Walking the talk

Posted by cservaes on September 19, 2011 in "Academic Programs", Arizona, Faculty/Staff Their positions and degrees may vary, but these five Ottawa University-Arizona staff members, and 2011 graduates, share a commitment to education and to helping others achieve their life goals. Rebecca Kiraly, Enrollment Advisor Degree Earned: BA - Human Resources; Pursuing: MA - Human Resources At the age of 17 and with no family to support her, Rebecca Kiraly was looking for a job and an education when she was granted an opportunity for an interview with Ottawa University. She originally accepted a position as a janitor in the facilities department in 2006 and was later promoted to a position in enrollment. The next year, she embarked upon her bachelor’s degree. “I was nervous going into the program, but halfway through my first class, I realized that the instructor was going to give me the tools I needed to be successful,” she said. “I was encouraged to focus on my strengths and improve upon my weaknesses.” Kiraly believes that what sets Ottawa University apart from the many other educational opportunities in greater Phoenix is the personal touch. “There is a great balance between challenging students and facilitating their learning,” she said. “The environment was so positive. I learned as much from my fellow students as I learned from the textbooks.” As an enrollment advisor, Kiraly is charged with helping prospective students navigate the educational opportunities available at Ottawa. “When I talk to a prospective student, it’s not a sale. We are dealing with people’s lives. Their education will be part of their life story,” she explained. “The biggest reward of my job is to see students I had met with years before walk across the stage at graduation, full of confidence and beaming with pride. I’m proof of what Ottawa can do for a person, and that’s why I do what I do.”   Angela Mendez, Coordinator – Professional Education Program Degree Earned: BA – Business Administration & Management Angela Mendez was working as the classified sales manager for 12 newspapers when she began to look into bachelor’s degree programs. Originally from Kansas, Mendez knew of Ottawa University’s good reputation, so she decided to enroll. From the start, Mendez appreciated how applicable her classes were to real-world problems. “I would often go into class with a work issue or challenge in mind and leave with a solution, thanks to the insight of my professors and other students,” she said. Mendez was two years into her bachelor’s program when she decided to apply for a position at the University. “I loved Ottawa’s atmosphere and decided it would be a good career move for me,” she said. She started out as a receptionist and was given additional responsibilities in registration before being promoted to coordinator of the professional education program in the spring of 2011. As a former adult student, Mendez is able to empathize with current students. “I understand how difficult it can be to be a student while working full time. I can tell students about my experience and how I was able to make it work,” she said. “That flexibility is one of the great things about Ottawa.” Pamela Rebel, Assistant to the Campus Executive Degree Earned: MA – Professional Counseling Shortly after she began working in the registrar’s office at Ottawa University in 2005, Pamela Rebel began working toward a master’s degree in professional counseling. She was fueled not only by a personal goal to earn an advanced degree, but also by a desire to move into a field that would allow her to help people in a more direct way. Rebel believes that her coursework has helped her to do just that. “The classes I’ve taken have definitely improved how well I work with both colleagues and students,” she explained. “I am better able to relate to others, resolve conflict and understand the psychology and mental attributes behind people’s actions.” Rebel has enjoyed several opportunities for advancement during her time at Ottawa University. She was promoted to coordinator of the teacher certification program in 2007 and to assistant to the campus executive in 2008. In her current position, Rebel handles student grievances and works closely with students with disabilities. “I am thankful to be able to use the skills and knowledge I attained through the professional counseling program to help students succeed,” she said. Christopher Gonzalez, Enrollment Advisor Degree Earned: MBA Christopher Gonzalez had worked in commercial real estate for 10 years before being hired as an enrollment advisor for Ottawa University in 2008. He was interested in the job at Ottawa University partly because of the educational opportunity it provided. He began work toward an MBA shortly after being hired. “I needed a business degree to supplement my bachelor’s degree in communications,” he said. “I also believe that an advanced degree will open doors for me in the future.” Because of his position as an enrollment advisor, Gonzalez had insight into the program, professors and other students that he would not have had if not working for the University. “Having the inside track in some ways made the experience even more positive for me,” he said. In addition to the skills and information he learned in his classes, Gonzalez gained first-hand knowledge about the life of an adult student. “I learned more about the ‘nuts & bolts’ that students deal with on a daily basis, such as the online software, online libraries and scheduling,” he said. “I understand more about the challenges our students are likely to encounter, which makes me better at my job.” William (Bill) Hammond, Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Degree Earned: MBA Bill Hammond’s career in higher education has brought him up through the ranks from enrollment advisor to his current role as an assistant vice president of enrollment. “I did not skip any steps. I’ve worked at every level, so I have a good understanding of what each position entails,” he said. In spite of his wealth of experience, Hammond felt it was important to obtain an advanced degree. “It was something I had always wanted to do, and I also felt it was important because of my position,” he explained. It didn’t take long for Hammond to discover that he was going to have his work cut out for him. “Ottawa wasn’t giving this MBA away. I had to work at it,” he said. “Overall, I came away feeling a significant sense of accomplishment.” Hammond believes that his advanced degree grew him as both a person and as a professional. “I have noticed in many different instances that I have knowledge about a topic that I didn’t have before,” he said. “Whether it is economics, politics or social issues, I now have a more informed understanding of the world around me. In the end, I believe it has made me better at what I do, which is helping others reach their full potential.”