaluating costs and benefits to the business.
Prior to my university coursework, I had not received formal training in business methods and decision-making tools. Therefore, my knowledge base was limited to what I had learned through work experience, most of which was accumulated from only 2 different organizations, both within the same industry. Much of my knowledge at that point consisted of how things are done and processes to be followed. This knowledge served well in the avoidance of major mistakes; however, not understanding the reasons behind the procedures hindered my ability to use different techniques and to find creative solutions to new problems.
My ability to communicate, on the other hand, had been well developed owing to the benefit of working in sales and relying upon effective communication as a means of earning a living. However, I still found it very difficult to speak in front of large audiences. Before being required to do so as part of the University's course of study, my public speaking experience was extremely limited and, therefore, speaking would bring about a great deal of anxiety.
Finally, in working with people in a team environment, I had little experience prior to enrolling in the University. The sales profession is naturally competitive. Job satisfaction and compensation are based primarily upon individual success. It was this area that I felt would present the strongest challenge and, with it, the largest opportunity for learning and growing.
The terminal objectives of the business program included becoming not only comfortable, but also proficient in all of the areas mentioned above (University of Phoenix, 1997). Primary goals of the curriculum included the ability to articulate ethical standards, shape attitudes, establish a solid and deep base of business knowledge, and the development of strong written and oral communication skills. Special emphasis was also placed upon the ability to get along with and work effectively with others to achieve common goals. There were, of course, several other objectives of the program that were equally important. These few are mentioned specifically because they are the areas in which I feel I have seen the most improvement and, therefore, the areas that most clearly demonstrate the overall value of the curriculum.
Upon completion of the majority of the management core classes, I am able to reflect upon these areas and find considerable growth. Besides the obvious benefit of receiving formal training in tools, techniques and information used by business managers, the University's program has provided many other tangible benefits. Despite losing familiarity with the practice of studying during my hiatus from higher education, learning at the University quickly became an easy and motivating activity.
Overall, the business program has given me a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons for why businesses operate in the manner they do, what factors are used in making important decisions and how organizations develop the values that are used in setting policies. In reviewing and making decisions presently, the outcomes make much more sense viewed through the perspective of an educated manager. My ethical standards remain high with the added benefit of the ability to express, explain, and impart them to others.
I have seen considerable growth in my attitude toward business as a whole. Rather than viewing business as a constant struggle between managers, rank and file labor, and customers, I am able to understand the catalysts that make businesses undertake changes and shift focus. It is still useful to remember from whence I came, though, because my ability to empathize with those who maintain the attitude I once held could be a valuable asset in managing them. Looking upon business decisions as an evaluation of costs and benefits also provides an objective basis for choosing that is far less subject to notions of advantages for individuals.
Of course, the most obvious benefit of completing the management program is the formal training I have received in business methods and decision-making tools. Drawing upon my experience in business, the curriculum explained, expanded, and challenged my knowledge base. In explaining business practices and the reasons for them, the courses equipped me with information to be able to creatively face different situations. Coursework also provided insight into business methods that are common across industries and, thus, expanded my knowledge so that it may be used in a variety of settings. The barrage of knowledge, overwhelming at times, also forced me to reexamine some long held conceptions about how things ought to be done and to make adjustments to my assumptions.
The university experience also enhanced my communication abilities. A paper of this length would have been excruciatingly difficult for me to put together prior to my coursework. The requirements of the University's classes have forced me to become proficient at organizing ideas, committing them to paper, and explaining them orally in front of a group. It is this last arena, in oral presentations, which I feel to be of profound benefit. The University of Phoenix's constant oral presentations ensure a great deal of practice in communicating before an audience. After completing the management program and many presentations, I feel comfortable and confident in addressing even large groups of people.
The University also provides ample opportunity to work with other people on common projects. At the prodding of the school, each class requires some sort of group project that requires coordination, teamwork, division of responsibility, and accountability between group members. This area, as I surmised, has provided the most difficult part of completing my education. However, I was also correct in my assessment that it would simultaneously present an immense opportunity. Working with small groups of people, learning the material together has been the single most rewarding part of my education. Doing so has given a practical side to lessons learned in the classroom and has also provided several personal friendships that I expect to continue well beyond the completion of my degree.
Despite my completion of the management core curriculum, I have not yet earned my bachelor degree. The classes I have taken together with the work experience I have accumulated and my enjoyment of the educational experience have led me to pursue a second major. My immediate goals, therefore, still include the objective of completing my bachelor's degree that will include majors in business management and business information systems. Several courses at the University have stressed the importance of setting long-term goals. This has led me to formulate goals beyond the 12 months it should take to complete the business information systems core of classes. Once I have earned my degree, I plan to pursue goals on personal, professional, and educational levels.
The University's intensive class schedule, at times, can be overwhelming. Attending classes while being employed full-time and working with group members who must also juggle a work schedule presents an enormous intrusion upon personal leisure time. My first goal upon completing my degree is to take a well-deserved vacation from work and school. After returning to serious pursuits, I plan to set a goal of continued learning for personal improvement. I would also like to use the knowledge I have accumulated to contribute to the development of others by mentoring. It is my hope to progress into some form of teaching or working with people to increase their understanding and skills within a business environment.
Professionally, my degree should allow me to more aggressively pursue a career in information technology. I have been around computers, personally and professionally, for over two decades. My degree will formalize much of this knowledge and open opportunities for advancement. I hope to grow into a career that allows me to work with information technology and to manage and lead people. I feel this will present a significant opportunity for me to share my learning and be a valuable asset to any organization I am a part of.
Educationally, I do not plan to stop attending school once I have completed my bachelor degree. In keeping with my professional and personal goals, I plan to pursue a master's degree in information technology that will allow me to specialize my expertise toward supporting and managing the use of information technologies in conducting business. I hope that this will enhance my ability to some day teach and impart such knowledge to others. It is also my goal to develop techniques of teaching so that I can participate in industry conferences and seminars and receive the added perk of travelling.
In conclusion, I have found my experience at the University of Phoenix to be extremely positive. I could not measure in quantitative terms how much I feel I have progressed since enrolling only 19 months ago. I can, however, measure in quantitative terms many criteria that are used in making important business decisions. The coursework I have done has contributed immensely to my understanding of business practices, reasons underlying management decisions, and toward the development of my communication skills, among many other improvements. Once I have completed my degree and embark upon the pursuit of goals outlined in this paper, I know I will find my learning experience to be a solid foundation to build upon.
University of Phoenix (1997). Program Handbook: Bachelor of Science in Business Management Programs. Phoenix, AZ: Author.
© Earl Langenberg - 2000. All rights reserved.