Sharon Mann stepped out of her comfort zone and into the online Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership program at Northern Kentucky University.
"Earning a bachelor's degree enables change," she said. "It allows me to take my career into my own hands. With the line of work that I am in, this degree also allows me to learn in class and through hands-on experience."
Mann, who is minoring in health informatics, is a financial systems specialist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood, Kentucky.
"People with a bachelor's degree usually get paid a higher salary than those who do not," she said. "I saw plenty of opportunity for growth and promotions that I did not qualify for — even with 15 years of experience.
"A degree affords me more career opportunities. Going back to school has provided me with the knowledge and skills that I need to stand out in the crowd of other applicants."
The flexibility of the online format helped Mann complete the degree while working full time, but she did not have a computer for the first year she was in the program.
"I would clock out at 3:30 p.m. and then stay at my place of employment for a couple of hours each night to do my homework," she said. "I broke down this year and purchased a laptop."
Especially because Mann is in a fully online program for the first time, she appreciates the support from everyone at NKU.
"The professors, advisors and students have been extremely helpful for me," she said. "I have asked a lot of questions and have never been turned away. I have been given honest feedback even though it was not always what I wanted to hear.
"Every professor I have worked with has inspired me to be the best version of myself. Each one has made me a better person and a better leader in their own way."
A Student Once More
Mann grew up in Piner, Kentucky, and stumbled into a career in the healthcare field when she went to a temporary agency for work.
"St. Elizabeth needed somebody to do workers' compensation billing," she said. "I was the only person there who passed the typing exam, so I was thrown into that role. Once I got there, I took off with it. I have been working in healthcare since I was 23 years old.
"I have come to love the business side of healthcare. I am passionate about our patients, community and organization. I love leading people, helping them and finding solutions to make things more streamlined and lean."
After graduating with an associate degree in organizational leadership from Gateway Community and Technical College in 2017, Mann enrolled at NKU to complete the final two years of the bachelor's degree program.
"I liked the location of the campus because it's close enough that I could go there if I needed to run to the bookstore or attend tutoring or advising. I also liked the flexibility to take the desired courses online."
LDR 308: Leadership Development and PSY 340: Social Psychology are Mann's two favorite courses in the online B.A. in Organizational Leadership Program, so far.
"It is fascinating to understand why people are who they are, what motivates them and how to place that person in the role that best suits them for their success, as well as the success of the organization," she said. "Learning how to effectively communicate with employees the managerial strategies behind the 'why' has been a huge takeaway for me.
"When people know their concerns are important to you, they will give you everything they have. When that happens, productivity and employee engagement rise, thus creating a fun and successful work environment."
Mann is on track to complete the online B.A. in Organizational Leadership program in August 2021, but she is already applying the knowledge she has gained in the program to strengthen her performance and enhance her experience.
"The information and knowledge that I have received from NKU has helped raise my confidence in being a more effective leader whom people want to follow, rather one they are forced to follow," she said.
Although Mann could have stayed put in her career, she took the leap to enroll in college and pave the way for more opportunities, thrilling her family and friends.
"Everyone I know was excited that, at the age of 41, I decided to go after my bachelor's degree," she said. "I get a lot of support from family, friends, co-workers and leaders."
Although Mann grew up in a rural area where most people had jobs rather than careers, she is proud of what she has accomplished in the workforce and in the classroom.
"I have learned a lot about myself and how I handle situations through the program," she said. "I find myself stopping and listening to problems, listening to people, having empathy and being able to take what I have learned to handle situations in a more appropriate manner. I've had a great experience at NKU."Learn more about NKU's online B.A. in Organizational Leadership program.
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