The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Category: Faces of GPS (page 1 of 3)

“Where everybody knows your name”

By Nicole Russo

I don’t think that I realized this at the time, but a major contributing factor in my pursuit of a career in higher education was community. In my own undergraduate experience, I felt support from my fellow peers, as well as mentorship and guidance from the faculty and staff. I had not experienced this same sense of belonging in a school community before and consequently, I really cherished it.

When it came time to graduate and decide upon a first job, I realized that I never wanted to leave the college setting. And I didn’t. I spent the next five years doing work in admissions and student affairs on various college campuses in the Boston area. I had the opportunity to work with different student age groups and within a variety of campus cultures.

Similar to my undergrad self, a value that I have seen within all student demographics is a desire to belong and to find our place in the grand scheme. In choosing to pursue higher education, we all put so much on the line. Our time, our financial resources, our hopes for the future. It’s a vulnerable time of life, whether you are 18 or 68, and it can feel like a gigantic leap into the unknown.

My aim as a student advisor at Brandeis GPS is for my students to feel supported and to never feel that they

are going at it alone. In being enrolled in an online, part-time graduate program, I recognize that being a student is only a singular aspect of a student’s identity. My goal is to approach student advising with this consideration at the forefront and to recognize how the dimensions of our lives intersect. For instance, the birth of a child or the death of a family member has the potential to impact academic performance in a course. I want to be able to know about these happenings, so that we can collaboratively seek out resources and create solutions. I hope to get to know my students as whole people.

Sometimes when I think of community, I think about the NBC sitcom Cheers that depicts a Boston neighborhood bar where “everyone knows your name.” Like the bar regulars in Cheers, I hope that my students similarly feel seen, heard and valued at Brandeis GPS. I am looking forward to accompanying you as you create your community here.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

From Brandeis, to Brandeis

After starting his master’s as an undergraduate, a Brandeis University alumnus proves that full-time work and graduate school can co-exist.

Three days after graduating from Brandeis University with a BS in Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) and a minor in Economics, Allan Chuang (class of 2017) enrolled in the university’s Health and Medical Informatics (HMI) program — a master’s of science degree offered through the university’s division of Graduate Professional Studies. Brandeis GPS caught up with Allan to learn more about his new life as a part-time graduate student and what motivated him to continue his Brandeis education.

The first time Allan Chuang learned of Brandeis GPS was through an email sent by the university’s registrar during the first or second week of his senior year. After reading that graduating seniors could enroll in GPS’s online graduate courses, he began researching programs and discovered that the HMI program and Brandeis GPS offered courses that would expand his current access to health policy education.

“I found that HMI is very similar to HSSP and since GPS was offering the program’s intro course, I just decided to give it a shot,” said Chuang.

This past spring, Chuang enrolled in Perspectives on Health/Medical Information Systems. Despite taking four other courses during this last undergraduate semester, he found the workload manageable and enjoyed the flexibility of online learning. In addition to setting aside blocks of study time and finding new coffee shops to work from, he also stressed how discipline and self-motivation were critical to his academic success.

“Taking a GPS course is like going to the gym,” said Chuang. If you go to the gym every day with a routine schedule, you get in the habit of putting in your work.”

After graduating from Brandeis last May, Chuang accepted a position at a travel tech start-up in Taiwan. Despite working 50-60 hours each week, Chuang enrolled in a second GPS course and recently applied and was accepted into the Health and Medical Informatics program.

“People in my classes aren’t just students, they are also very experienced healthcare professionals — some have been in the industry for more than 15-20 years,” said Chuang. “We have very vibrant discussions. It’s a good opportunity to network and get to know people in the healthcare fields.”

Those vibrant discussions are at the heart of each GPS course. Chuang looks forward to the weekly feedback he receives from his instructor, which challenges him to engage even more deeply in peer-to-peer dialogue.

Chuang decided to continue his education at Brandeis GPS because of the university’s dedication to academic excellence and high reputation in the greater Boston area. The fact that students have up to five years to complete their degree, and that Brandeis GPS gives Brandeis alumni a 15% tuition discount on online classes, also motivated him to enroll.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Can mono-solution providers survive?

By Mike Storiale

When FinTech began its ascent, single-solution providers opened the door to expertise and simplicity rarely brought to the table by traditional banks. Solutions designed to meet unique needs created excitement from consumers and investors alike.

Throughout the industry, experts discussed the need for an open architecture from banks and FinTechs to empower customers to build a set of financial solutions that worked best for them. As the industry matured, however, it became apparent that a more rudimentary problem was holding FinTechs back – a balanced business model.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve witnessed the rise and fall of innovative companies that created a single solution with little diversification. The dot-com crash in the early 2000’s was full of well-intentioned problem-solvers who built great organizations, but lacked the contingency plan a balanced product offering affords. They were flying high without a net.

Customers Are Finicky

The mono-solution business model that most FinTechs chose excited customers who could relate to specific problems they felt their banks were not solving. When early entrants offered a better way to send money and alternative lending options, as well as simpler checking accounts, they seemed attractive in an industry that traditionally ignored outcries from its customers for better products.

Moreover, customers had often been plagued with the decision fatigue that came with traditional banks’ offerings of multiple variations of each product, few of which fit anyone perfectly.

But while consumers were willing to try new products that FinTechs brought to the table, they remained reluctant to leave the mainstream banking system for a new financial lifestyle. For banks, this gave them the opportunity to win customers back as they developed complementing products to compete with the innovators creeping in on their space.

Even though research showed that few consumers ever felt “warm” with their bank, often ranking them just slightly less hated than airlines and cable companies, it was difficult to leave the one-stop-shop that was completely intertwined with their everyday lives. Though cobbling your perfect financial offering together sounds utopian, for most consumers it was simply more work than they were willing to take on.

A Risky Model

While the boon of the early years may make some think otherwise, FinTech is not immune to typical business risks. One of the core rules of business is to diversify your product offering to protect yourself, though when we begin new technology ventures, we often believe that we will be able to succeed on a single solution. FinTech’s rise began during a time filled with historically low interest rates, massive changes in regulation, and a consumer base willing to try new things.

While this opened the door for success, it also meant that it mattered less if a start-up’s balance sheet was diversified enough to withstand market fluctuations, because fluctuations simply weren’t happening. Solutions that focused on lending to consumers outside of the traditional market didn’t have to experience the risks of a volatile rate environment. As the inevitable becomes reality, however, speculation circulates as to whether an unbalanced offering can withstand the storms the financial industry often faces.

In addition to market risks, the gap is narrowing in the “tortoise and the hare” race between FinTechs and Bank’s. Even the smallest banks have begun investing money into innovation, while the ones with significant capital have started entire technology hubs and enacted strategies to acquire their biggest tech challengers.

Although big banks continue to face regulatory scrutiny of their core business model, they have evolved and learned how to innovate, catching up in the race to grab customers with products that differentiate themselves. At the same time, FinTechs are finding it difficult to maintain the minimal regulatory oversight that enabled the rapid growth seen in the early years of innovation.

Last month, SoFi filed the paperwork to obtain an industrial bank charter, opening the door for the online lender to offer the same core banking services as its mega-bank counterparts. SoFi’s bold step is not the approach taken by all FinTechs, but many continue to look for partnerships with more full-service financial companies to ensure revenues continue to flow, even if their core business falls out of favor.

The Tipping Point

The outlook for the next five years in FinTech growth may closely trend with the growth in new bank charters. While de novo bank growth stalled after 2008, the up-tick in 2015 and 2016 highlights start-ups that believe they can become successful hybrid organizations; part bank, part FinTech.

Still, taking the hybrid path isn’t without its own challenges. Stringent capital requirements, intense regulatory oversight, and the difficulty of growing a balanced product mix can make it unattractive for entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Mono-solution providers should evaluate the future of their revenue stream to determine if diversification can help mitigate their risks in a changing market.  If they are able to take their innovation into new, multi-service arenas, we can expect to see unprecedented growth in the industry.

Mike Storiale is an Adjunct Professor in the Digital Innovation for FinTech program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. He teaches a graduate course on the global economy and the emergence of FinTech. 

“What’s an instructional designer?”

By Lance Eaton

That’s always the first question I get when I tell people that I am an instructional designer (an ID for those of us “in the know”).

It all started when I was 6 years old, and my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I peered up into his face and said with an earnest seriousness that no child should muster, “I want to be an instructional designer.”

Ok, that’s a lie. In my career as an instructional designer, I’ve never met anyone who wanted to become one when they grew up. In fact, many of them, like me, stumbled onto this career and realized they’d come into their calling — and that people would pay them to do something they rather enjoy!

Probably a year before I became an ID, I couldn’t tell you what an ID was. “Ummm…they design instruction?” In 2011, I was teaching full-time as a part-time instructor (or as I called it, the adjunct shuffle), patching together 6-8 courses a semester at six different institutions. Technology was my saving grace in that it helped me implement different and interesting projects without completely losing my mind (or my students’ papers). As a result of some of that work, I was soon asked to present on how I was using blogs, social media and other technology to enhance learning. When an ID position opened up at North Shore Community College, I was encouraged to apply given my skill set both with teaching and learning with technology, but also for my ability to effectively explain this work to colleagues. The rest is, as they say, history (ok, there’s a few more pieces to it, but this is the abbreviated blog-version!).

Helping instructors think about technology and pedagogy is the essence of instructional design. Eventually, I developed a succinct answer to the question above: “I work with instructors to develop online and hybrid courses or utilize other technology in pedagogically sound ways that maximizes learning and minimizes frustration for learners and instructors as much as possible.”

But even that description often needs further explanation. In comparison to the physical classroom, online instructors and students are thousands of hours behind when it comes to experience. Instructors have vast quantities of implicit knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in the physical classroom as a result of their own education, their teaching experience, and disciplinary expertise. However, that implicit knowledge needs to be made explicit in the online environment so that both instructor and student can succeed. This is where IDs come in; helping instructors figure out exactly how they can be effective in this new learning environment. It’s a rewarding opportunity — I get to meet different instructors with unique approaches to teaching and learning that I am then able to share with other instructors for consideration as they make their journeys into the online learning experience.

So with that, I’d like to say that I’m really excited to land at Brandeis GPS with some amazing colleagues and fantastic instructors. I look forward to learning and growing, which, as quintessential life-long learners, is something ID folk love to do.

Lance Eaton is an instructional designer at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. His previous work includes working at North Community College and Regis College as instructional designer. He is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education from University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Countdown to Commencement: (Re)Meet Kara Wasnewsky, Brandeis GPS Commencement Student Speaker

In 2015, Brandeis GPS profiled Kara Wasnewsky (Noonan), a student in our instructional design graduate program. Two years later, we are thrilled to announce that Kara has been selected as this year’s student commencement speaker. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kara about her journey and how her experience in the MS in Instructional Design and Technology has influenced her career path.

When she started the part-time, online graduate program, Kara was an Associate Media Producer at Pearson looking for a master’s degree that “provided the ideal integration of edtech and instructional design.” We checked back in with Kara recently and to hear her reflections on her experience in the IDT, the impact it had on her career, and advice she has for future students.

A more strategic role

A year after Kara began the program, she was promoted to a learning tool strategist. Now, instead of working on media components that go into larger products, she creates more complex learning tools that can be used within a product or on their own. Working on instructional videos and other learning tools, Kara explained to us how her video production methods have evolved even further as she continued the program.

“I learned to utilize visuals and narration to create an effective learning experience. When designing instructional videos you must be cautious of cognitive overload. I have been much more deliberate about the decisions I make for the visuals used in the videos I produce. I make sure that the visuals enhance the concept that is being discussed in the video, rather than just being there to decorate the screen.”

Kara also noted that the most rewarding outcome of the program for her is the confidence she has gained. “With the knowledge and skills gained through the Brandeis program, I have become much more confident in my ideas. I speak up much more on the projects I work on because I know what will be most beneficial for the learner and can back up my ideas with science.” Building on her new skills gained through her master’s degree, Kara hope to one day transition to an instructional designer at a college or university, working closely with instructors and immediately track the impact of the learning experiences they create.

Learning from peers

While in the IDT program, Kara was able to learn from her classmates, not just her instructors. She noted this as a valuable part of her learning experience.

“Fellow students are really key to these online courses, since a lot of our understanding comes from the sharing of ideas between us. My classmates came from various roles in higher ed, k-12 and corporate training. I work in a corporate environment, but I create learning experiences for undergraduate students, so I really took a lot away from the variety of backgrounds.

Reading the interpretations of a concept from these different perspectives helped me to understand it in new ways. Without the diversity of the class, I would have just interpreted things as I understood them through the context of my experience working at an academic publisher. I would not have uncovered the nuances with how things can be applied in different settings. It really made for some interesting discussions.”

As a creator of online learning tools, Kara is a proponent of the benefits of the online classroom, and thinks that the greatest benefit of this learning style is the opportunity for thoughtful reflection.

“In a face-to-face course discussions happen spur of the moment, so it is difficult to really have rich discussions. I was always quiet in classes, so I rarely even participated in discussions. In the online courses at Brandeis you are required to post weekly to a discussion board and to comment on two posts of your peers. The posts that are made are always very thoughtful, since the student has time think about what they are going to post before they do.”

A note to future students

Kara advises future students to “think about what your personal goals are for obtaining the degree and make sure that you get everything you can out of the program. Many of the projects that will be completed in the program can be tailored to your specific interests, so if you identify those interests early you will have an impressive portfolio of work that is in line with your personal goals.”

Kara certainly followed her own advice and we look forward to hearing about her future accomplishments. Congratulations Kara and the entire class of 2017!

This year’s 2017 commencement ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 21, at 8 a.m. Follow #GPSclassof2017 to be part of the celebration!

Brandeis GPS announces new Information Security Leadership program chair

GPS recently named Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro as the Information Security Leadership program chair. In this new role, Dalessandro, who previously served as an instructor in the program, will recruit and mentor faculty, oversee course quality, and advise students on program and course requirements.

Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro

Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro, the newly-appointed Brandeis GPS Information Security Leadership program chair.

Dalessandro was selected for his extensive experience in information security, technology audit, and risk and people management. After graduating cum laude with an MS in Information Security from Norwich University, Dalessandro spent four years in Australia as the Head of Internal Audit for the Asia-Pacific region comprising Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan for Vanguard, the largest mutual fund company in the world.

Eventually, Dalessandro transitioned to Vanguard’s US information security team, where his role was part advisory — serving as a liaison with the firm’s Asia-Pacific offices — and part operative, performing information security risk assessments of Vanguard’s vendors and partners.

Brandeis GPS’s online Information Security Leadership program seeks to create the security leaders we need in the ever-advancing digital age. The program equips students to:

  • Develop a business case for investing in security and risk management.
  • Inform and influence senior executives to commit to obtaining and maintaining this investment.
  • Oversee the planning, acquisition and evolution of secure infrastructures.
  • Assess the impact of security policies and regulatory requirements on complex systems and organizational objectives.

We are so pleased to channel Joe’s global perspective and extensive experience into the Information Security Leadership program at Brandeis!

Brandeis GPS student to receive national award for achievements in health and information technology

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) will award GPS Health and Medical Informatics student Jill Shuemaker with the Richard P. Covert, PhD, LFHIMSS Scholarship for Management Systems, a national award recognizing her contributions to the field of health and information technology in 2016.

The award coincides with Shuemaker’s emergence as a national expert in health and medical informatics. As a registered nurse with Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Shuemaker developed a patient-centered, analytic, teamwork-based approach that single-handedly ensures her organization’s electronic quality measure program fully meets federal regulatory requirements. She also advocates on a national level for advancing patient care through sound measurement design, implementation of quality program changes and vendor accountability.

Jill Shuemaker

Jill Shuemaker, a Brandeis GPS Health and Medical Informatics student

“HIMSS is proud to honor individuals that have made significant contributions to our mission of improving health through the use of information technology,” JoAnn W. Klinedinst, M.Ed., CPHIMS, PMP, DES, FHIMSS, vice president, professional development, HIMSS North America said in a press release. “Congratulations to all of the award and scholarship recipients for their achievements and for their skills and expertise focused on improving health and healthcare through the best use of IT.”

Shuemaker is currently enrolled in the Health and Medical Informatics graduate program at Brandeis University’s division of Graduate Professional Studies. As a part-time, fully online student, Shuemaker continues to advance her career as she works to improve and transform the healthcare industry.

In addition to her work as an RN, Shuemaker is a Certified Professional in Health Information Management Systems (CPHIMS) and Co-Chair of HIMSS National Quality and Safety Committee, where she interacts directly with clinicians, technical staff, and even federal officials on a routine basis.  She will officially receive her award later this month at the HIMSS annual Awards Gala in Orlando, Florida.

About Brandeis GPS

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to bringing an exceptional graduate education experience to adult learners across the country and the world. The division’s catalog of 12 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and certificates represents today’s most innovative industries, offering students opportunities to advance in management, technology, data informatics, marketing and other fields. With small classes, a convenient and flexible approach to online learning, and faculty who are leaders in their industries, GPS fosters a community that is mindful of its students’ professional, academic and personal commitments. As a leading research university and member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Brandeis fosters self-motivated, curious students ready to engage new experiences and global endeavors. The university is widely recognized for the excellence of its teaching, the quality and diversity of its student body and the outstanding research of its faculty.

GPS student wins big at Brandeis Innovation’s SPARKTank competition

Brandeis Bioinformatics student Donald Son and his team of entrepreneurs took third place in last Sunday’s university-wide SPARKTank competition, an annual live-pitch event hosted by Brandeis Innovation.

Competing against 12 other groups seeking seed funding to bring their startups to market, Son’s team received $10,000 to further their work on Green Herb Analytics (HerbDx). The California-based facility uses analytical chemistry, software integration and medicinal cannabinoid biology to provide quality assurance lab testing and ensure that the product entering the market is safe for human consumption. The startup also seeks to establish an innovative, cutting-edge brand with affordable prices.

While Son himself does not use cannabis, he has a personal connection to unregulated supplements and medicines and their impact on public health.

“I take herbs to manage my chronic fatigue syndrome and was initially concerned about what I was putting into my body,” said Son. “During my own research, I came across cannabis just as it was being voted on for recreational use in California. I felt the need to ensure the safety of this product to the consumer.”

HerbDx plans to put its seed funding toward a small lab space, a mass spectrometer to optimize pesticide testing, and to advance production and marketing efforts. Outreach efforts will include an increased digital and social media presence, partnerships with special interest groups, and visibility at trade shows and conferences.

About SPARKTank
SPARKTank is a live pitch event where Brandeis entrepreneurs compete for seed funding in front of a live audience. Thirteen teams comprised of Brandeis students, faculty and staff pitched their innovative ideas to a panel of industry judges with the hopes of receiving a portion of the $50,000 grant pool. The pitches included startups, technologies and entrepreneurial ventures, which demonstrated the extensive breadth of entrepreneurial spirit at Brandeis University.

Army Reservist shares his GPS experience in his own words

Faces of GPS | Steve Boardman

In 2014, I was in pursuit of a career plan for the next 20 years of my life and chose to leverage my IT experience as a software developer to shift into consulting as a business intelligence and big data analytics expert. In search of a graduate program to help propel me into that evolving field, I spent more than 100 hours researching many data science and analytics degree options.

I found the Master of Science in Strategic Analytics at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) to be the best fit for my life situation for many reasons:

  • The core curriculum and available electives seemed to be a well-balanced mix of business application, management, and technical disciplines.
  • The industry-experienced GPS faculty was a benefit because it enhanced my learning based on my prior undergraduate experience.
  • As an Army Reservist, the ability to conduct coursework online is an essential benefit. Moreover, the 10-week terms with a significant break between them promote a good work, school, and life balance, enabling students to complete the program in only 2 and a half years,  taking one course at a time.
  • The tuition fees were lower than other competing schools, and would be covered by my Post-911 GI Bill VA benefits by 90 percent.

Since I started the Strategic Analytics program with GPS in spring 2015, I have completed seven courses toward my degree thus far and plan to graduate in the summer of 2017. Much of the knowledge that I’ve gained from the coursework has been directly applicable to my current position as an archival data systems development consultant. From what I’ve learned, I’ve been able to conduct more focused data analysis and produce more meaningful results to management, which has helped me earn their confidence and trust. As a result, I was given the lead role in spearheading my client’s business intelligence and data management strategy for analytics in September 2015. My return on investment is being realized even before completing my degree requirements.

boardman_wife_mil_formalCharging through the academic rigors of the program’s coursework and research has been achievable without a major sacrifice from family time and other activities. Living and working in Charleston, SC, with my wife and five-year-old daughter, my evenings during the week and weekends are well-balanced. Not every evening is spent doing school work, which my wife is very happy about. While taking at least one course per term, I am able to work a challenging full-time IT job, lead a platoon size unit in the Army Reserve part-time, play drums in a professional local rock band, and spend plenty of quality time with my family. I am grateful to my employer who pays for my remaining 10 percent tuition out of pocket. Now that GPS offers a 15% discount on tuition for active military and veterans, that saves my employer and the VA around $500 per course. Choosing the MS in Strategic Analytics at GPS was one of my best decisions, as it has proven to better my quality of life.

Steve Boardman is a software development professional with over 20 years of experience providing leadership in developing IT solutions for a variety of industries. He specializes in Enterprise Architecture (EA), Business Intelligence (BI) Strategy, Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) Implementation, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Systems Integration, Application Development, and Legacy System Migration.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Don’t let writer’s block undermine your grad school application

Rebecca WeissFaces of GPS | Rebecca Weiss

When submitting your application for graduate school, the most daunting item for people I work with is the statement of goals. While our requirement is a minimum of 500 words, it is easy to get stuck on how to best articulate your goals for applying to graduate school and why you are interested in one of our programs in particular. Here are few tips that can get the words flowing:

Where to start: If you are struggling with the essay format, it may be easier to jot down bullet points to answer the questions in an outline. Once you have the basics down, you can go back and reformat.

Don’t tell us, show us: This is your place to show the committee why you are a great candidate! Give specific examples to highlight your experience and accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to share personal anecdotes about your personal journey to this master’s program.

Answer the questions: Once you write your first draft, make sure to refer back to the questions asked in the prompt. Were they answered fully?

Review and revise: Grammar, punctuation, flow and spelling are important! Have a friend or colleague read over your essay before you submit.

As always, I’m happy to answer any questions you have throughout this process! I can be reached out 781-736-3447 and rweiss@brandeis.edu

<<Start your GPS application>>

Rebecca Weiss is the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment at GPS, and with her four years of experience in the office, she has a lot of great advice to offer prospective GPS students.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

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