The James P. Etter Award for Innovation and Creativity came as a huge surprise to me, and I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award. I knew that Dr. Jill Fuson had nominated me, but I never really thought I did anything special. Student success comes first for me, along with the reputation of APUS, and the award was given for my work in the classroom and in the community, beyond the confines of the classroom. In an online setting, we do not have the same opportunities to “reach out and touch” our students as we do in the physical classroom, but I have committed myself to providing students with a personalized experience that enhances their learning process and affords them the opportunity to operationalize the knowledge gained in my class.
My inspiration for innovation and creativity comes from my parents—my mother is a former school superintendent who was years ahead of her time, and my dad was a pioneer in the plastics industry. I started my first business—an adult day care center—in 1981. My second business was a flight school, which grew to 73 aircrafts and two locations. After that, I founded a hospice and a home healthcare company. I came to education later in life, so the unique challenges of adult learning are very personal to me.
Students in my classrooms experience something very different. I facilitate education based on my own experiences as an adult learner. Looking back, I categorize the courses I took into two buckets—those that energized and motivated students, compared to classes in which students just answered questions. I’m dedicated to engaging and motivating students in my online classrooms. I began by adding an introductory video, and I gradually expanded to video discussions, screencasts, and podcasts. I look for opportunities to incorporate virtual field trips, and I scan the news daily for current events that are relevant to the topics I teach.
For my entrepreneurship class, one of the first things I did was to interview one of the venture capitalists who funded Home Depot, when it was in its infancy. Soon after that, students began contacting me after they completed the class to see if I would help them take the ideas from the class to fruition. I have done this out of our home, and we’ve welcomed more than 50 students for weekend entrepreneurship “boot camp” experiences. However, I am in the process of moving into an office where I will have space for workshops and conferences. I am particularly honored that one of my students has now taken the lessons from the boot camp and is now replicating this with his unit.
Another reason I was nominated was the formation of a Research Special Interest Group (SIG) that seeks to bring together a community of academic scholars, where we could provide support and encouragement for the aspiring researcher by seasoned scholars who are published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals. As we are all remote, we can’t just drop in for office hours and chat with someone about our research. The Research SIG is one of the best alternatives I could imagine. We meet monthly, via Adobe Connect, and faculty are invited to present their research ideas, receive peer feedback on methodologies or their topics, and even identify research partners. Our mission is to help our faculty feel connected and appreciated. We now have participants from other schools outside the School of Business, and more than 40 papers or publications have originated from this group. We have active Facebook and LinkedIn communities—so we are leveraging social media.
I am a believer in conscious leadership and have always looked for ways to interact in the broader community and to give back. Last November, I saw that APUS had a volunteer opportunity with Wreaths Across America, at Arlington National Cemetery. I discovered that the nearest participating cemetery was two hours away from where I live in Georgia—so I contacted the Historic Riverside Cemetery Conservancy to see if they were interested in this event. Despite very short notice, we were still able to obtain some sponsors for the event and we placed more than 100 wreaths on the graves of veterans. We had participants from Robins Air Force Base, as well as a few APUS students and faculty members, and students from Mercer University and Wesleyan College. Our goal this year is 1,500 wreaths, and we are currently looking for additional sponsors to help us achieve this goal.
When I look back at my own educational career, I can recall just a few teachers who really inspired me. It is my goal to work with our faculty in the School of Business so that our students know that we are here for their success and that we care about their future. It is my hope that the decisions I make and my actions in the community reflect positively on APUS and the education that we all provide.
Dr. Suzanne Minarcine is Faculty Director for the School of Business. She currently teaches strategic management and entrepreneurship courses.
*Read other posts on wallyboston.com/wallyboston relating to leadership: The Rise of Virtual Leadership