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My UoNA Degree


By Dr. David E. Frick

Class of 2010



The typical UoNA graduate will not find my story particularly relevant; however, bear with me and you may find some value in it.


I started my formal post-secondary education later in life. I entered the United States Army in my twenties and, in making use of the various opportunities the Army afforded me, completed by undergraduate degree some 20 years later.


Coincidentally, my eldest child and I both received our degrees in the same month. My motivation was partially rooted in career development, but also in my basic desire for continuous learning.

After retiring from the Army, I obtained a position with the Department of Defense.  Fast forward another 8 years.  I had completed an MS in Strategic Science and an MBA; again, partially for career development, but also that basic desire to learn.   In government service, graduate degrees are desirable; however, post-graduate degrees are seldom relevant except for very specific scientific or technical positions.  As such, a post-graduate degree, if I chose to pursue one, could only be obtained at my own expense.


Keep in mind that I work for a very large, government organization, headed by political appointees, who all believe they are the smartest people in any room they are in.  In most cases, this is very far from the truth.  Our mission is to do the people’s business the best way we can.  Government is highly bureaucratic.  Processes, in most cases, are rooted in years of practice.  Compliance is often the overriding concern.  Change is hard.  At this stratum, the primary task of management is leadership.  Leadership, in my mind, is the ability to effect change. 


How does my UoNA degree help me effect change?  In one word—credibility.  Many senior leaders, those who lack the academic expertise and perspective, must make decisions based solely on their limited, individual experiences.  As we are all aware (and come to understand as you progress in your education) all actions have consequences.  Most of these consequences are unexpected.  Any casual look at history will show different leaders making the same mistakes time and again.


Your academic background, assuming you actually come to understand the theories you are studying and can apply that understanding, will give you another tool in predicting outcomes.  Business operates in a world of uncertainty.  The extent to which you can reduce that uncertainty will be the measure of your value to your organization.  Grounded theory, properly applied to the real world, can be a compelling argument.


Furthermore, you must keep current with the state of the art in your discipline.  I have no use for any doctor who has not been in a classroom, as an instructor or student, in a decade.  Learning is a life-long process.  Once you walk across that stage and receive your hood, your real learning begins.  Write!  Publish, if you can.  The research you must conduct to write well will expand your horizons and expertise. 


Change is constant.  It will happen whether you like it or not.  Be the instigator of change not the victim.  Learn then lead!