The classroom travels right along with Sandy Nealon as she manages her territory from New York to New Hampshire for Xerox Corp.
She found a way to be both a successful online student and manager of the company’s technical solutions group, sometimes traveling more than 1,000 miles a week, taking two classes per quarter and maintaining a 3.5 GPA. For this, the Rochester Area Colleges Continuing Education Association recognized the Rochester Institute of Technology student as an Outstanding Adult Scholar.
“This has been wonderful. The program is flexible, the RIT staff is wonderful, every professor that I’ve had has been accessible, and they understand that you are balancing classes with day-to-day work and your personal life,” says Nealon, an Albany resident. “And the adult scholar recognition was wonderful.”
Nealon is part of the RIT-Xerox degree program that combines coursework about service management and print industry trends. Based in the RIT Center for Multidisciplinary Studies, the program is a customized degree offering where Xerox employees can earn associate or bachelor’s degrees with concentrations in management and printing services. The program, now in its fifth year, is delivered primarily online with students taking approximately 18 courses over a two-year period in addition to attending onsite visits for seminar classes and making capstone project presentations.
In 2010, Nealon completed her associate degree and is continuing her studies toward a bachelor’s degree, expected in 2012. She was on campus this summer with 30 of her Xerox peers, the newest group of students in the program, some she had not met except for interactions online.
“We’re a pretty tight cohort after all these months,” she says. Her group includes representatives from different business divisions in the company. Nealon leads a team of system analysts who provide after-the-sale support to customers throughout the Northeast, loading software, supporting sales people and providing training on Xerox’s full range of printer/copiers.
“One of the things I feel like I bring to Xerox from this program is, because I’m doing this, I’m more encouraging of my own direct reports,” says Nealon of the 28 men and women she supervises. “I’m always encouraging them to improve themselves, to take whatever learning they can.”
While she encourages her staff, she adds that she began the program for her own personal growth and a desire to earn a college degree. Nealon started her coursework at the same time her oldest daughter, Katelynn, began college. The two provided support to each other as they went through classes, homework and projects. As Nealon is completing her final courses toward the capstone, her youngest daughter, Alyssa, will be starting college in the fall.
The RIT-Xerox program also provided an opportunity for Nealon to show firsthand how much she values education and that it can pay dividends. Since starting the program, Nealon has advanced up the management career ladder and is looking to continue this progress.