Featured Online Faculty Profile
James DeZell, MBA
Professor - Professor, Online
Teaching Field: Project Management
Where I come from
I was a guy who was supposed to end up working in a gas station for the rest of his life. Instead, thanks to a teacher who motivated me to get an education, I had a distinguished Navy career and got my MBA. I have owned not only a construction business and a rental equipment and retail store but also served as a business consultant for many years. Currently, I personally oversee a $25 million dollar contract and assist in the management and oversight of another $75 million dollars in contracts for the Department of Defense.
After 29 years in the Navy, I retired as a Chief Petty Officer, with approximately 200 people reporting to me. Since then I have held a series of senior program and contract management positions-at Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters, a private consulting firm, Raytheon's aircraft business, and currently, a major organization within the Department of Defense. My duties include managing the budget to prevent cost overruns, getting the best value for the money, and ensuring that the quality of the work meets contract requirements. This gives me lots of experience in Risk Management-the subject I teach at DeVry University.
Why motivation matters to me
Between my junior and senior year in high school, my family moved to Texas. I was very dissatisfied with school and joined the Navy reserves, midyear. I was ready to leave school for many reasons related to the move. Luckily, my journalism teacher, Mr. Inman, stepped into my life and motivated me to complete my senior year prior to going on active duty. He made me see the benefits of a good education. Due to his motivation, I took many military courses and worked to advance within the military structure.
With various deployments and odd duty assignments, it took many years to complete my undergraduate degree but by then I did see where an education could take me in life. I stayed after it until I achieved a Master's in Business Administration and the rest is history.
Mr. Inman believed that there are many ways to get through to a hard-headed student besides the direct path. He would challenge me in a niche I was good at and then work to expand into new areas that tied to my main area of interest. Once I saw how all things may have a symbiotic relationship, my interest grew and my world began to expand.
Where's the risk?
My Naval career and business experience have provided me with many examples of Project Risk Management, and so does the daily news. I work to challenge my students to discuss the real-life risks in events like Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the I35 Bridge. I challenge my students with questions such as; "Was there a way to identify the impact of the event prior to its occurrence? Now that it is has occurred, is it being properly managed? How could it have been managed differently?"
Students need to learn how to deal not only with business situations but also the people that they are assigned to work with. We do exercises in class about risk events in dealing with certain types of individuals. There are always new elements to learn, be they in the classroom or in the school of hard knocks-that is, on the job. Each situation can be a learning experience as well as a building block of personal growth.
Setting the bar
What makes an online student successful? Motivation! Motivation! Motivation! My goal is to make every student a successful student. There are no bad students, only unmotivated students.
Online students have to develop excellent time management skills so to adequately develop a mix of personal life, work, and school. They are also normally very goal-oriented, and seem to have learned just how to set the bar so that personal goals are high, yet attainable. Many students comment that through trial and error they have learned not to set goals so high as to continually miss their mark and thus become frustrated and feel defeated.
Some things you never miss
In many ways, an online classroom is no different from a brick-and-mortar classroom, except for not seeing the other people and waiting for a response after you post. I encourage my students not only to participate but to bring real-life experiences into the discussion. This way, each student builds equity in the class. As they have put something into the class, they want to take something away from it.
The online environment frees each person to speak (type) their mind and share with others. The mix of different ages, genders, and backgrounds tends to bring in new ideas for everyone. It also allows many shy students to freely open up in discussion.
As an instructor, I can tell when students are either new to online or shy, or have trouble with public speaking as they don't have the habit of participating in class. I work to identify these students quickly and bring them into the active class discussions. I also work to respond to each student several times in the first week and use the introduction thread to find common ground to open the line of communications with each student.
As the instructor, I work to stay very active in the threads, and students notice and appreciate that. I do my level best to answer a student's email the day that I receive it. I also take phone calls-sometimes even at 2 am. When that happens, I ask the caller to allow me time to wake up and not hold me fully responsible for my answer! Why do I do this? Online students are unique. Some students work odd hours and that's why online classes are best for them. If a student works the night shift, they may study when they get off work or get breaks in the work. If that's the time they have available, I adapt to their schedule.
Having taught for other universities, I honestly believe that DeVry University is the premier online university because of the training and support that it provides to the instructional staff. DeVry University provides excellent value for students. It has the students' best interest at heart and works with them if they encounter scheduling or other problems. When my seniors ask me for advice on continuing their studies, I encourage them to consider Keller Graduate School of Management. I also encourage them to continue learning in any manner possible, as I know what an education is worth!