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This post was written by Binod Jwarchan, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.
Online education has been a boon for busy individuals who can’t commit to be present in the traditional classroom in the set schedule every week. Though there are various online schools and the format of online education provided by these institutions are likely to vary, in this essay my own personal online learning experience here at CUNY School of Professional Studies will be shared.
CUNY SPS is the online school provided by City University of New York in various fields such as Business, Nursing, Psychology, Information Technology and so forth. I pursued a BS degree in Business. Each class has three credits. In general, each class requires you to allot 9 to 12 hours of study time, which meant 1 credit hour required 3 or 4 hours of study depending on difficulty level of the particular class. For most classes, the school week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday, which means the deadline for most work is at midnight on Sunday. Most classes have a discussion board each week where topics relate to the materials studied that particular week. They also have separate assignments or quizzes going on each week like in the regular classroom. In sum, it involves a lot of reading and writing, and emphasizes analytical thinking on the part of student.
There were certain things that I found really important, and that I want to share with you today. First, it’s very important to manage time effectively. Managing time starts with allotting a certain amount of time to a particular class each week. If you are a working individual, you shouldn’t make any compromise on those allotted hours separated for that particular class.
I also found studying in pieces very useful, which means I set like 40 to 50 minutes on my alarm clock for one class. After I complete that duration studying for that particular class, I take a 5 to 10 minutes break, and start another class with similar 40 to 50 minutes duration. Identifying your peak hours also helps. For example, since I am a morning person, I generally devote this time studying and learning new or difficult things.
The second critical success factor is the motivation that keeps you get going. Generally, at the start of the semester, it happens that you have a lot of energy and you are really excited for the exciting journey. But, as the pressure of the class and your other obligations pile up, passing through middle towards the end of the semester gets tougher. The most important motivation factor for me was “desire to learn.” As I got tired bombarded with tons of new things, I tried not to get embarrassed and burnt out, and instead took it by making up my mind that “I will learn one thing at a time, and this process would be continuous as it goes on.” This mindset helped me to lessen my stress, and helped me get going. Also, the desire to learn helped me to get motivated every passing day in many cases trying to take best from the materials supplied.
Thus, though online education provides you the flexibility to learn on your own pace away from the rigid timetable of the traditional classroom, it poses certain challenges, and overcoming them needs your own roadmap to succeed.
Binod Jwarchan is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Business program at the end of this semester.
This post was written by Jerome Basma, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.
Earlier this year I was really fortunate to be the recipient of an ACE Scholarship at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS). The scholarship was set up to help students finish their degree as they get closer to graduation. Receiving this award was a real honor, and I feel very grateful to have been considered, let alone chosen.
As part of the award, ACE scholars are required to mentor two students who are just entering the school. I have never mentored other students before, and I was really intrigued as to how it would go. The idea behind the mentoring is to give some guidance to those who are returning to school or are transferring from other institutions, and to help them transition into the way things are done in the online learning environment. As mentors, we don’t take the place of advisors; we just impart some of our accumulated wisdom and provide encouragement. After all, there aren’t that many advisors or counselors who have direct experience of working in online teams or groups to complete class projects, or have direct experience of how taxing taking one too many classes can be for a student juggling a full-time job, along with family obligations that just cannot be ignored. Don’t get me wrong, advisors at CUNY SPS are extremely important, it’s just that we as mentors can reach new students as very few others can: as fellow students who have been in the exact same position that they now find themselves in.
The first step in this process was to have mentors and mentees meet face to face during a gathering organized at the school just for that purpose. The meeting was attended by the dean and the assistant deans at the school. Refreshments were provided, brief talks by the school’s representatives were listened to, and most importantly mentors and mentees got to know each other a little bit. My experience meeting my two mentees that evening was both interesting and fun. The three of us came from different backgrounds and occupations, but we all shared some very important things, like a desire to better ourselves through education, an intimate understanding of what hard work is, and some years having experienced what you might call “the real world.” That evening was spent getting to know each other better, what our experience was, where we’d left off in our education, and figuring out how we would keep connected throughout the semester. By the end of the evening we decided upon using email and then Google Hangouts for video teleconferencing. This second method would be good to keep us talking face to face every once in a while.
I’m glad to say that the Hangouts feature in Google works really well. It’s pretty much just like Skype, except that it’s a little easier, I think, and free. We’ve met a few times now on Hangouts, and we usually do that all three of us at the same time. I’ve left my mentees the option of meeting with me individually at any time, if they choose, but so far they’ve been content to be altogether. This has created a mini-community working through similar goals of successfully completing the semester. Another way this has helped is that online learning can often feel a little isolating, especially for new students. I always try to go to the CUNY SPS gatherings and meetings in midtown Manhattan for the sense of community and fellowship. However, many of the students who live in upstate New York or out in Long Island can’t make the time to come all the way in for the gatherings. Teleconferencing on Hangouts has turned out to be an easy and convenient solution.
During the first half of the semester much time was taken talking about CUNY SPS’s orientation. This is the process or training all new students undergo to prepare themselves to utilize the tools and methods of online learning. It’s pretty comprehensive at CUNY SPS, and assignments and projects are given to the newbies before their actual classes start. By the time you’ve gone through orientation, you and your PC are ready to do the work in the classes. I’d had orientation a couple of years ago, and so I wasn’t very much help to my mentees on that subject. What’s funny is that they helped each other more than I helped them by being able to discuss their experiences during our teleconferences.
After orientation, and at the very beginning of the classes, I started to fill out the shoes of a mentor by giving them tips on how to organize their time and work. Online learning requires a lot of initiative; you’ve really got to motivate yourself to check in to the class website (on Blackboard) and to participate at the right times. Unlike traditional classroom learning where you take notes during a lecture, and are given assignments, classes online require you to choose the time and the place wherein you will learn and satisfy class requirements. It can be daunting at times, and it is really easy to fall behind. With some practice and good habits, however, you can work up to a very good rhythm and get a lot done.
What follows is some of the most important advice I’ve given my mentees. Don’t overtax yourself with too many classes. At the end of the semester you want to have actually learned and retained something of the classes you took. Getting a passing grade is only part of the value of this whole enterprise: learning skills and techniques that you’ll be able to use in the workplace should not be sacrificed to this.
Another is about working in groups, which I mentioned earlier. The advice is this: if you find yourself involved in a group project where your co-participants have low motivation, do not hesitate to take the lead. Don’t let others drag you down, set the pace for your (and their) success.
Yet another is to communicate your personal challenges with the professors. Very often there are obligations we won’t be able to forgo, unexpected things will happen. In those instances, talk to or email your professors. Most will be understanding, and make some accommodations. For those who don’t, you’ll then be clear on their expectation. In my experience I’ve found that if you’re genuine and you work hard, the professors will work with you as much as they reasonably can.
At this point I should tell you that I lost one of my mentees. Due to important personal circumstances this person could not continue with the semester, and had to leave. It was disappointing, and at the same time understandable. In parting with my mentee, I made the point that when things improve, the School is still here and that as before it’s never too late to take it up again. With that said the semester progresses and I still have my other mentee who is doing quite nicely. Over the weekend, we’ll have one of our Hangout sessions where she will tell me how she is doing, and have the opportunity to ask questions or just share observations. I look forward to her completing her first semester at CUNY SPS, and encouraging her all the way to the finish line.
Jerome Basma is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the Business program at the end of this semester.
This post was written by Jonathan Rodriguez, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.
When I think back on my first two semesters here at the CUNY SPS, I remember how difficult and frustrating they were. I remember wanting to quit because I felt overwhelmed, as if I was swimming against the current. However, I knew I could not quit because I made a promise to my infant son when he was born that I would finish what I started, so I began to search for something to help me organize and prioritize my time. I want to share one of the things I found helpful to manage my days and relieve some of my stress.
I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. One of the people he highlighted created a calendar of his days to help him organize his time and maximize his efforts. I went to Staples and purchased a two-month dry erase calendar and began to write out the things that needed my attention for each day, in life, at school, and for myself.
This helped me to find the time I needed to dedicate to class work and set deadlines for work that was visible daily. The calendar also allowed me to make time for myself, meaning I was able to dedicate time to refresh myself with a walk around the block, watch my favorite television show, play some Candy Crush, or spend time at the gym. Like many people, I am a visual person, so when I find myself always forgetting assignments or stressed because I do not know where time is going, I visualize it with a calendar, something that I must look at daily.
I am now coming to the last semester at CUNY SPS and it has been challenging and fun throughout my time. I hope my little life hack helps you during your time at CUNY SPS. This was never easy, but it was worth it. You don’t have to give up or give into the stress; you can complete what you started just like me.
Organize your days and remember to take care of yourself. The worst thing you can do is burn out. Make time for yourself; do whatever it is that refreshes you because it will benefit your work and your longevity. God Speed as you go through this semester and every one that follows.
Jonathan Rodriguez is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the Business program at the end of this semester.
I have studied Freud and psychology since the age of 12. Instead of playing with dolls I found solace in reading. During the summers I read over 15 books a week. The one thing I have learned as a life lesson is reading people. Your intuition tends to be spot on. Whether it’s that person who gives you a bad vibe, or that street you always walk down that today you decide not to because of an ominous feeling. The reason I’m talking about this is because of everything going on with Lamar Odom.
I’ve never met the man as I’m sure neither have many of you. But the one fact that we can all agree on is that it’s a tragedy. It’s like when we watched Amy Winehouse drive herself to her early grave. So full of life, potential, and the bright prospective of a future. It’s the shock of “no, not that person.” It’s that feeling of wanting to understand why, to reach out and hug them and say it will be okay. Life is pain, some people tend to understand that more than others. Like there are strong, and there are weak. More importantly, when things happen in life there are usually two choices: break or continue. The problem is that for those who don’t break, it changes you. The pain chips away at the person you were.
This is the reason why everyday I struggle to figure out where I can serve best. Because EVERYONE needs someone to believe in, to know someone cares, to get a second chance, to be guided to the light from the dark. I think that because of Lamar’s upbringing and past pain, I relate on some level and it makes me think of my life. I know what it’s like to want to make that pain stop because the pain of your struggles in life are so unbearable. Whether you’ve thought of entertaining drug use, suicide, or other outlets, the point is that emotions can carry such a level of weight that some people give into these thoughts. I know that life can bring you to some very scary contemplation’s, whether subconsciously or consciously. The question is do we give into these thoughts and feelings that can be incredibly overpowering. Just like I said before, there are weak and there are strong. Neither is right or wrong in it’s own right. Everyone is entitled to their emotions, thoughts etc.. There is no one emotion that is not valid to the person undergoing the struggle. I just think that we need to have a bit more empathy, a bit more understanding and a little bit more love towards how we treat others.
That inspiring word today, might bring someone off a ledge tomorrow. That smile or genuine act of kindness can be the one thing that kept someone from re-lapsing or delving into some other devoid behavior. I didn’t get to where I am today alone. I had people that believed in my ability. I had people in my corner that hugged me and told me everything is okay. So today, think about how you can impact someone, think before you judge someone so harshly and remember that everyone has a story…maybe someone’s story is much like yours.
Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.
One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”
I always consider around Week 5 or so of school the midway point even if there are way more weeks to follow. In the past few weeks I’ve been juggling the full time schedule of 4 courses, work and crazy work deadlines, my daughters homework and my dad’s health. He’s been in and out of the hospital for the past month. In between all of that, I can openly attest that some of my work is not entirely up to par. Wendy Williams was recently scrutinized for saying that women will always have to sacrifice, whether it’s work, school, children etc. She’s right. Although we think that we’ve departed from a historical implication of roles and women, the truth is that women are the primary care takers of their children. When your child is home sick the majority of the time its the mother who stays home and cares for her child, the examples can go on and on. Wendy’s comment basically was that you can’t do it all, something will always lags and women are the one’s who sacrifice in career and marriage and she’s right. This was Wendy’s remarks:
“We can debate this all day. Every woman has a different view and there are some women who have an opinion and are scared to voice their opinion on it. But I’m not afraid to voice mine—don’t throw tomatoes.
I do feel it is difficult for men to accept really successful career women. Whether it be that we out-earn them or the marquee, our names are brighter than their own. I also feel like marriage and babies stunt a woman’s growth career-wise and they don’t understand like, once you get married and once you have kids, you can’t do all the things that you used to do and maintain this important precious thing you’ve built as a family.
So my suggestion to women, always, is to use your entire 20s…work your behind off in your career and get some ground footing, then think about meeting that guy. Even if you’ve met him at 27, don’t get engaged and don’t move to where he is. This is about you and your career. Because we are the ones that lose in marriage.
Not men! Men can have all their boys’ nights out and whenever we have a girls’ night out I’m always, ‘I gotta leave, it’s soccer practice.’ I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m saying that as a woman who’s been married for 17 years, we’re still expected to empty the dishwasher and we’re still expected to maintain our household.”
You can’t work a high pressure career over 50 hours and still find enough time to be with your family, it’s give and take. You can’t juggle everything and be great at all of it, somewhere a ball is falling. We can only do so much with the best batting average. I have a daughter, and if I have to be honest with her, I will tell her the same. There are no limits to what you can do in life, but family changes you and your dynamics, because at the end of the day, your a mother first, and everything comes second to last to that including yourself. I often reminisce about my own mother, and I honestly wonder how in the world she made it look so easy! I am tired, worn down and just exhausted by the end of the day. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.
I speak very candidly about my past. I have experienced homelessness, independence at an extremely early age. However, the one thing never changes and always remains are the choices that I have made. In life the only thing we can control is our choices. We can’t decide the family we belong to, or what adversity we will receive, the only thing we can change is our reaction to these circumstances.
I have been on my own since I was 15, with a very strained relationship with my parents. I have since, moved past the circumstances that caused this strain and am content with my decisions. I’ve been in recently deliberating law school or my future and the manner in which I have chosen to live for such a career that I was thinking about choices.
Now as a mother, I always pray that I will instill enough in my daughter that although I will not always agree with her decisions, that she makes decisions that she can grow up, reflect and be proud of. Decisions made today, can haunt your future when they are made equivocally.
I am proud to look back and realize that I struggled for many years, from hunger, homelessness and trying to balance, work, life and school. However, I never gave up, I still haven’t given up, but most importantly than any of that, no matter how hard life got, I fought the good fight to be someone that when I achieved success I could inspire others by doing it the right way. It didn’t matter if it was the longest, hardest, toughest way. I chose to fight. So my words to you today are, no matter how hard life gets, no matter how hard life hits, you swing right back and keep fighting for your dreams, your ambitions, for your path.
My biggest dream is to work with children because I myself grew up at 15. I want to be the person that can tell them that I believe in them because I can recall when I made the choice to take my GED at 16, (I was on college level then) I had someone who believed in me. I enrolled in college immediately after completing this. Unfortunately, I had to put a roof over my head, and worry about other things that school had to take side steps. The one thing that again remained was, I was constantly in and out of school. Because no matter what I knew I had to do this. This is my choice and I still choose this today.
Kathryn Walker is a current undergraduate student in our Business program who used past work experiences to earn Prior Learning Assessment credits towards her degree. She shares her thoughts on the experience with us.
1. Why did you choose to continue your education at CUNY SPS?
Professional progression can be somewhat hindered without at least a BS. Today, having an AS does not wield the impressive influence that it did 25 years ago (when I received my AS). In going back to school to complete my BS, I needed a flexible schedule so that I could juggle school with my full-time job and home responsibilities. Although there are several on-line schools, CUNY SPS had the best price with a high-quality brand name.
2. What is the single most important professional or personal goal that you would like to achieve while at CUNY SPS or after graduation?
Personally, I look forward to losing the weight I gained since starting back to school. Professionally, I look forward to having increased opportunities. With a combination of extensive experience in making executives look ridiculously good and an official, formal BS—look out!
3. Why did you decide to participate in PLA at CUNY SPS?
One complaint that I had with CUNY SPS was that there was no “experience” credits available. Having to take every course for every credit made the attainment of the degree especially long, and in some cases, frustrating. With my experience, there were some classes that I thought, “Why on earth do I have to waste my time and energy doing this?” Doing the PLA gave me the opportunity to gain credits for the PLA class itself and credits for a class called Writing at Work. This afforded me the time and energy to spend on another class, thus fulfilling the curriculum a little faster.
4. How has the PLA opportunity helped you progress at CUNY SPS? Has it changed your view of what it means to return to school? If yes, how?
PLA helped me to fulfil the curriculum a little faster. It did not change my view of returning to school. It would have been helpful to have had “experience” credits available sooner. One classmate in the program (from another school) said that he had received 36 credits for previous work experience, and he was on target to finish his BS after one year. I kind of felt like a schmuck because I had been forging along for three years, and at that time, was only eligible for 6 credits with the classes I had left. It was still worth it though—every bit helps.
5. In which ways do you believe you have or will benefit from PLA?
I thought it was an interesting exercise in analysis. Explaining one’s knowledge is usually an abbreviated variation of “I know stuff because I’ve done stuff.” PLA asks students to elaborate on the “stuff:” what did you do; what were the circumstances that led you to do what you did; what did you observe while doing what you did; what did you learn from your observation; and how have you applied that learning to the point of confidently being able to say “I know.” PLA teaches a student to methodically analyze and explain the claim that he/she knows something. Interesting, but also exhausting.
6. What did you learn, if anything, from the PLA process?
I know a lot of stuff ☺.
7. What advice would you offer someone considering application for admission to your degree program? What advice would you offer someone considering PLA at CUNY SPS?
The sooner you start back to school, the better. The longer you put off going back to school, the more out-of-sync you are with everyone else in your life. That being said, it is never too late to go back to school. Just do it. If there are any ways to get credits for life experience or work experience, take advantage of them as soon as possible. Understand that every class will take a minimum of 12 hours per week, so you need to allow sufficient time for this. Pace yourself and manage your time wisely to lessen the chance of being overwhelmed.
Professor Anthony Sterns is an entrepreneur in the healthcare field, and has been quite successful in bringing his product, iRxReminder, to fruition. He teaches courses in our MS in Business Management and Leadership degree program: BUS 620 Entrepreneurship in a Global Environment, BUS 680 Economics for Business Decisions, BUS 698 Applied Business Research, and has been a thesis mentor to both graduate and undergraduate students.
1. How did you come about teaching for CUNY SPS?
I have a good friend from high school and another friend from graduate school who both work at CUNY City Tech. I happened to see an advertisement on the Academy of Management Organizational Behavior List-serve for a business adjunct at CUNY SPS and because I knew something about CUNY, I applied.
2. Over your time as a thesis mentor to our graduate and undergraduate students, which thesis idea have you been most excited by so far?
I had one student complete a systematic review of 3-D printing and whether it met the criteria as a disruptive technology in the manufacturing space. That student was very good and completed a very strong paper.
3. What’s the most important piece of advice you can give to future entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is a long and lonely road. You have to have a strong passion for the vision of the future you see. You will need help to get there. Pick your friends and business relationships carefully, because your relationships will be challenged and it’s those relationships that will mean the difference between succeeding and failing to succeed.
4. What was your motivation behind developing iRxReminder?
My previous work focused on people living with dementia. Medication adherence is one of two reasons that people loose their independence, the other being wandering. I wanted to find a way to help older adults live independently longer. As we learned more about medication taking challenges we focused our attention on first helping clinical researchers and more recently improving adherence to oral cancer treatments and recovery from transplants.
5. What has it been like to watch iRxReminder grow from an idea to an award-winning start-up within the healthcare IT community?
Each milestone feels like a real victory, as every one is hard fought. The most important validation was the investment of our first angel this time last year. I started out in engineering. When I turned in my graduate education and research, I stopped making tangible things; things people use. I am most gratified when I know someone has an app and a device to help them complete a drug study, or take all the medications required to remain independent.
6. What’s next for you and iRxReminder?
We are planning on closing our current seed round this summer, bringing on an additional investor, and finishing our FDA 510(k) clearance, which will open up new markets to us this fall.
1. Favorite way to relax after a long day: Sailing.
2. What I’m reading right now: Managerial Economics.
3. The person I most admire: It’s a tie between Jacques Ives Cousteau and my parents, Drs. Harvey and Ronni Sterns.
4. Greatest piece of advice I have ever received: When they say, “It can’t be done, and you know how to do it, you are definitely onto something.”
5. If I wasn’t a professor/healthcare IT entrepreneur, I’d be: a touring musician.
6. Best part of teaching online at CUNY SPS: My boss, B. Loerinc Helft. She keeps the ship running. I also really like working with the students; their drive keeps me motivated in my own work.
Thank you, Professor Sterns. We’re very fortunate to work with people like Dr. Helft here at CUNY SPS.
The SPS Scholarship Committee has identified six scholarship recipients for the 2013-14 academic year. After careful deliberation, the Committee selected these students from an impressive pool of approximately 70 submissions—the most SPS has received to date.
Vearlane Edge and Velma Felix have been selected as 2013-14 Bob Martin Scholars. Vearlane is a student in the Online B.A. in Communication and Media program, and she anticipates graduating in 2014. For the past 20 years, she has organized and hosted Girl Scout troops of all ages, and has been especially active in an event providing children in need with backpacks and school supplies. With her help, this event has grown from 150 to over 300 participants in just three years. Velma, a student in our Online B.S. in Business program, is on track to graduate in December 2013. Velma returned to SPS after discontinuing her college education because of financial hardship. The Bob Martin Scholarship will allow Velma to finish her degree with SPS.
Tiffany Garcia is our inaugural Timothy Meade Scholar. A student in our Online B.A. in Disability Studies program with a Spring 2014 anticipated graduation date, Tiffany was led to the degree through her work as a special education teacher’s assistant in New Jersey. Tiffany has always worked hard for her education. Following an associate’s degree at LaGuardia Community College, she chose to finish her undergraduate education at SPS. She is on her way to becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college, which has inspired her older sister to return to higher education as well.
Nooria Nodrat and Merrilee Robinson have been awarded Founding Dean’s Scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year. Nooria is an in-person student in the M.A. in Disability Studies program, and anticipates graduating in May 2014. Nooria, who is blind, decided to come to SPS to pursue Disability Studies in order to give back to her community. Merrilee is currently pursuing a B.S. in Health Information Management with an anticipated graduation date in Spring 2014. Born in a “third-world country,” Merrilee has overcome hardship and prioritizes her education. Her goal is to enter the workforce, earn certification in RHIA and RHIT, and find employment as a compliance officer
Elmo Paige will be receiving the 2013-14 Stephen M. Rossen Memorial Scholarship. Elmo, a single father of four teenagers, is guiding them through their educational journeys as he embarks on his own. With the full encouragement of his employer, this scholarship will allow him to reduce his work hours and focus more closely on his studies: he anticipates graduating from SPS in 2015 or 2016 with the M.S. in Data Analytics.