Featured Online Faculty Profile
Judith Firestone, MPM, PMP
Professor - Professor, Online
Teaching Field: Business, Management, Project Management
Where I come from
As an undergraduate at Northwestern University, I majored in mathematics and minored in philosophy-not the obvious preparation for a business career, but they have served me well. My first employer was a major technology vendor. I worked initially in the Research division of the business followed by the Marketing division. My more than 20 years service provided me with extensive experience in marketing, development, and information systems management.
Following that, I worked as a senior manager for a major IT outsourcing corporation for more than 8 years. We would acquire technology solutions for specific companies and run them for our customers. I brought to bear the disciplines of project management to help achieve the project goals and manage the change, including organizational change. I've just retired from that position - for a while, anyway - and my current professional work is for DeVry University Online.
While with my first employer, I occasionally had assignments that included two different types of teaching: training customers in the use of our products as well as classroom education in our Customer Executive Education Program. In that program, I dealt with the top executives of the companies that were our customers-CEOs, presidents, vice presidents, and the like-in day-long and week-long seminars designed to expand their thinking on topics that included business and information strategic planning as well as organizational change.
I truly enjoyed it, even though stand-up teaching is one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting professions there is. In online teaching, you also become very emotionally involved, but online teaching gives you an opportunity to collect yourself and walk away for a bit if something is requiring further thought and/or research. It gives you time to work out a new solution or a new approach. You do not have that opportunity as readily in the classroom environment.
A hiring manager is hired
During my professional career, I have hired many DeVry University students and, I have always admired the technical capabilities they brought into the organization. In addition, I am myself a graduate of DeVry's Keller Graduate School of Management. I earned my master's degree in project management With Distinction from Keller Online. In addition I have also earned professional certifications from the Project Management Institute and from Microsoft.
One day I received a telephone call from DeVry and was asked if I had an interest in teaching. My own experience with the online environment gave me the perspective DeVry was seeking. Because my background in both management and technical areas is extensive, I have taught a variety of classes. The old saying, "variety is the spice of life," definitely applies. The variety encourages me to continue to develop my skills, which I want to do anyway. At one time I was the course architect for MGMT 404, a management class with a focus on project management.
My high school English teacher brought humor, discipline, and structure into her classes. We enjoyed being in her class even though she sometimes put us on the spot. Many of my teachers at Keller had the same qualities (except they did not put us on the spot), along with the ability to boil down the information to the point where we could understand it. For me, my best role model at Keller was Cathy Grogan who taught project management courses in my curriculum.
Beating the rush
DeVry University Online exists for the sake of working adults. When I was earning my degree at Keller, I was living in Los Angeles. To avoid the rush hours, I could wrap up my business day, then do some of my online work while waiting for the freeways to clear. I also worked online in the middle of the night. The neighbors might wonder about the lights being on all night, but there was a reason for it. That flexibility is fantastic and needs to be there. On the other hand, it has to be balanced by discipline, by knowing when you are going to complete your work.
What online students say
In the first week of a new course, I look for people who say they are studying online for the first time, and encourage experienced members to talk about the challenges of the online environment. Here is what they say: You have to make your own schedule and stick to it. Don't wait for the last minute, get started early. If you have not done your reading before posting to a discussion, you'll probably wish you had.
I almost never hear complaints about eCollege, the online platform, but some students have problems getting other applications onto their own PC. Most of the courses require the use of an application. For example, in MGMT 404 it is Microsoft Project. The DeVry Help Desk is available to provide phone support. I have great admiration for the Help Desk staff; they deal with all the possible configurations of PCs and applications the students and faculty have.
The human touch
DeVry recognizes the value of the human touch in an online environment. Once or twice a week, students have an opportunity to hear faculty members present "live lectures" and to ask questions. For senior projects in my courses, students set up teleconferences and make presentations to their instructors and other interested parties, just as they would on a job. The difficulty with doing more like this is logistical. Everybody's schedule is different; finding a time when a group that's spread across many time zones can gather together is a challenge. That is the flip side of the flexibility that is the major advantage of DeVry University Online.
The value of a DeVry University education is obvious if you have to go to work right away after high school or need additional training in mid-career. I rarely have a full-time student, though I do have students who are taking both on-campus and online courses. Some people want or need to go directly into business, without all the social sciences and languages and other requirements of a traditional four-year college degree. They deserve a quality education. DeVry University has picked that mission and has had great success with it.