Online Master’s Degree Enhances Teaching Aspect of New Jersey Man’s Career

August 10, 2023  |  by Heidi Wells, Global Campus

John Petrie
John Petrie

John Petrie already has a job he loves. He is passionate about his work as an internal consultant and Agile trainer for Verizon in New Jersey.

In August 2022, Petrie graduated with a master's degree in adult and lifelong learning delivered online by the University of Arkansas. Why earn a master's degree when he already had 20 certifications in the Agile process?

Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches, according to the website

Petrie's employer encouraging employees to use their tuition reimbursement program was one factor in his decision to enroll in the U of A program, he said. He had already finished a Master of Business Administration, even though he realized about halfway through he really should have studied education.


Training for Adults

"I had never had training on the theoretical part on how you really train adults," he said. "I was just told, 'You're a Scrum master; we want you to train these people. I saw some master's programs that wanted you to travel there. I'm married with two kids, 13 and 10, who when I started were 10 and 8. I found the Arkansas program and love the fact that online students were charged in-state tuition."

Scrum is a type of Agile methodology based on transparency, inspection and adaptation. The name is borrowed from rugby, where it is a formation of players.

"I wanted to learn how to connect with adult learners," Petrie said. "What are techniques, things I can implement in my class to allow adult learners to actually absorb what I'm sharing?"

The degree in adult and lifelong learning offered by the College of Education and Health Professions at the U of A gave Petrie a theoretical basis for teaching, he said. He learned to look more closely at learning objectives to better explain to the adult learners he trains what they are going to be doing and how the information they will receive gets to that objective. He learned more about how to measure learning.

In the past five years with Verizon, Petrie has trained about 2,000 people, many of those in person until the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"With COVID, we transitioned everything to virtual," he said. "We give training all around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, India, Ireland. While it's not the same now without traveling, we're still giving plenty of classes. My small group of 12 trainers is part of a learning and development team of about 1,000 people."

Petrie started his career as a project manager. The "old way of doing things," he said, was to look at a project in an 18- to 24-month time span but customers are no longer patient for that timeframe. Agile's project management process teaches companies how to deliver new products in iterations, he said. It incorporates continuous evaluation so teams can pivot quickly when necessary during a project.

"For example, if you want a new phone, are you willing to wait two years, or do you want to get it now and constantly get updated apps?" he asked. "The old way was to get everything at the end; Agile is more of a team-based, iterative approach taking feedback from customers."


Program Recommendation

Petrie said he would not hesitate to recommend the adult and lifelong learning master's degree program to anyone interested in the field. He loved it so much he found a way to express his appreciation by supporting an Arkansas school with a financial contribution. He found a website on which teachers describe their classroom projects that need a boost.

It can be challenging to carve out time for studying, Petrie acknowledged.

"Yes, it's difficult to start schoolwork at 9 o'clock at night, but I had to balance time with family, work and school," he said. "School is important if I'm going to better myself. It's for me. No one is making me do it. I thought to myself, 'You signed up for it. Spend the appropriate time.' I don't think I'd be able to go for a degree without it being online. I could chat with professors when I need to. I could interact with fellow students. I was still able to build relationships with those who wanted them."

At first, he felt like a fish out of water, Petrie said, because several of the other students were from Arkansas and several worked on the U of A campus. He thought his background working in the corporate world set him apart, and he struggled with that thought. His professors assured him that, yes, it did set him apart and that was good because it brought a different perspective to the program that his classmates could benefit from.

"They said we value that viewpoint," Petrie recalled. "If students are only looking at the field from a college standpoint or basic adult education, they are not seeing they can cast a wider net. They can bring in any business aspect and use this knowledge to train executives and professionals. It was tough for me but, once they assured me I was showing others what could be done, that helped."

Alumni Meeting

John Petrie owns three hats with Arkansas Razorback logos on them. He wore one to a concert at the Stone Pony club in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

"I'm as Jersey as Jersey gets, but I bought into being a Razorback," he said.

Two other men attending the concert saw his hat. Turns out they were alumni, too, and the three men chatted for 15 minutes.

"I literally got called out for my hat," Petrie laughed.

Photo of Heidi Wells

Heidi Wells

Content Strategist

Heidi Wells is the content strategist for the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas and editor of The Online Learner. Her writing spans more than 30 years as a communicator at the U of A and a reporter and editor at Arkansas newspapers. Wells earned two degrees from the U of A: a master's in 2013 and a bachelor's in 1988.

Wells can be reached at or 479-575-7239.

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Master of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning

The M.Ed. in Adult and Lifelong Learning degree will prepare students for employment in programs that provide adult literacy and education, lifelong learning, community and nonprofit organizations, military education, post secondary education, and continuing professional education.

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