Going back to school as an adult requires support and dedication. As the Dean of Students at Kaplan University, Dr. Betty Vandenbosch offers that support to thousands of students each year. In fact, she went through her own midlife career change, moving from technology and business to education and administration. As the former Senior Engagement Manager at McKinsey and Company, and author of the book Designing Solutions for Your Business Problems, Dr. Vandenbosch is a valuable source of experience and expertise for the students she serves. In this blog, she shares her passion for teaching, some tips for becoming a successful student, and her impressions on the unique experience of adult students.
BlogHer: How has your background in education led to where you are today?
Dr. Betty Vandenbosch: When I was six, I wanted to be a teacher. Neither of my parents finished grade school, and my mother always said she regretted that, so education was important to me from an early age. When I was a teenager I read Ayn Rand and decided I wanted to be a capitalist with a conscience. As I grew up, I sort of forgot about teaching and got sidetracked in computer programming and management consulting.
After my son was born, I remembered that I had wanted to teach and got back to that by earning my PhD. After 15 years in a research university, I realized I was a better administrator than researcher and I was growing tired of the glacial pace of the institution. That led me to Kaplan University, where I can be an educator and work in an entrepreneurial and innovative environment. It's a perfect confluence of both.
What makes you passionate about what you do now?
Our students and our employees. Our students have decided to do something extremely challenging: finish their education while, as adults, they have many competing priorities. I have the privilege of supporting them and making their journey as hassle free as possible. Our employees are also fabulous. Every single day they help our students reach their goals, and they do so with integrity.
What tips can you offer for becoming a successful student?
Familiarize yourself with the university catalog, academic calendar and course syllabi.
Attend any orientation sessions that are offered -- they have usually been designed by and for students just like you.
If you are in doubt about anything, ask. Send your professor or advisor an email as soon as you have a question. Don’t wait to see if it becomes clearer -- it rarely does.
Connect with fellow students outside the classroom. Join a club or student organization.
Treat school like a paid position. Don’t break commitments to yourself or your professors. Set time aside and do what you say you’ll do during that time.
Why are adult students different than traditional students?
Adults have many competing priorities, so they have learned how to time slice. They have life experiences, so they are very astute at taking what they learn in the classroom into their daily lives and they don't let anyone pull the wool over their eyes. They know when a theory is practical and when it's not. Adult students are also much clearer about their goals, so they are especially motivated to succeed.
Kaplan University provides a practical, student-centered education that prepares individuals for careers in some of the fastest-growing industries. The University, which has its main campus in Davenport, Iowa, and its headquarters in Chicago, is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (www.ncahlc.org). It serves more than 53,000 online and campus-based students. The University has 11 campuses in Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland and Maine, and Kaplan University Learning Centers in Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Florida.
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