If at first you don’t find your path, try, try again.
Some universities, says Dr. Tammy Hall, have strict rules about the number of times students can withdraw and continue pursuing their degree. Dr. Hall says those rules probably exist because of her.
Dr. Hall says when she enrolled at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1986, she was a good student but couldn’t find her niche. She changed her major multiple times before taking a nearly 10-year break on her way to a bachelor’s degree.
Dr. Hall says her experiences sparked a passion for students taking a less traditional route in higher education.
She’s connecting with many of those students, like Angela Ardoin and Heidi Viator, through UL Lafayette’s B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration online B.S.B.A. in Management. Dr. Hall teaches courses in organizational behavior, management, and leadership as part of the online bachelor’s program.
After leaving college with a host of credits, but no degree, Dr. Hall began working, married, and had two children. But she couldn’t shake the feeling she needed to finish what she started.
“It just nagged at me and nagged at me. I thought, I've got to go back, I’ve got to get this done,” she says. “So, I went back married, with two kids, working, and finished.”
When Dr. Hall returned to the classroom in 1997, she had a better idea about what she wanted and where she wanted to be, graduating with meaningful connections and honors.
She continued to excel as she narrowed her focus through her master’s degree in adult education.
Once there, she knew she’d found her passion.
“The first class that I took was learning styles, and that's the first time that it really kind of clicked that, ‘OK, well they're different not just because of their situations, but because of their different learning styles," she says. “I really kind of got hyped about non-traditional students and non-traditional ways to learn.”
Dr. Hall channeled that interest into her doctoral studies, exploring higher education administration through the lens of organizational leadership.
While pursuing her master’s and doctoral degrees, Dr. Hall worked in higher education as a distance learning program manager, dean, and director of academic services.
In 2014, she shifted gears and led process and quality improvement and workforce development at the Louisiana Office of Public Health. Five years later, she returned to education and began teaching in the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration Department of Management.
Management in action
Dr. Hall says throughout her career, she’s maintained the conviction that there should be opportunities for students who have college credits but haven’t completed their degrees.
“We as higher education institutions have an obligation to make things easier, not in terms of rigor and the coursework, but making opportunities available for students who can't ordinarily get on a campus, stay in a dorm and, you know, sit face-to-face,” Dr. Hall says. “We have to get education to people in the way that they can get it.”
She brings that conviction and her diverse experiences as a student, academic, and professional to her Management of Behavior & Organizations (MGMT 320) and Leadership (MGMT 380) courses as part of the online business management bachelor’s degree program.
Through Management of Behavior & Organizations, students begin to see themselves in management roles by working through functions of management: planning, organizing, leading and controlling.
"We talk about management as a career and also being able to manage their life, so we talk a lot about planning, process improvement, and really getting them ready to be in a management or leadership position,” Dr. Hall says.
The Leadership course builds on the principles learned in Behavior & Organizations as students discern the differences between management and leadership and identify the skills they need to become empowering leaders.
Students analyze real-world case studies from companies like Intel or Apple to identify problems and propose solutions.
Dr. Hall also brings the real world into her courses through guest speakers like executives from Oschner Health and L’Auberge Casino Resort. They have provided industry insights as well as career opportunities for students.
"Students not only get to see leadership and management in action, but they also get a nice opportunity to network and to make some connections,” says Dr. Hall.
Passion for success
But one of the first assignments students encounter in Dr. Hall’s courses is to introduce themselves.
“It's probably a couple sentences, but I can hear their stories. You know, 22 years away and now they’re back, or they’re a full-time administrator and felt they needed to have the degree,” Dr. Hall says. “I want to be there to help them achieve. It is just so great for people to get rid of that sort of little nagging feeling, ‘I should have finished.’”
By taking a less traditional route to her degree, Dr. Hall understands the challenges that come with carving out time for children, a spouse, work, and coursework while attempting to maintain some semblance of sanity.
"When my students say it's hard and it's tough, I know exactly what they're talking about,” says Dr. Hall. “I would take advantage of when my kids would go to sleep. At 9 o'clock at night is when I would do my best studying.”
That also means she knows what students are capable of.
“I am really passionate about folks putting forward their best effort and working hard. It takes commitment, but it'll come. Whatever the ‘it’ is, it will come. Everybody's got different hopes and different dreams, but it'll come," Dr. Hall says. “If I can do it — the girl who’s got 15 course withdrawals — anybody can.”
Request more information today about UL Lafayette’s online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Management and learn how you can use your existing college credits toward completing your degree.