Online Student Profiles
Edward Shanshala managed to find the time to earn another degree, this time in health systems administration through RIT's online learning program. Shanshala has a bachelor's degree in chemistry and biotechnology from RIT, as well as a master's degree in education from the University of Rochester. He decided to take on the second masters in health systems administration in an online learning format because, he says, "the program appealed to my being a lifelong learner." Plus, "unlike traditional master's programs, the intellectual stimulation is only a logon away."
Shanshala is director of quality improvement for the Finger Lakes Visiting Nurse Service (FLVN), a full service Medicare-and-Medicaid-certified home health agency located in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
"Course content has been relevant in spite of the dramatic changes in the health care market," he says. "I believe that this is indicative of a top-flight faculty who have a passion and capacity to provide the highest quality educational experience possible."
Additionally, he admits that although he has an impressive 4.0 GPA, the coursework has been challenging. "It's very fast paced. You don't want to not log-in for more than a day or so because you'll fall behind."
He also says that his coursework has helped him on the job, especially in the financial arena. "It's really helped me get a good understanding of financial situations. I've gone from the minutiae of day-to-day financial numbers and week-to-week budget processes to more of the big-picture capital budget and strategy and where do we want to go as an organization."
In addition to the challenges of maintaining a disciplined learning continuum, Shanshala points to the colleagues he has met through online class discussions and email as being an invaluable benefit. "In distance learning there is an unwritten, unsaid agreement among fellow classmates to ensure that no one is left behind," he says. "It's a nice mix of professionals," including a cardiothoracic surgeon emeritus and other professionals from the FDA and pharmaceutical companies.
Perhaps more important than the quality of the faculty, the beneficial exchange between colleagues, and the challenge of learning, Shanshala notes that the RIT online learning program is "family friendly." Shanshala is married with a four-year-old son. "Through distance learning, I will have saved over 240 hours of drive time. This has allowed for increased time with my family." (He lives about 60 minutes away from RIT, and his estimate was based on taking two courses per quarter, each meeting once per week over six quarters in a traditional learning environment.)
Additionally, Shanshala believes that by governing his education entirely at home, his son has been exposed to a positive learning and studying environment. "I have observed the affect of modeled behavior on my son," he says. "I actually caught him with a book, pencil and paper sitting in the chair that I use to do my reading. Upon asking him what he was doing, he responded, 'Doing my homework.' I think that it is important for him to see that learning is a lifelong process, be it formal or informal; and that as an integral part of life's fabric, is enjoyable."