1. Rick Bird

Rick Bird


DeVry University Phoenix

Teaching Field: Computer Information Systems

"DeVry offers 'hands-on' education. Theory is good, but hands-on work in real-world conditions develops skills for the long term. Also it very quickly provides you good feedback as to whether you have made the right career choice."

Where I come from

I have worked for DeVry University for 16 years, the last eight of them as a professor. Prior to that, I worked in Admissions and Community Outreach. I started as a field representative in California, visiting prospective students at home. Sometimes I'd meet a family whose entire income was less than $20,000 a year. I had no clue how they could all survive on that income. I'd show them that our graduates make $30,000 to $45,000 a year right out of college. I had to prove that the numbers were real to set their expectations higher. It was a natural high for me when I could help a family break the poverty cycle.

Then I moved to DeVry University's Chicago office as a National Field Trainer, teaching new field reps to do the job. My position also required me to analyze a lot of the field activities. The analysis and reporting was sheer grunt work and I hated it, so I automated it with Excel spreadsheets. I taught myself to build an Access database and program in VB to analyze the database. My boss let me implement this application for the whole organization, and I was hooked on programming.

I took programming courses at DeVry University both in Chicago and in Phoenix, where I moved to become a Community Outreach Manager in 1995. I started teaching programming at the Phoenix campus. The introductory course students gave me good evaluations and the dean offered me a full time teaching job in 1999.

Where the juice is

I love helping people with computer issues. In the old DOS days, I was the "resident expert." Now I get paid for teaching students and fellow faculty how to make the computer work for us. For example, I created the "shell" for the CIS247A course to help instructors teach the object-oriented programming skills that our students must develop to be successful in the industry. Also, I created an online course to teach the iLab environment and then taught instructors how to effectively use it with students.

I do a few side consulting projects to help me keep my programming skills sharp and pay for some of my "toys" (e.g., 2006 black-on-black Mustang convertible).

No blood, please

DeVry University offers "hands-on" education. Theory is good, but hands-on work in real-world conditions develops skills for the long term. Also it very quickly provides you good feedback as to whether you have made the right career choice. As an undergraduate, I took a pre-med major and only after four years of study did I work with actual patients. That's when I discovered that I could not stand the sight of blood and I was devastated when patients died.

Gratitude for a mentor

Tom Donini, my first manager at DeVry University, worked closely with me to ensure my success. He had a fantastic management style. He'd say, "This is what you want to accomplish, here's how to accomplish it. Do you have any ideas? Let's talk about it and see how to implement those - then go make it happen." If you were challenged in an area, he'd come out and help you with it. If you had questions, he'd answer them, never in a condescending fashion.

Tom always gave you personal credit. You'd be in a meeting with some high-powered people and out of the blue, he'd say, "Oh you should have seen what Bird did. It was fantastic." And then he'd talk about it. It wasn't just me. Whenever his people had a success, he would share it with everybody else. It was never his idea. Sometimes you would give him the seed of an idea and he would develop it, and still give you full credit. He was just a phenomenal man. He cherished his family, and he showed us that you could have a family life and a successful work life.

Learn by doing

I learn best in a lab/lecture mode. I like to implement a concept as I learn about it, so that's how I teach. DeVry University has a lot of computer labs and it gives me the opportunity to teach students about a concept and then create an application that demonstrates it. This way, students can learn the concept more thoroughly. Students need to push themselves and complete the work. At the same time, I want to help facilitate their success so I meet students for private tutoring.

Graduates give a hand up

Sometimes, alumni contact me to help them find people for their current employers. One graduate had found work with the City of Phoenix, and when her department was expanding, she contacted us. She helped four other people find positions there.

Time is money

Our students can earn their bachelor's degree in a short two years and eight months. The national average is five years. Every four months that a person is taking classes is four months of paying tuition rather than earning a salary. At a typical starting salary for our graduates, you would leave about $13,000 in salary on the table for every four months of schooling.

Why DeVry?

Education changes lives. Students take courses here that will help them in their careers rather than courses that are "just for fun." On the other hand, if you want to take "fun" courses or you want more social life, our college credits can transfer to other accredited colleges and universities, depending upon the curriculum of the receiving university.

DeVry University offers a lot of skill building courses. At the same time, the program is well-rounded so our students have strong communication skills as well as strong technical skills. We work with potential employers to implement the correct concepts into our courses. We provide tools for learning and the support system. In less than three years they can get their education and start a lasting career.