After Talon Lister completed his freshman year at Northern Kentucky University as a computer information technology and economics major, he was at a crossroads.
"When I got my first taste of both of those programs, I realized they were not for me," he said. "Once I dove in and saw what the work/life balance would be for a job with one of those degrees, I wasn't a fan of it. I hadn't figured out what I was going to do."
However, Lister took a course taught by Dr. Jeff Zimmerman during that first year that led him to enroll in the Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership program at Northern Kentucky University after taking a year's hiatus from school.
"I reached out to Dr. Zimmerman and asked him to tell me more about the program," he said. "He told me about what I could expect to get out of the program and to learn. It sounded interesting to me, so I decided to go with it."
Lister, who is a lead content creator and social media strategist at Blair Technology Group in Covington, Kentucky, is on track to graduate in December 2020. He completed the first two years of college on campus, but he has been an online student ever since.
"The balance between work and doing the program has been very manageable," he said. "I take 15-16 credit hours per semester while working 40 hours a week. The program expectations are manageable, so it hasn't been overwhelming."
Hooked on Leadership
Lister grew up in Paducah, Kentucky, and considered attending another university not far from his hometown where many of his friends went.
"I was familiar with the campus, but I wanted to do something different," he said. "NKU had the best potential for return on investment.
"At the end of my sophomore year of high school, I decided that's where I was going and got accepted. I went through two years of high school knowing exactly where I was going to college."
The transition to the fully online format has already benefited Lister. He earned a promotion in July 2020 after working for a year-and-a-half as an assistant store manager.
"One of the reasons I enjoyed the Organizational Leadership major is it allows me to have that flexibility," he said. "I found the online courses especially valuable because I came upon this full-time opportunity, which I wasn't about to pass up."
So far, PSY 340: Social Psychology is Lister's favorite course in the B.A. in Organizational Leadership program curriculum.
"I learned about the psychology of how people interact with a focus on employer/employee relationships in that course," he said. "I found that very interesting. I enjoyed going through and seeing what makes those relationships tick.
"I found myself in those situations, so it was applicable for me. I took a lot away from that class. That, combined with a few of my minor courses, tied in with other courses I was taking allowed me to dive into the psychology aspect of leadership and management."
The information Lister is learning from the courses in the bachelor's degree program has been helpful in the real world, especially since starting his new role at Blair Technologies.
"I could always tie any discussion board or research I had to do back into that work experience," he said. "It made it even more enjoyable for me. I could take work I did in my courses back to my management and say, 'These are some improvements in processes we can do to make things more efficient or make employees happier and increase morale.' That's invaluable."
Once Lister graduates from NKU, he wants to keep his career options open and use his higher education to his advantage in any way possible.
"I have always had an interest in starting my own business," he said. "I have a lot of different skills and interests, so that's always been in my wheelhouse. I transitioned from IT to marketing pretty seamlessly. If I were to set a career goal for myself, it would be chief marketing officer."
Lister is happy that he changed majors and then became an online student. He believes self-discipline has been the key to his success in the classroom and on the job.
"The most important thing to do in the online program is take 15-20 minutes every week to write down the due dates of every assignment for the upcoming week," he said. "I always do it on Sundays to look forward to what is coming the next week.
He offers a tip for succeeding in the online B.A. program: Stay organized and keep track of due dates. He is looking forward to graduation as he completes the final few courses in the program.
"I definitely do not regret any of my decisions," he said. "It's been a wonderful experience at NKU."
Learn more about NKU's online B.A. in Organizational Leadership program.
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