Jessica integrated her online courses with her professional life, benefitting both.
As the hospital administrator for a local veterinary clinic, Jessica Spradlin does a little bit of everything – from managing the staff and facility to overseeing inspection standards and working directly with clients. She joined the practice as a receptionist 17 years ago.
Jessica enrolled in the online Bachelor’s in Integrated Professional Studies (BIPS) at UNC Greensboro last year to strengthen her skillset. For her capstone project, she decided to tackle a problem she’d been grappling with at work. The established veterinary practice, which serves up to 7,000 cats and dogs, was still reliant on paper charts.
Jessica had been talking with the owner about moving to an electronic system, and he agreed to make the transition. She did her capstone project during Summer Session and drew on her coursework to implement the new system.
Using New Skills Right Away
Jessica says the program gave her many real-life skillsets that she put into practice at work.
She used principles from her Contemporary Media Literacies course to ensure that the plans they were implementing made sense to staff and clients. For example, there were concerns that using computers would distract the vets and other staff from communicating with clients. To avoid this, Jessica installed computer wall mount units in exam rooms, so that staff could focus on clients and keep a personal feel to the experience.
Design Thinking skills also helped Jessica make the project a success. It was important for all staff to be heard in this human-centered approach. She involved them in the process and held group meetings that encouraged feedback.
“I know it’s about electronic records, but this really is about how it affects our staff and our clients,” she says.
Jessica also used skills from the Self-Awareness course, which polished her interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills by focusing on her strengths and weaknesses.
Learning to Collaborate Online
Jessica was surprised by the number of collaborative projects in the online BIPS program. They got her out of her comfort zone, but she came to appreciate the teamwork aspect of her courses — such as bouncing questions and problems off each other and working together on videos.
“I think that was a bonding experience for the students, because we really ended up supporting each other and encouraging each other,” she says, adding that the collaboration has improved her communication skills at work.
Finding the Right Fit
Originally from Charlotte, Jessica moved to Greensboro to study psychology at UNCG. She dropped out of college as her job got more demanding, but she always knew she would finish up at some point.
“It’s just something that was always in the back of my mind,” she says. “I am in a management position, doing a lot of human resources, hiring, firing, accounts receivable, stuff like that, and I just honestly never felt like I had the credentials I should have at that point, even though I had the experience.”
In 2018, Jessica took courses at the local community college and looked at business programs, but they didn’t seem like a good fit. Then she found the BIPS program and decided to return to UNCG.
“It really spoke to me. It stood out,” she says. “It seemed geared toward my situation and adult learners — those who had been in the professional field for a little while and were looking to expand on that.”
Flexible, Challenging Courses
Jessica says the 7-week online courses helped her balance college with work and family life. Because the courses were shorter, she could take a full course load but only have 2 or 3 classes at one time — which was helpful with the rigorous BIPS curriculum.
“It’s not just watching a video or reading a book and taking a quiz. They approach it and attack it from many different levels,” she says. “It makes you apply and demonstrate that you understand these concepts.”
A Personal and Professional Accomplishment
It’s been four months since they started moving to the new system at work, and Jessica says the office is about 90 percent digital. Clients aren’t allowed inside the practice right now because of the pandemic, but they get electronic report cards on their pets, and they seem pleased with the new portal and texting capabilities. Employee feedback has been positive as well, and Jessica is happy with the efficiency and professionalism that the electronic system has added.
Looking back, Jessica admits that she was a bit apprehensive about how things would unfold.
“It did scare me a little bit to be in charge of such a massive undertaking, and if it fails, that’s a huge deal,” she days. “I got lucky, and I think the BIPS program kind of encouraged me to branch out and really commit to wanting to try this.”
Jessica says the program has enhanced her professional life. She feels better equipped and qualified to solve problems, and it’s given her a sense of personal accomplishment. One of her goals was to set a good example for her 10-year-old son, Everett, by finishing her degree.
“I got him a Spartan shirt,” she says. “He loves it and he’s proud of it!”
Find Your Way Here
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