The Brandeis GPS blog

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

Tag: Brandeis GPS Courses (page 1 of 6)

Faces of GPS: Kevan Kivlan

Meet Kevan Kivlan, MS, who serves as a Director for the US General Services Administration in New England. Kevan is responsible for the overall regional stakeholder program management where he oversees a team who provides program, project and acquisition advice to federal, state and local governments. In 2010, Kevan received an M.S. in Project and Program Management from Brandeis University after completing his undergraduate studies at Assumption College in Worcester, MA in 2002.

Kevan transformed his role from Brandeis GPS student to Brandeis GPS instructor in 2017, and now teaches RPJM 115: Challenges in Project Management alongside his professional career. In the following Q&A, he discusses what led to this transition, what has come of it, and how this shift in roles has impacted both his educational and professional spheres.

Q: Where are you from and where do you currently live?

A: I live in Gloucester, MA with my wife and our 2 children. For those unfamiliar with Gloucester, it is a coastal city on the north shore of Massachusetts. Historically Gloucester is known as a fishing community, it’s beautiful beaches, and it’s arts. We love living in Gloucester because of its island feel and our many friends. I originally grew up in Chelmsford, MA where I attended Chelmsford Public Schools.

Q: Tell us what led you to enroll in Brandeis GPS as a student.

A: I had been researching a master’s degree program with flexibility and local to Boston. During this time, a friend of mine, who I worked with at the time, told me about the Brandeis Program and Project Management degree program. I researched it, took a couple of sample classes and decided it was the right program for me.

Q: What did you enjoy the most about your student experience?

A: The student experience at Brandeis was great. I really enjoyed being surrounded by early, mid, and later career classmates who brought such a wide variety experience from different industries and backgrounds. This contributed to a diverse and rich learning environment. I graduated in 2010 and was happy to experience this same experience again in 2017 when I started teaching at GPS.

Q: Why did you want to become an instructor for GPS?

A: I taught high school early on in my career and loved it, but had never considered becoming an instructor until Leanne Bateman invited me to apply in 2010. At the time, I actually passed on the opportunity because my wife was just about to have our first child, [but] I didn’t stop thinking about potentially teaching down the road. So in 2015, I reached out to GPS to see if the invitation was still there, I interviewed and was fortunate enough to be chosen for the position.

Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching?

A: The communication between students and our classroom exchanges. The students at GPS are extraordinary. They are diligent, intelligent and the professional experiences they share to enrich the learning environment.  The participation element of the GPS courses is definitely a highlight and reinforces the subject matter with real-life questions and content.

Q: Do you feel that teaching for GPS has continued to support your own professional development?

A: Of course, teaching challenges me to stay relevant in my expertise, experience, and knowledge of the subject matter. It also inspires me to write and organize my thoughts on course subject areas.

Q: How does what you’ve learned at GPS and what you’ve learned throughout your career inform what you teach your students?

A: Having been a student in GPS helps because I can always ask the question, what would Kevan the student have done? This serves as sort of a benchmark for the level of effort and quality when I am considering a student’s performance. Now, I am not saying I was the perfect student, but I know I put a ton of work into each course I took, so I have that to measure against. And obviously, I follow the course rubric, but it helps to have the experience of being a GPS student. Additionally, being a GPS alum helps because I experienced great instructors like, Anne Marando, Leanne Bateman, and Laurie Lesser, and know what a really great classroom environment looks like based on their example.

In terms of my career, I would like to think I bring a seasoned perspective with plenty applicable experiences from the many professional positions I have performed. I try to weave those experiences into the classroom discussions and course announcements as much as possible to expand on the subject area and ask questions that are relevant to the students.

Q: Was there anything in particular about your student experience that shaped your approach to teaching?

A: This is a tough question because I had so many great instructors. Rather than a specific encounter, conversation or assignment, I think I would say it’s just a general characterization of my experience in words. The 3 words that describe my experience are fairness, flexibility, and responsiveness. In terms of the classroom experience being a challenging master’s level course, this goes without saying, so I think these are the characteristics I strive to deliver to the GPS students who attend my class.

Q: Having worked in program management for several different levels and branches of government, how do you apply what you’ve learned to such a diverse range of projects?

A: One of the things about Government is there are always many stakeholders with a wide variety of objectives. One of the main things Brandeis taught me was a systematic, yet flexible, method of planning and executing strategies to meet stakeholder expectations. Most importantly, GPS emphasized this is through building relationships, including stakeholders in the process, and making sure they know what to expect in terms of communication.

Q: What are some noteworthy projects you’ve managed?

A: I have managed lots and been involved in lots of projects. The last project I consulted on, outside of my normal job, was a Light Art Festival in Downtown Crossing called, ILLUMINUS. I helped the LuminArtz and ILLUMINUS team kick things off, organize a project charter and begin their planning. In this same vein, in my free time, I am also currently helping LuminArtz collaborate on their next light art project with a local museum.  Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it too much yet.

   

Q: How do you try to inspire the same interest you have for project and program management in your students?

A: By sharing my experience and encouraging to look at their everyday experience as relevant to their coursework and learning.

Q: What kinds of skills does your course equip your students with?  

A: The course I teach right now is called Challenges in Project Management. We explore a ton of current topics and challenges in the subject area. The one thing I try to emphasize to my students is to see beyond the challenges presented and visualize the potential opportunities that are possible because of the circumstances. I guess I try to help students see the positive in the challenges presented, not to sugar coat things or avoid facing the negative, but to instill the idea in business every experience is something we can learn from to improve on, build on, and capitalize on in the future.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work/school?

A: Spending time with and enjoying my family. Going out to dinner with my wife. Enjoying the beach in the summer, especially after work. Visiting as many playgrounds as possible with my children. Eating coffee ice cream with chocolate sprinkles, and finding TV shows I can binge watch (right now we’re watching The Good Place). My other like is grocery shopping, which I think is something from when I was a child and my memories of grocery shopping with my mother.

Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us?

A: I am always open to chatting about ideas, questions, experiences, so reach out to me via LinkedIn. Hope to see you in the classroom.  And in case you’ve been wondering, it’s Kevin with an A.

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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. 

FinTech is changing your life, and you don’t even know it

By Ashley Nagle Eknaian

Don’t believe me? Answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have any cash in your wallet right now?
  2. Have you ever bought something using your mobile phone?
  3. Have you been inside a bank branch in the last 6 months?

Now, let’s travel back in time to the year 2007; would your answers still be the same? Probably not. My point here is that 10 years ago, your experiences carrying, spending, saving, transferring, investing, and borrowing money were very different than they are today. In 2017, I am willing to bet that you use some sort of fintech app for your everyday financial needs. Using your mobile wallet to pay for coffee/tea in the morning? Repaying a friend for lunch using Venmo? Donating to a crowdfunding campaign? Checking your bank balance? Buying insurance? Refinancing your student loans? Considering a Robo-advisor to handle your investments? Leveraging an auto savings app to build a nest egg? All are examples of FinTech innovation that we now have access to with a tap and a swipe on our mobile devices.

FinTech is changing your life and you don't even know it

VC’s & banks take notice

As technology continues to permeate every aspect of our lives from social media to healthcare, why would our interactions with money be any different? Investment dollars have been pouring into FinTech the last few years ($17.4 Billion in venture backed funding in 2016 alone), which means that there are some very smart people trying to revolutionize every aspect of the financial services you use every day. While not all startups will be successful in this endeavor, the few that do will continue to transform the financial services ecosystem. And let’s not forget about big banks, top financial institutions have taken notice of the FinTech boom and taken action. These companies are building innovation labs, hiring top tech talent and investing / acquiring startups to ensure they stay relevant for customers in what has become a rapidly changing and competitive environment.

Technology rules

With all of the technology now available to create smarter, faster, and cheaper products and services, no corner of the financial industry will be left static. Take the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether – could there be a day in the not-so-distant future where physical currency becomes obsolete? You may think that sounds crazy, however, the next time you make a purchase, ask the company if it accepts bitcoin as a form of payment – the answer may surprise you. Technology will continue to change and be applied to financial services at a pace that we could never have imagined just a few short years ago. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, not to mention a little technology called “distributed ledger” will all play a role in fueling the next evolution of FinTech innovation for both institutions and consumers.

Global dominance

FinTech isn’t a regional, socio-economic or generational phenomenon. FinTech is global, and it will impact the entire financial ecosystem, from central banks to the unbanked. Get ready, because FinTech has only just begun changing your life.

Ashley Nagle Eknaian, program chair of the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis University

Brandeis GPS analytics program ranked in U.S. top 30

Brandeis University’s MS in Strategic Analytics program ranked 28th on College Choice’s list of the 50 Best Big Data Degrees for 2017.

Best Online Big Data ProgramsThe College Choice rankings were based on a combination of academic reputation, student satisfaction, affordability, and average annual salary of graduates. Strategic Analytics at GPS was selected for the breadth and depth of its coursework, the strength of its online learning model, and the success of its alumni.

From the College Choice announcement:

Strategic Analytics listing in College Choice's 50 Best Online Big Data Programs

View College Choice’s full list of schools here, and click here to learn more about Strategic Analytics at Brandeis.

How to be a Productive Online Student

Online master’s degrees at accredited universities have become increasingly popular over recent years. Many programs, like the ones offered at Brandeis GPS, cater to professionals who are working full time and are seeking a degree to move the needle on their career. Truly asynchronous programs – where students aren’t required to log into a class at a certain time – allow students to set their own schedule when it comes to their academic study.  But for some online learners, the lack of structure can be a challenge. Below are some tips to help you achieve the perfect work-life-school balance while pursuing an online degree.

Schedule Your Time
Schedule your school time just like you would schedule an appointment or meeting. Consistency can be key. And don’t forget to get creative with your study time. Have a long train ride as part of your commute? Take care of your weekly readings while you ride. Drive to work? See if your text book has an audio version and listen in the car. Find a regular time to do your coursework, and soon it will become a part of your daily routine.

Find Your Place of Productivity
Ask yourself when you are most productive. Perhaps it’s on that long train ride where you easily focus. Are you most productive on Sunday afternoons while sitting in your local library? Do you enjoy staying in your pajamas and doing work from your kitchen table? There is no right answer as everyone has different zones of productivity. Make sure the space where you want to work is available and distraction-free in advance. You will get everything done a lot faster if you go in knowing this is your time and place for coursework.

Take a Break
If you have an assignment deadline approaching, you may be tempted to come home after a long day of work and open your computer to get your schoolwork done as quickly as you can. Don’t do that – you want to put your best foot forward! Separate your job from your coursework, take some time to relax, go to the gym, or eat a snack. Keep your brain power focused on what you’re doing so you can achieve results that make you proud.

Participate and Stay Engaged
In an online classroom, it is easy to keep quiet and only participate when necessary. Don’t take that approach: you’re here to learn, after all! Schools like GPS intentionally offer small classes to foster engagement and collaboration among your peers and instructors.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to be a productive online student, and don’t forget to reach out to your advisor or instructor for guidance.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

The value of communications in professional settings

One of the most valuable skills in any workplace is the ability to communicate effectively and professionally. Although every professional uses differing language relating to his or her field, communication skills allow for one to thrive in a collaborative work environment. In order to succeed, professionals need to be comfortable speaking and presenting in a range of environments, from small meetings, to larger individual or group presentations. While many people are often not comfortable giving speeches or delivering presentations in professional settings, through practice, these skills can be honed and perfected.

Brandeis GPS’s online Professional Communications course arms students with these skills. By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Develop verbal and nonverbal communication styles by applying verbal and nonverbal skills in various speaking situations; videotaping and viewing one’s performance; critiquing one’s style; and receiving diagnostic evaluations.
  • Use techniques, such as cognitive restructuring, to reduce speaker apprehension.
  • Increase effectiveness in informative and persuasive message development using audience analysis, principles of organization, principles of Aristotle’s rhetoric, language devices, and supporting material (examples, narratives, testimony, and facts and statistics).
  • Write with clarity, brevity and vigor.
  • Strengthen self-awareness, assertiveness skills and listening skills to improve interpersonal, small group and public communication.
  • Analyze best practices for running an effective meeting.
  • Critically evaluate messages in terms of various criteria for effectiveness.

This course is available for professional development or as part of several GPS graduate programs. At GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in a program. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. View our full course catalog here, and preview our spring 2017 courses here. Registration for the spring 2017 term opens on December 20.

Questions? Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

Rethinking writing for digital environments

When you hear the word “writing,” what image jumps into your head? Likely it’s not picking up a pen or opening a notebook, as most writing today takes place on digital platforms. Whether we’re drafting copy for a website, social media, a blog post, or an ad, writing for digital environments introduces a whole new set of factors to consider as we seek to achieve our writing goals. For example, identifying strategic keywords when writing online content can help optimize a piece to successfully reach a target audience.

It’s also critical that we understand why various online platforms require different types of writing, whether it means monitoring character counts or using hashtags or abbreviations. In marketing, these tactics, along with others, are important to consider to make sure that whatever is being marketed is done so in an efficient and effective way.

Writing for Digital Environments is an online course that provides detailed information about how to write copy and messaging for various digital formats. Part of the MS In Digital Marketing and Design graduate program, the course subject matter gives special attention to differences in form factor, audience targeting, and SEO (search engine optimization) implications of various types of content. Content marketing tactics are explored in detail. View more information and course prerequisites here.

Those interested in the course who do not yet wish to pursue a full master’s degree can still participate. At Brandeis GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in a program. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. View our full course catalog here, and preview our spring 2017 courses here.

Questions? Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

Improve your negotiating skills

Whether or not you’re a professional project manager, negotiating skills are crucial to the success of any project, small or large. When working with others, conflicts will always arise, but being able to control these situations and find “win-win” solutions that work for all parties involved is an incredibly valuable tool. Yet, negotiating is not an easy task and requires a wide range of strategies and skillsets. For example, you might need to create values by encouraging open communication between parties and finding shared interests so that both sides get something out of the situation. Changing your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) to boost your bargaining power in a negotiation is another useful tool.

To help project managers and those interested in conflict resolution acquire new negotiation skills, Brandeis GPS offers an online Negotiating and Conflict Resolution course that provides a framework to understand the basis of conflict, to select an appropriate conflict resolution strategy, and to employ tactics that optimize results for both individuals and organizations.  As part of the MS in Project and Program Management  degree program, this part-time, fully online course will explore several approaches to conflict resolution that differ among collocated and virtual teams. Students will also understand how cultural differences, interests, and values influence negotiation strategy and tactics. Topics will include:

  • Value creation and value claiming
  • BATNA strategies
  • Ethical and unethical negotiating tactics

By the end of the course, students will develop a systematic and positive approach to negotiating with colleagues, bosses, clients, other stakeholders, and external groups of all kinds–in ways that equip you to deal also with all kinds of conditions and circumstances.

Those interested in the course who do not yet wish to pursue a full master’s degree can still participate. At Brandeis GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in a program. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. View our full course catalog here, and preview our spring 2017 courses here.

Questions Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

The importance of customer analytics in marketing

Consumers today have so many options regardless of what product or service they’re looking for, and for marketers, it’s really important to use available data to better understand how to meet consumer needs and influence behavior. By understanding what consumers are really looking for, and how they behave when searching out products or services, marketers can work on targeting the right audiences in the ways that will really appeal to them. By tracking behavior and predicting how consumers conduct their searches, marketing firms are able to narrow down exactly how to target the right customer, so that the supplier benefits in finding a customer, and the customer benefits as they are able to find exactly what they are looking for. In analyzing data and identifying consumer trends, marketers are able to build models that will help launch marketing plans that reflect changes and consistencies in consumer behavior, to help plan for future marketing initiatives.

For those interested in this fast-paced industry, Brandeis GPS is offering a course for the spring 2017 term in Marketing and Customer Analytics. The course will provide an introduction to advanced analytics and measurement in the areas of social networking and media, web and marketing analytics. The topics covered include the history, tracking, performance, optimization, metrics, analysis, visualization, decision making, reporting and best practices in each of those three areas. E-commerce will also be covered as it relates to web and marketing.

Those interested in the course who do not yet wish to pursue a full master’s degree can still participate. At Brandeis GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in a program. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. View our full course catalog here, and preview our spring 2017 courses here.

Questions? Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

GPS launches tuition discount program for military members and spouses

GPS is excited to share  today a new policy that will offer military veterans, active-duty personnel and their spouses a 15 percent tuition discount on our online graduate programs and courses.

The discounts may be used in conjunction with other benefits earned through the Department of Veteran Affairs, such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program.With this policy, we aim to empower academic and professional success within the U.S. military community.

Learn more here:  www.brandeis.edu/gps/future-students/military-discount.html

Note to qualified members:

If you’re interested in seeking spring 2017 admission, please submit your application by Dec. 13, 2016. You can also take individual courses for professional development without submitting an application. Registration for the 10-week spring 2017 term opens on Dec. 20, 2016, with class beginning Jan. 18, 2017. Visit www.brandeis.edu/gps for more information.

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