A special Wescoe School
In fall 2000 Glass-Clarke, then a human resources manager at SunGard Pentamation, Inc., set out to get her human resources degree. Two years later, she had completed the performing phase of the process.
Sit down with Glass-Clarke and have a conversation about her experiences in the program – as well as her “post-degree” life experiences – and it doesn’t take long to understand why Muhlenberg’s accelerated program is such a success.
Glass-Clarke is now employed as a human resources leader with GE Capital Commercial Finance, located in Moberly, Mo. She accepted the position last fall when she made the difficult decision to relocate from the Lehigh Valley to her home state of Missouri.
One of the key components of Glass-Clarke’s resume was her human resources degree from Muhlenberg College. But it wasn’t simply that she had the degree; the fact that she had learned in a team environment was particularly impressive to Glass-Clarke’s potential manager and to GE Commercial Finance.
“At GE, everything you do rolls up to someone else,” says Glass-Clarke, who says she and her coworkers are dependent on each other. Her experience in a team environment is crucial to her ability to perform her job at GE. The education and the experience at Muhlenberg have definitely paid off for her.
An integral part of the Muhlenberg experience is the close relationships fostered with instructors and mentors. Each cohort is assigned a mentor, a business professional who meets regularly with the students to help guide them through the learning process. For Glass-Clarke, a course in knowledge management taught by Dr. Marlene Rodenbaugh, provided that opportunity – and a lesson in flexibility.
Aware of the conflict and “storming” in the cohort, Dr. Rodenbaugh, fondly known to her students as “Dr. Marlene,” abandoned her course syllabus and was able to tailor the class to meet the current needs of the cohort members. “The course was unconventional and built upon the necessity to function as a high performance team,” says Glass-Clarke. “She took the risk to benefit the students.”
When cohorts experience “storming,” the need for strong mentoring and guidance becomes more and more evident. Kornfeind, whose leadership and teamwork course is one of the first in the program, is quick to remind his students that teaming is a process, a rewarding – albeit stressful – one. Cohorts face difficulty when assignments aren’t completed on time, students miss team meetings or the strenuous nature of the program takes its toll. Students work in consecutive five-week modules, with very little time in between, for two solid years; this rigorous schedule allows students the opportunity to complete their degrees in just two years, but it also provides temptation to give up.
Rather than letting people walk away, Kornfeind is committed to helping students get through this process. Having been involved with the program as an instructor and mentor, he is familiar enough with the phases to provide a steady hand for his students.
“There is always a ’honeymoon phase’ in the beginning, when teams think they don’t need a mentor,” he says. “Inevitably, there comes a point where a team may start to break down and need some outside help. Mentors are able to look at the strength and the weaknesses of each individual.”
As a part of the mentoring program, there are formal meetings with the mentors and cohorts every 10 weeks. In addition to the regular meetings, many mentors are in touch with their teams via e-mail; others attend team meetings periodically.
Howe, a teacher in both the traditional and accelerated program, serves as a mentor for the program. In the early stages of the program, he likes to meet with his cohort to share his philosophies of business and learning, as well as some of his personal experiences. He keeps in regular contact with the students, but relies on feedback from Wescoe administrators like Kornfeind. “Often, the teams will be hesitant to involve their mentor,” he says. “It’s the instructors who often pick up on a problem and pass it along to the mentor.”
The networking and relationships created by the mentoring and cohort aspects produce “team players,” hot commodities in today’s changing marketplace. As Howe points out, companies are looking for employees to be not only sole contributors but also team members.
Glass-Clarke agrees. “You must be in collaboration with others to succeed in business,” she says.
It’s clear that Glass-Clarke has received many benefits from the accelerated degree program and that Bilger and Adamchak are well on their way to reaping those benefits too. But what benefit does the instructor or mentor receive? Howe receives satisfaction from sharing his insight and making the path easier for others.
“Your reward is to see the others succeed,” agrees Kornfeind.