For several years I’ve been on the lookout for a suitable
Master’s Degree program. Before I define "suitable”, and fill you in on what
I’ve discovered, let me share some background.
After earning my Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University
I worked as a fruit and vegetable inspector for the USDA in New York State;
after this job ran out I traveled westward, hoping to snag similar positions in
the Green Acres of California. Instead, I took a job with a construction
subcontractor, for whom I worked for a few years. In that time I rekindled a latent
love of photography and made it work-related: I began photographing our
projects and maintaining albums of job-progress photos. That passion continued after I left the
company with dreams of plying my photo trade full-time. I fell into Ophthalmic
Photography in 1995 and have never looked back. I’ve been at the University of
Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics for 15 years.
While I was following my own path many of my college friends
were getting advanced degrees and marching forward into the corporate, medical,
or legal professions. I, too, held onto a desire to return to school, seeing
how I knew much more about life than I had when I entered college as a naive 18
year old. If undergraduate years are a springboard into a world of ideas and
opportunity, then graduate school is your chance to refine your focus and march
ahead with a clearer idea of what you want from life.
As soon as I became a father I knew that returning to school
full-time was not an option. My search for graduate programs was put on the
back burner until the emergence in the past few years of quality evening /
part-time / online programs designed especially for working people. I swung and
missed at a few intriguing but not-quite-right programs. I finally connected in
late 2011 when I discovered Western
Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program in IT Management.
Several factors converge for me in this program: The
emphasis is relevant to my skills and aspirations, the degree is
well-respected, the program is rigorous, and it is 100% online. Oh, and the
price is right. WGU is a non-profit that keeps prices low while taking great
pains to build personal connections. Visit wgu.edu for more information than I
can provide here (no proprietary interest).
So what’s it like going back to school without going back to
school? I rise an hour earlier than usual each morning, and do schoolwork
before breakfast. Evenings, it’s dinner with my wife, then back to the books; I
quit in time for us to share a drink over "The Daily Show”. On weekends I’ll
put in a few more hours, depending on the social calendar. Friday is my one
night off per week. I find that methodically plodding toward a goal is
immensely powerful. Be faithful to your routine, and the tasks melt away behind
you like highway miles on a cross-country road trip.
To prepare for the written assignments (of which there are
between one and four per course) we’re given E-Books and articles to read,
videos to watch, and simulations to carry out. There are eleven courses total
in the program; I’m currently on Number 8, IT Strategic Management. The final
course is a Capstone Project that should encompass everything I’ve learned in
the program. We’re supported by a student mentor, course mentors, and an active
Observations? I tend to adopt personality traits that
reflect the course material I’m currently working on. For example, while taking
IT Project Management, I began to view every task I undertook in terms of
starting points, endpoints, and milestones, and visualized my life as one giant
Gantt Chart. I became greener in my habits when studying Social Responsibility,
and subconsciously calculated Returns on Investment while in Financial
I expect to finish my program in January 2014. What follows
after that remains to be seen. I believe I’ll be well positioned to make myself
useful at a higher level in the nexus between Ophthalmology, Imaging Science,
Information Technology, and Business.
So, what’s your plan?
John Peterson BS, CRA is Director of Ophthalmic Photography Services at the UW Health Eye Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. He began his career at the University Eye Clinic in Basel, Switzerland. In his spare time he runs a small farm, hunts fossils, dresses up as a pirate, and writes about macro photography at http://www.macro-photography-for-all.com, although not all at the same time. He is currently a candidate for an MBA in IT Management at Western Governors University. Politically, he is against some things and in favor of others.