M.S. in Operations Management
"I feel as though the faculty are probably the best asset that the university and program have to offer. Every professor that I have learned from since last August 2020 has been a great resource, and the fact that what I’m learning can be applied the next day, is helpful for any working professional, no matter what. The faculty could not be better."
William Chambers wanted greater job security in times of recession and the COVID-19 global pandemic. When a former classmate recommended the Master of Science in Operations Management degree program at the University of Arkansas, he enrolled.
“I was thinking of different ways that I could not fall victim to another pandemic or even possible recession,” Chambers said. “Getting a master’s would be a pretty logical option at this point. The operations management program actually aligned with goals that I wanted to achieve long-term.”
“Once I receive my degree, I plan to transition into a new career area,” said Chambers, who works for Gartner, an IT research organization in the Washington, D.C., area, where he helps manage digital marketing campaigns and lead generation strategies. “My plans are to pursue a project management-related role that will allow me to utilize the skills and knowledge I obtained from the MSOM program. I see my career headed into either the IT/software side of project management or strategy and operations. My overall goal is to connect my background in marketing with a career in project management to help businesses view and solve challenges and uncover opportunities from a different perspective.”
The courses Chambers has taken in the MSOM program not only prepare him for a better career. They also provide real-time skills that can be applied immediately to real life situations.
“I speak with the Professor Phil Jones, from the strategic management class weekly,” Chambers said. “I told him that from day one, what I learned in his class, I was able to apply the next day at my current role, even though it isn’t exactly aligned with operations or project management, which is my greater career goal. I was able to use the skills I was learning in class the night before the next morning at 8 a.m. at work, so I was appreciative of that.
“I feel as though the faculty are probably the best asset that the university and program have to offer,” he added. “Every professor that I have learned from since last August 2020 has been a great resource, and the fact that what I’m learning can be applied the next day, is helpful for any working professional, no matter what. The faculty could not be better.”
Chambers has always had an interest in project management and being a solutions expert who helps ideas and concepts come together. Online study offered him the means to proceed, he said.
“Completing the degree online cohesively syncs with my work schedule,” he said. “The classes mirrored with what I want to do in the free time that I had. You’re participating and have the flexibility and the freedom to learn at your own speed within the time frame of when assignments are due.”
Open lines of communication are key for any online student to succeed in a flexible learning environment, Chambers said.
“Whether communicating through email or chats, collaboration among students and professors occurs across different tools, whether it’s Blackboard, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet,” he said. “With any undergraduate or master’s program and in our careers, we all have coordinated with different schedules and tools, especially when doing a group project. Tools definitely range. Blackboard is probably the number one tool because that’s where everyone starts. With professors, it’s through email and sometimes a phone call. With classmates and other students, I would say some of it has averted from Blackboard to apps that are more efficient and effective and work for everyone. GroupMe and texting tend to be popular for quick communication. Sometimes email isn’t as fast as sending a text. More times than not, your phone is always near you, so someone will read that before they read the email. Using text and apps allows for the online environment to imitate a more personal relationship, as opposed to thinking about the reality of all students being in various parts of the country.”
For someone interested in studying online, Chambers recommends that they do their research to find the program that best resonates with them and aligns with their long-term goals, he said.
“Try to find a student that is participating in the program and connect with them to get their perspective of what they are experiencing so far,” Chambers said. “That’s probably the best advice I can give you. I feel as though, if you’re not actually in a program, if you can speak to someone who is, you have a better understanding of what to expect.”
“Also, it doesn’t hurt to be more proactive in your scholarship searches,” he said. “It may appear that opportunities are limited for individuals past undergraduate, but as you conduct your research, you find opportunities to take advantage of. More importantly, ensure that you are aware of the resources that your school offers to assist in your pursuit.”
Chambers applied for and received the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for online U of A students for the 2021-2022 academic year. He was one of 25 students selected for this honor.
“I’m very thankful to be a recipient, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic,” Chambers said. “It is definitely going to help me accomplish my goals because it covers about two classes. This means I am paying less out of pocket, but I can also complete the program faster now, knowing that I do not have to spread classes out across additional semesters to account for costs. Thank you again to everyone involved!”