Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: USC School Business Management Program

I applied for the USC School Business Management Program in early 2014 and the program started in July. Before we even met for Boot Camp, we had various assignments and tasks to complete. Nothing major, but work none-the-less.

I arrived at the USC campus a day early and spent the night with my friend Denise, who lives in the area. I slept poorly, anxious for the next day that I first experience 'campus life.' I had no idea what to expect, if my fellow cohort members would be welcoming, if I could even do this.

Turns out, I can. and I did.

If you found this because you are thinking of taking the next step in your career in California School Business, this is what I would have wanted to know: 

It's Worth It
I have been in school business for almost seven years. I have never worked so long in a job without a change in title or pay. While I have been given increased responsibility over the years, the title hasn't changed and I knew that I was ready to take the next step. My district was not able to support this step in a way that I had hoped, but I determined that my career needed to progress and it was up to me, ultimately, to push forward. So, Bryan and I did it. We used our savings, I applied for scholarships, I withdrew an annuity. We made it happen because it needed to happen. 

Every penny I spent on this course was worth it. The instructors that I worked with (the best of the best in our field) and the relationships I built (not only with my fellow cohort but with my surrounding community as I sought help in areas unfamiliar to me) have given me the ability to expand my network. This network I will be able to call on if ever I need help, advice, or clarity on issues that arise. 

It's Intense
They are not lying to you when they say that it will be intense. Boot Camp and the Mid Year Meeting is intense but a connecting experience with classmates. The content is overwhelming. Combined with the normal flow of life this program is not for the weak. I do have some tips on lightening this load, so stay tuned. 

You Will Grow
Hands down, you will grow in this program. You will define who you want to be in the education industry, whether you are a principal looking to understand the business side or a business person seeking to prepare for increased leadership. This program will refine you. At times, you'll want out. At times, you'll wonder why you even chose this profession. However, the people that you work with will renew your passion to provide the supplies, tools and training for teachers and students so that we can usher in a new generation of thinkers and world leaders. You will be revived and renewed just when you get to the point where you are looking at private industry jobs. 

It's Not What You Think
This program is not technical. You will not learn the accounting laws regarding school finance. This job doesn't give you the minutia of the position. However, this course is a leadership and preparation course. You will follow the school business calendar and you will understand the big picture of being a Chief Business Official. 

How to Make the Most of the Program:

- Meet with your group even on individual assignments. Work together and share your information. This will make your life and your understand of each assignment increase tenfold. 

- Towards the end of the program, there were less group assignments, so we turned every assignment into a group assignment. We shared our frustrations and our successes. We were all at the end of the rope, barely hanging on, and meeting, laughing and stressing together really helped get us all to the finish line. We spoke with other cohort people that didn't meet with their groups at all and they were jealous that we had a community to go to when they felt alone. 

- HELP OTHERS. School business is not private industry. Our job is to help others and to be a light when someone is in the dark. Don't hoard information and resources. Send out emails, post on the discussion boards. 

- Pay attention in Blackboard sessions. The instructors go out of their way to get the best content specialists for your assignments. Listen during the sessions. Ask questions. Engage as much as possible. 

- Develop meaningful relationships with your classmates and even stay in touch even when you are moved to a different group. 

- Start your in-depth study early. Don't procrastinate. 

- DO. YOUR. REFLECTIONS. This is essential. You probably won't want too. Do them anyways. Reflect on the assignment and what you learned. It's that easy. 

- Reach out to your community. Utilize your county office and district office. They will help and collaborate with you. 

- Find past cohort survivors if you can. It's helpful.

- Engage in after hours fun with your cohort. Some of the greatest moments I had were sitting around after a long day at boot camp, telling our stories and relating on job experiences. You'll be tired, but it deepens ties. Share a meal together. Go out. I never stayed with the late, late crowd, but I participated and made sure that they knew I was there. Find the balance between sleep and fun. It'll save your sanity. 

- Engage with instructors. I spent the year feeling like I was not worthy to call upon my instructors. Don't be like me. They will help you. They will be there for you. Utilize the relationships. 

- Do your assignments on time, every time. Get them done early and get them off your plate. Life happens and you'll be tempted to put it off. Don't do that. 

I met an amazing crop of people. I built friendships that will last and I learned a lot of content. I could have gotten more out of it, but hindsight is 20/20. You will, without a doubt, get out what you put in. It is not a cliche, it is fact. I encourage you to take the step! Dive in. You won't regret it. 


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