Susan Baker ’09
When choosing an online graduate school last year, Home Depot manager and busy mom Susan Baker knew one thing for sure: she wanted a degree she could be proud of, and she was willing to work hard for it. No stranger to hard work, this mother of four (her youngest, a home-schooled teen) previously owned two businesses, and now traveled up to 200 miles a day visiting Home Depot stores as a human resource manager. She knew her schooling had to fit her busy schedule! But she had a few additional requirements for it as well: the school must be Western (West coast)-accredited, have a good reputation, and be able to inspire her with its core teachings and ethics. She also wanted an institution that supported her Christian values. History records that in ancient times the Bible was the basis of business, and Susan believes that it still contains key principles that are applicable in today’s business world.
Susan checked into a lot of online schools to see if they matched her wish list, but one by one, she crossed them out. Then, because her sister had graduated from APU and was a major inspiration in her life, Susan decided to check out APU’s online courses. After she did, she came to the conclusion that “If anyone could do a credible online degree, it would be APU.” Now, close to graduating from her 18-month program, she’s even more convinced of that. She commented, “Many online colleges can give you a quick education, but that doesn’t mean that their courses are structured or thoughtful.” She said few university courses ever ask the student, “What have you learned, and how are you going to apply this?” But APU did!
And Susan noted that although her online courses “are very intense and challenging, they’re well worth it.” Because she describes herself as an “in-person” person, Susan was happily surprised to find that the way APU provides lectures through PowerPoint made her feel very connected with her classmates. She said, “I thought I’d miss that online, but I don’t!” And she added, even though she doesn’t get to socialize with her classmates like at a traditional university, they’ve bonded, nonetheless. She says that they all get to chat at an online meeting place called the “Water Cooler.”
Susan says that one of her goals as a Home Depot manager has been to find ways to treat the employees better. She credits APU with helping her achieve that because “they allow you to implement what you learn, right on the job.” She explained how her courses have taught her to look at people in her organization as individuals, see how they work together, understand more about their individual traits - strengths, weaknesses, etc., and develop a management /leadership style that takes all those factors into consideration. As Susan puts it, “If anything is out of sync – if everyone is singing a different tune – how do we align our goals -- how does the company align theirs?”
She said that APU has taught her other valuable concepts as well, such as understanding that company attitudes and approaches start with management. If management is dissatisfied, she said, that attitude “trickles down” to employees, and then to customers. That impacts sales. Susan said that she feels APU has helped her become the type of manager that can inspire, motivate, and provide the type of leadership that will positively impact both employees and customers.
And because of another key point Susan learned at APU -- that businesses need a vision to communicate -- she said she hopes to communicate her company’s vision to others. “I feel confident from the knowledge I’ve gained at APU,” she said. “What is my company’s vision, and how do I communicate it? I just go back to Home Depot’s Value Wheel. It says ‘Do the right thing.’ And that’s what I want to do.” While all this sounds like a tall order, Susan feels that APU has prepared her well to achieve these goals.
Be a positive agent for change. That’s what Susan wants, and that’s clearly one of APU’s core values as well. For her future, Susan hopes to become a store manager, because she feels she could make a more direct impact there. But Susan has already made a direct impact on her family: her kids say they’re so impressed with what she’s learned at APU, they want her kind of education too. Susan said she’d be happy if they followed in her footsteps and went to APU!