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Tips for Effective Communication by Shannon Burkland

Enrollment Representative for the Adult Degree Program

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and thought “do you have any idea what I’m saying”. Perhaps you have been guilty of thinking “I wonder what I should pick up for dinner tonight” while someone is pouring their heart out to you. Whether in the workplace, school, or home, effective communication is one of the most important factors of highly successful people.  Below I describe what I have found to be important factors of effective communication.
Listen. I often find myself contemplating my response to what I am hearing someone else say instead of truly focusing my attention on their words.  By doing this, I am limiting my ability to acknowledge their thoughts and provide an effective response. This can be especially troubling when trying to solve a problem or conflict. To avoid this pitfall, allow yourself to be present during the conversation. If you need a minute to think before responding, take it. I guarantee the person you are conversing with would much rather hear a well thought out response then partial acknowledgement or a comment that has nothing to do with what they were saying.
Be honest. Have you ever found yourself trying to think of an answer or comment in an effort to suffice someone else, whether that’s really how you feel or not? Or maybe giving inaccurate information just to provide a response of some kind? We all have, usually in an effort to be seen as capable. If you don’t know the answer, or understand what someone is telling you, say so! An honest response of “I don’t understand what you are telling me, could you tell me more” or a simple “I don’t know, but I’ll found out” is always a much better than a lie or trying to provide a response with inaccurate information.
Ask questions. The best way to really understand what someone is saying and show value in the conversation is to ask questions. This allows the person to open up and gives you much needed information to provide a response or ask additional questions.  
Be proactive.  One of the best tips for effective communication I discovered during my time as a classroom teacher is to be proactive.  Ever felt frustrated when you learned something last minute? When dealing with family, co-workers, or friends, everyone likes to feel as if they are current with the latest information.  Make the extra effort to provide information ahead of time using a quick phone call, newsletter, or email.
Even when making an effort to communicate effectively, there will inevitably be a time when you find yourself in the middle of a difficult conversation or feel as if the conversation is headed in circles. Another title I recommend related to communication that I found particularly helpful when considering difficult communication is Coping with Difficult People by Robert M. Bramson.


 Study Hard! by George Marmell

Academic Advisor for the Adult Degree Program

 “Professor, what can I do to be more successful in your class?”
“Well, some of my best students read each chapter seven times.”
I stared at the professor in stunned silence. He wasn’t kidding. My mind started to spin. I had come to him for advice and this was what he had to offer? Maybe I wasn’t cut out for college. Maybe I should quit now.
And that’s how I decided to study educational psychology, the science of learning. I knew there had to be better, faster, more efficient ways to learn. I knew there had to be strategies for learning success. I wanted those strategies for myself and I wanted to be able to help other students find and use those strategies in their learning careers.
And that’s what this column is for, to offer you practical, useful strategies to increase your chances of academic success.
“Great!” I hear you saying, “you’re going to tell me the right way to study.”
No, I’m not. That’s one of the first points I want to make about studying and learning. There is no “right way” to study. There are lots of ways to study and some of them work better than others. And some strategies that work great in one situation don’t work at all in another situation.
The decisions I make about which strategies to discuss, and your decision about which strategies to use, should be guided by 2 principles; efficiency and effectiveness. Let me illustrate.
Efficiency has to do with time. An efficient strategy is one that doesn’t take lots of time. If I was trying to memorize the state capitals, there are lots of ways I could go about it. I could make flash cards with the state on one side and the capitals on the other. I could make a map and fill in the capitals. I could make up a song. I could find a list in one of my textbooks or online and read it over and over again. The most efficient of these would be the one that takes the least time. (That doesn’t necessarily mean it works.)
Effectiveness has to do with how well it works. If I chose to read over a list of states and their capitals just once it would probably take very little time but I probably wouldn’t remember the information I’d just read. It wouldn’t be an effective strategy. If I made a map and filled in the states and capitals it would probably work better than just reading a list. Making a song would probably work better too. This is a very simple example but it should get the point across.
The secret to successful learning is the combination of efficiency and effectiveness. That’s what I’ll be looking for in the strategies I share with you. You may already have a group of strategies that have worked for you in the past. I’m going to encourage you to try something new, not because what you’re doing is wrong, but because you might find something more efficient or effective.


Time Management Exercise by Courtney Walker, Senior Enrollment Representative for the Adult Degree Program

Continuing ones education is an important step in life no matter when it is taken. When a person works a full time job and has other obligations to handle it can become a big question mark on if it is something that can even be accomplished. There are people who work 8-10 hour days, have kids, or involved with organizations in the community and when they think of adding one more thing on his or her plate it seems to be impossible.  But on the contrary it is something that can be achieved if you really want it. It is not going to be easy implanting something new into your life on the first day but there are some things that can be done to help make the transition a smoother one.
                One of the first things that I did when I thought about going to back to school is where will I fit in the time to study. I was working full time, had a daughter who was involved in gymnastics and dance class along with trying to fit in a workout.  So I went to my computer and pulled out an excel spreadsheet. In the sheet I made columns for the different days of the week.  Then I made rows that each hour of the day on there from when I woke up and the time I typically go to sleep. From there I listed all the things I did for every hour of each day. By doing this I was able to see where I had time that I was really not doing anything or watching TV.
                For example, when I took my daughter to gymnastics class I would just sit there and watch her. I looked at that as an opportunity to have an hour to read or start on any of my assignment. I also noticed that I spent lunch going out to eat with coworkers or shopping. That was another hour that I could use to study and save money because I was not going shopping or out to eat as much. I know for some that their weeks may not always be the same, but this is something that you can try to create for each week to help you see what times of which days you will have opportunities to get school work done. This is just one of the ways that you can find out if time is really an issue when it comes to continuing your education.


Adult Degree Program Enrollment Growth  by Carley Leasure, Director of Enrollment Management in Adult Degree Program

Boasting a rich 139-year cultural heritage, Huston-Tillotson University (HT) has long provided higher education opportunities to the Greater Austin area.  Generations of proud graduates have passed on the lessons learned and values shaped while attending this historical institution.
                Over the years, the higher education climate has begun to shift.  There is a great need for flexible opportunities for working adults to go back to school and complete or begin their college degrees.  Whether the individual students’ motivations are professional or personal in nature, adults are seeking a way to pursue their educational goals without compromising work or family.  For that reason HT created and implemented the Adult Degree Program (ADP) in 2012.  Born of an identified need for education options for working adults in Austin, the HT ADP has experienced tremendous growth over the past year and a half.
                The program began with two bachelor’s degrees, one in Business Administration and the other in Criminal Justice.  Over the past year and a half, an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts, a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology, and a Bachelor of Arts in Education with EC-6 Generalist Certification has been added to the growing list of programs.  All classes are conducted on-site one night per week from 6-10pm.  This schedule accommodates most working adults and has resulted in rapid growth of the program. The first cohort in January 2013 brought together 21 eager students anxious to achieve their college degrees.  Today approximately 150 students attend classes at HT Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, occupying the classrooms and spaces often left silent after traditional classes have ended for the day.
                Fall 2014 will bring with it more opportunities for growth of the ADP.  HT has partnered with a third-party organization (Learning Counts) to offer credit for previous work experience.  In an ever-changing higher education climate focused increasingly on competency-based learning, this educational service is one that will help to both retain current students and attract new inquiries.
                The sky is the limit for growth of the HT ADP.  As new programs are introduced and options such as online education are explored, HT will increase its impact on the Greater Austin area, Texas, and the United States.  Fostering a nurturing environment and affordable tuition, it is easy to see why the program has experienced so much growth over the past couple of years.  Stay tuned for more success stories from the oldest institution of higher education in Austin!


Transitioning to the Adult Cohort Model, by Mike Hirsch, Director of the Adult Degree Program, Professor of Sociology

For most of us, our educational experience has involved taking multiple classes at the same time over the course of a semester. In most of these classes, we’re on our own. Unless we’re very insistent, we seldom get the necessary support from instructors or other students that could lighten the burden of such a demanding schedule. Whether we pass or fail, get As, Bs or Cs, or even get credit for the classes at all, our individual effort alone determines the outcome. This can be a daunting prospect, even without considering that many of us also need to hold down a job while we pursue a degree.
 Some of us have tried working full time and taken semester-long classes at night. Many of us have dropped out of those classes after seven, eight or nine weeks of work (or longer) because of family emergencies with nothing to show for our efforts except the money we’ve spent. If your experience has been like this, I think you will find that transitioning to the adult cohort model of education could be the ideal solution. While it may pose some initial challenges, it offers many benefits and rewards.
 In the adult cohort model you take one class at a time, attend class one night a week for four hours, and meet with members of your learning team for four hours one other night a week. Most classes last only five weeks. If life interrupts and you have to step away for a while, you’re likely to already have earned some college credit for your effort. You may also find that when life imposes complications and you’re thinking about quitting, your learning team members will step up and help sustain you through the rough times. That’s what teams do in sports. That’s what teams do in work. That’s what learning teams can do for you.
 Yes, it’s hard to be in class for four hours, but it’s only one night a week. And yes, it’s challenging to meet with your learning team for four hours on another night, but you and your team have the flexibility of setting the time, the place, and the medium (e.g., face to face, conference call, chat room) to do the work. And while there may be differences in personalities and productivity levels among the members of your learning team, this experience is pretty much reflective of life: Not all family members step up equally; not all workmates contribute as they should; yet we find a way to make our way forward. You’ll find a way to do this in school as well.
 Classes are fast-paced because they’re so short, but the pace will continually result in completed classes and constant proof that you’re progressing toward your goal of obtaining a college degree. As you become more accustomed to this learning model, you may even wonder how you could have ever learned the traditional way. My recommendation is to stay focused on the finish line. It will be here more quickly than you can possibly imagine.

Explain Yourself by George Marmell, Academic Advisor for the Adult Degree Program

The first learning strategy I want to discuss is one of the simplest, most powerful, most effective and efficient strategies out there. It’s so simple that it’s often overlooked. Are you ready for it?
Explain yourself.
That’s it. Whatever you’re trying to learn, explain it. Explain it to yourself, explain it to someone else, explain it to your dog. Just talking about it in meaningful, logical ways will help you learn. This works for a number of reasons. First, it helps you stay actively engaged in what you’re studying. I don’t know how many times I’ve been trying to memorize some kind of information and after a while I find I’ve zoned completely out. I’m supposed to be learning something and I’m one step away from deep meditation. There’s a reason many schools of meditation use repetitive chants. If you repeat the same thing over and over it can lose all meaning. If, instead of repeating the words or ideas you’re trying to learn, you explain them, you stay actively engaged and that zoning effect doesn’t happen.
Explaining something also helps you spot any gaps or holes in your own understanding of the subject, especially if you’re explaining to someone who asks questions. When you start explaining something you’re forced to look at it deeply and if there are any parts of the concept you don’t understand you’ll discover that you can’t explain them. That’s the time to go take a second look, either at the text or some other resource, to clear up your misunderstanding.
Explaining will help you develop a deeper understanding of the material too. When you explain you’re forced to look at the subject from multiple points of view. You have to come up with different ways to describe and conceptualize the material. Coming up with those different ways of conceptualizing and looking at things from different points of view also helps you make connections between what you already know and what you’re learning. Those connections make the information that you’re learning easier to retrieve later on when you need it.
Educational researchers call this learning that happens when you explain things the Tutoring Effect. They first noticed the effect when they were investigating the effects of peer tutoring. Elementary school students who were strong in math were paired with students of the same age who were weaker in math. The strong students were supposed to help their weaker peers learn math concepts. What happened surprised the researchers. The weaker math students got a little stronger, but the strong math students got a lot stronger. So the researchers tried the experiment again, but this time they reversed the roles. Instead of having the strong math students tutor their weaker peers, this time the weaker students tutored their stronger peers. The result was that both students improved, and the weaker students improved a lot.
So, what does this mean for you? Explain yourself! Try this strategy when you’re trying to learn new information. Also try it when you’re working with a peer or tutor. If, instead of having a tutor explain the concept to you, you explain it to him/her, the tutor then has a chance to check your learning and correct any misconceptions. Think of if both as a way of learning and as a way of testing yourself to make sure your learning was successful. Most instructors love to hear phrases like, “Let me see if I’ve got this right…” We love the subjects we teach and we love to hear you getting involved and grappling with the ideas too.
And after you try it out, let me hear how it went.


 Students Are On a Path to Self Leadership by Damien Wooley, Bursar for Huston-Tillotson University

                In life many claim to be leaders, but cannot help but follow, and that’s okay. It’s good to borrow the intelligence of your teachers–they are your leaders. Students are followers who may become teachers and, by borrowing from those who lead, inherit many advanced skills.
A true leader, however, practices self-leadership.  Self-leadership means that if there were no church, you’d still worship GOD even when it hurts. It hurts to be alone, to feel you have no one to turn to, but a self-leader can turn to GOD. I do just that. Every morning I have this routine where I wake up and pray. I don’t just ask every day, I make sure I apologize for my sins and thank GOD I’m alive another day.
Self-leadership makes you different. It makes you unique. In time, you may describe your accomplishments as antique. A collection of events where you made a choice to stand alone and strong.  Those times you had to say “No” to sin and “Yes” because you wanted to win. Many wonder why I am so quiet; maybe it’s because I’m consuming knowledge while others deny it. Why don’t you try it?
If you tell me wrong, what I hear goes in one ear and out the other. But if you tell me right, you increase the intelligence of your brother. As humans, we are oftentimes selfish. It’s because we do not want to be helpless. We know that at the end of the day we have to help ourselves more than anyone else. “Before we change the world, we must change ourselves!”
To survive, we must eat, drink water, sleep. And we must educate ourselves in life. It has been such a Blessing to graduate from Huston-Tillotson University in 2010. I couldn’t wait to hear those words: “Congratulations!  You made it!”  Getting a bachelor’s degree seemed sacred.
I always had a job while attending college, and faced many trials and tribulations along the way, but I had to keep studying because I wanted the knowledge. There were many sleepless nights when I felt like giving up. My schedule was tight. At times I just could not attend class; my body was physically exhausted, but I knew this exhaustion would not last. I always called or emailed my instructor to get the notes I missed during my classes, and continued to read and study. I also sought one-on-one tutoring from my professors to get ahead in lessons.
Self-leadership is part of GOD’s testing. For every Blessing one must sacrifice, and education is an opportunity given from GOD to us. It is a Blessing. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? I know I am!


Teamwork Essentials by Shannon Burkland, Enrollment Representative for the Adult Degree Program

Smiling faces and muffled giggles of excitement appeared on the faces of my third grade students each time a group assignment was presented to the class. They saw it as an excuse to talk to friends and take a break from the normal classroom routine. Meanwhile a loud sigh of disappointment rolls through the crowd of a group of employers participating in workplace training. “Can’t I work alone?” “I can do the work faster by myself”.
 When did teamwork become something that makes so many eyes roll? Although not everyone’s favorite task, working collaboratively in a team in an essential skill required of most jobs. Susan Adams from Forbes (2013) reports “ability to work in a team” as the number one desired skill of employers when seeking new employees.
What is a team? A team is any group of people that are put together to accomplish a task. You are likely part of many teams in your personal and professional life. You might even be on several teams within the same organization. No matter the type or size of the team, there are several important essentials to consider when creating and maintaining teams.
Team Roles: Each member of a team has an individual responsibility to work towards the accomplishment of the overall team goal. In order to accomplish the team goal, it is important to identify individual roles and responsibilities. How do successful teams do this? Survey each member of the team to determine their unique strengths and weaknesses.  Utilize those strengths.  Clearly define and assign roles to each member. When team members are aware of and understand their roles, the end outcome will likely be accomplished in a more precise manner.
Team Leadership: Leadership is one of the most important factors in creating and maintaining a successful team. Leaders must set boundaries, yet strive for excellence and keep accountability. It is important to identify a team leader. Leaders are responsible for collaborating with the team to identify the mission of the team, specific job descriptions or responsibilities of each member, and providing constructive feedback while recognizing successes. The leader doesn’t necessarily need to be the team member with the most knowledge of the task at hand. The leader should be someone that can solve problems, set goals, and motivate each member to reach their potential.
Conflict Resolution: Conflict can and will likely arise among every team at some point. Successful teams are those that are able to adjust when conflict arises. The key to managing conflict is acknowledging that it will happen and being proactive in identifying the steps to take when it arises. Being proactive when it comes to team conflict includes setting clearly defined roles and expectations for each member and the group as a whole. Conflict is often created when a member or members of a group feel their needs, values, or emotions are not being cared for or validated. Effective leaders avoid this by regularly checking in with team members to ensure they have the tools they need to do their job successfully and feel supported in the work they do.
Teamwork can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience if you remember these essentials: Identify team roles, support with strong leadership, and work to solve conflict. As the legendary Michael Jordan says “Talent wins games, teamwork wins championships”. What championship will your team win?


Frequently Asked Questions about Financial Aid, by Meghan Cole, Accounting Manager for the Adult Degree Program

 My name is Meghan Cole, and I am the Account Manager for Huston-Tillotson University’s Adult Degree Program. I am in charge of student financial accounts. In my work with our new and continuing students I receive a lot of questions, and rightly so. Everyone’s financial situation is a little different. However, I also receive a lot of questions that can be answered without my assistance. Below you will find the answers to many of these commonly asked questions.
 Frequently Asked Questions:
When will I receive my award letter?
You will receive your first award letter on orientation night (usually 1 week before your classes begin). You will receive a new award letter at the beginning of your next academic year (typically after you have successfully completed 24 credit hours).
 What is the enrollment period on my award letter?
The enrollment period is the beginning and ending dates of your academic year (typically 24 credit hours).
 When will financial aid be posted to my account?
Only after you have completed MPN and EC and have attended 2 nights of class can the Financial Aid office request the funds to be drawn down from the Department of Education. Once the draw down is requested, it is generally 1 week until the funds are received and posted to your student account.
 How do I know when financial aid is posted to my account?Check your student account online at
 When will I receive my refund check?
A refund check will be mailed within 14 days of financial aid posting to your account.
 What does each disbursement of financial aid cover?
Each disbursement covers one “semester” of classes, typically 12 credit hours.
Why do other students in my cohort have different disbursement dates than I do?
Your disbursement dates are customized to your specific course calendar. Class waivers and LOAs will affect your disbursement dates. Withdrawals and failing class grades can also affect your disbursement dates.
Why is PELL missing from my second disbursement?
If your second disbursement falls into a new fiscal year (July 1-June 30) you will have to complete a new FAFSA to determine your PELL eligibility for that disbursement.
Why is the first disbursement date of my loans different from the first disbursement date of my PELL? If you have not borrowed loans before you must wait 30 days before those funds can be disbursed.
Why do I have to complete another FAFSA? You must complete a FAFSA each year. The Financial Aid Office will contact you if you need to complete a new FAFSA.


Benefits of Being a Military Student, by Alexander Plotkin, Corporate Executive Liaison for the Adult Degree Program

 Many members of the military have enjoyed the education benefits that are being provided by the Federal Government and State Agencies as well. There are many different programs that provide financial resources to active duty, reservists, guardsmen and veterans. Some of those programs are designed to provide up to 100% financial assistance to military members. With that in mind, universities and vocational training schools are seeking out those potential students with those great benefits. Why are military students so important? From the academic stand point, military students do very well in academic or training programs. Military students have great sense of commitment and discipline when it comes to completing their assignments and graduating. Although few challenges may arise with active duty and reservists when it comes to steady attendance due to TDYs and deployments. From financial aid point, it is easier to work with military students because in most cases they don’t have to worry about out of pocket expenses.
So what are the criteria that you as a military students should consider when searching for the right school?
Program delivery: What works best for me? Classroom or online? Online education has become very popular in recent years. Online delivery offers greater flexibility than on campus classes. You are not bound by specific time of day and there is no traveling to the campus. Many find “going to class at home wearing pajamas” lucrative and convenient. But what are those students missing? One of the best benefits of attending a classroom on campus is social interaction. You can also get answers to your questions in real time, instead of waiting for an email reply.
School’s reputation: Your homework starts before you even apply. There are plenty resources on the internet that provide reviews from students, faculty and staff. It is also very important to check out the Student Consumer Information for each school you are planning to apply. That information can be found on the school’s website, or may be requested from an admissions counselor.
Accreditation: If you are seeking an academic program (Associates, Bachelors etc.), you want to apply for a school that is regionally accredited. Credits from a regionally accredited institution are more likely to transfer. Also many state or government jobs require a degree from regionally accredited institution.
Private or Public? The benefits of private universities and vocational training schools are more individualized attention to students and easier enrollment process. Smaller classes are also a big attraction. The drawback of private schools is that they do not qualify for state tuition assistance programs (Hazelwood Act in Texas).
But in the end, it is your decision. Where do you feel comfortable? In order to find out, you should visit the campus, meet with the staff and faculty even if you are planning to enroll in an online program. It is always a big benefit if the resources are not virtual, but available close to your work or residence. Also utilize the resources available through various agencies. For Texas veterans, I would recommend the Texas Veterans App. It is available in App Store and Google Play.



The Importance of Networking by Jessica Cherry

Enrollment Specialist of the Adult Degree Program

 Networking is one of the most important, free and valuable ways to market yourself for potential opportunities. Networking entails building professional relationships that are both mutual and beneficial. Before coming onboard Huston-Tillotson University, I would manage networking events with professionals from different organizations in the Austin area.  Among many lessons I learned, the most important lesson is that it is not about who you know, but who knows you.
 Networking is essential to building professional contacts and business relationships. You can start by first determining what field or area you would like to seek future opportunities with. There are many organizations here in Austin that can help you start networking. For example, several Chambers of Commerce host networking events, either monthly or quarterly.   In addition, there are several events after work that you can find on social media networks such as LinkedIn that other professionals in your industry might attend as well.
 Many successful people network. Politicians, executives, community and organization leaders all network and many will even say that networking is a required skill. Why do they say this? The answer is simple. People remember personal interactions and conversations. They remember YOU. You can use this to your benefit. Talk about yourself, your accomplishments and your goals for the future. Networking is a time to build those quality professional relationships. Remember to always take a business card, even if you are a student. If you are a student, develop a business card with your contact information, your degree of interest and your graduation date. If you are already employed, bring your current business card with you.
 Another important tip is to develop your LinkedIn profile to maintain these new professional contacts. Once you have attended a networking event, you will notice that the more people you talk to, the more contacts you will make. There have been many studies that show that many new hires come from networking. Networking is a win/win relationship and once you understand and master the skill of networking, your window of opportunities will begin to open for you. Good luck Networking!