Let’s be “real”

A simple conversation a few months back gave me one of those “wake up calls” that most of us receive from time to time.

The conversation was with my student advisor at Southern New Hampshire University.

As I approaching not only the end of the current term but also completion of my MBA, she asked a simple question.

“Are you coming up for commencement?”

I live in Houston, TX. Southern New Hampshire University is…well…in Southern New Hampshire. It had honestly never dawned on me that I would, or even could, visit and participate in the graduation ceremony.

Being an online student, I just assumed they would mail me my diploma…or if I were so lucky, the wicked cool Winnebago would pull up and they’d come knocking on my door. How cool would that be?

My response to my advisor’s question was pretty simple. “Can I do that? I mean I’m just an online student. It’s not like I am real student.”

She scoffed at that…no…she actually put me in my place.

I was no less a “real” student than any of the on-campus students, certainly no less “real” than any of the thousands of students who have graduated since the school was founded in 1932.

It reminded me of a very interesting fact. We are what we tell ourselves we are. A few months back I wrote about taking control of our message. Redefining it when we needed to and about how we control the narrative we tell ourselves and others.

Well my advisor gave me a very real reminder of this fact that evening.

So there, on my patio I realized…I am a REAL student! Why wouldn’t I go to campus and participate in commencement with all my classmates?!

My wife and I flew north on Saturday morning and that evening I had the pleasure of putting faces to the names and voices of both my academic and career advisors. We had an incredibly fun dinner and then Sunday I “walked.”

I even found the winnebago! 



Now I can honestly say I’ve never known a more encouraging, supportive culture in my academic or professional careers.

To say SNHU wants us, their students, to succeed is barely worth saying because it hardly captures the effort, the passion, the focus, drive, respect, altruism, and professionalism every corner of their organizational structure provided me throughout my tenure there.

During the commencement however, something else struck me. The president and other speakers repeatedly emphasized something that I truly took to heart, and something I think many of my classmates (that’s still so neat to say) also took to heart.

SNHU truly understands the unique stories that each of us brought to commencement. They value our individualism and, just as sacred, they value and cherish all the spouses, significant others, and family members that play such an undeniable role in getting us to that ceremony.
Most of us were from out of state. Most of us had full-time careers. Most of us children or parents or spouses or all of the above and more.

SNHU holds sacred the belief that the diploma  I earned is as much about my own focus, drive, commitment, and ambition as it is about my wife’s, son’s, and parents’ support, encouragement, understanding, faith and love means everything to me.

Now SNHU gets a great deal of credit for being a non-profit university and for their innovation but for me they deserve the most credit for how they cherish their students and the people who stand next to us, behind us, and around us as we marched through classes week after week, long night after long night, whether in class or online.

To be true, SNHU has been the greatest educational experience of my life. (no offense to my beloved University of Houston)

Thank you to everyone at Southern New Hampshire for a valuable education, even more valuable experiences, and the most valuable thing of all – a reminder about what “real” is.

Until next time,

Be Well and Kind,

In defense of a History degree

I’ve been a “business professional” my entire career. I’ve worked in market research, retail and corporate training and management, and communications in a variety of environments.

One of the questions I’m most often asked during employment interviews or even just around the water cooler is about my undergraduate degree.

I graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in History and a minor in Religious Studies. When I initially enrolled, I was a creative writing major and then changed to history after realizing that I was gravitating towards those classes rather than those in the English department.

Most of my colleagues, coworkers, and peers have business degrees of some variety or another, others have marketing degrees, several are engineers.

I stick out like a sore thumb.

The fact of the matter is, however, that my academic background has provided me with invaluable experience and skills that have formed the foundation of every success and ability I’ve developed as a business professional.

Committing yourself to the study of history and religious studies is not for the faint of heart.

These disciplines require critical thinking, research and analytical skills, and the ability to comprehend wildly divergent cultural and political beliefs systems.

Once the research is complete, you’re required to condense all that information into a coherent and sound analysis. Tailoring the papers and articles to appropriate and varied audiences require advanced writing and communications skills.

As a history major I was required to conduct peer reviews, provide group presentations, lead teams of researchers, collaborate on large projects with strict deadlines while adhering to detailed style guides.

It’s often taken for granted or overlooked but studying history combines the most essential professional skills into one massive and fascinating undertaking.

Success in a global business community requires quick thinking, intellectual agility, cultural awareness, communications skills, and the ability to condense and deliver massive amounts of information in an efficient and effective manner.

There may be no better foundation from which to develop these skills than tackling a degree in History.