Many instructors face a learning curve when translating what they know about classroom teaching into an online learning management system, but Dr. Rachel Ellison cut her teeth teaching in an online environment.
“I fell in love with it. I love the online learning aspect,” she says. “I earned my master’s online and my Ph.D. online, and I enjoy being on the other side of it.”
Dr. Ellison serves as program coordinator for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s online Health Services Administration degree and is among the full-time faculty members for the program.
But Dr. Ellison’s original career plan wasn’t to teach; she planned to be a surgeon. However, a brief stint — exactly one shift — as a transporter at a hospital when she was 17 told Dr. Ellison that she should explore other options.
“I knew I wanted to stay in health care,” she says. “I love people and I wanted to help people, and I found I could help people another way — I could run or manage a healthcare organization.”
She earned her bachelor’s in healthcare systems administration in her home state of Michigan before moving to Florida and beginning her graduate studies.
Dr. Ellison was working in a hospital and pursuing her doctorate when a professor from her undergraduate studies reached out, asking her to teach online as an adjunct.
For Dr. Ellison, the answer was simple: No.
“Teaching was never on the radar for me; I wasn’t seeking it,” she says. “I was like, ‘I am not a teacher, I’m not going to be doing this.’”
But the professor continued courting Dr. Ellison, visiting her in Florida to make her case and train Dr. Ellison on the online learning management system.
“I ended up meeting her over the Christmas break and saying, ‘OK, I’ll do it this one semester’,” Dr. Ellison says. “And I haven’t actually stopped since then.”
That was 2010.
After earning her doctorate, Dr. Ellison taught briefly at a Florida university before searching for a position with a larger institution. When fielding offers, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette rose to the top of her list.
“When I was interviewing, I really liked all of the people that I could be working with,” she says. “They seemed like a great group of people, and I like to work with people who have great personalities. I like the team environment; it’s a motivator for me.”
Dr. Ellison is always up for new adventures — her 2018 summer itinerary included Thailand, France, Italy and Spain; the Dominican Republic is on tap for 2019. Having never been to Louisiana, UL Lafayette provided the opportunity to explore yet another locale and culture.
“I’m not Cajun; I’m a northerner,” Dr. Ellison says. “This is completely different from where I’m from so I enjoy that, too.”
Dr. Ellison joined Allied Health shortly after the online HSA program began, providing her the opportunity to see the program grow and evolve.
“Every year the class gets stronger,” she says. “The program is small, but we are growing, and I see us continuing to grow each year.”
Dr. Ellison says the program size has allowed her to develop personal connections with her students, even though she’s never met most of them in person.
“I try to put myself out there so they know they can contact me,” she says. “I don’t get too personal, but I try to keep things on the same level as if they were sitting right in front of me in the classroom and try to engage with them as much as I can.”
Destiny Theriot, who completed the HSA program in Spring 2019, says Dr. Ellison’s efforts made a difference.
“I’ve never actually met her in person, but I feel like I have,” Theriot says. “I feel like I know her. She reaches out to us; she understands us.”
Dr. Ellison says students who complete the Health Services Administration program go on to work in account management, human resources, risk management, community advocacy, marketing, performance improvement, and finance — all within the healthcare field.
“We need competent, educated people to manage and operate large health systems,” Dr. Ellison says. “The students we have now are going be in the health force and will be educated on the right things to do.
“Healthcare administrators have to be aware of changing laws and policies. We’re constantly talking about them and showing students how important it is to stay aware and educate themselves.”
If you’re looking for a career managing healthcare systems or working in healthcare administration, learn more about this online bachelor’s program on our program page or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.