Eric Ziehlke

Monday, 25 July 2005 11:38

Experiential learning

Problem: To avoid filing for bankruptcy protection, the board of directors of Any Corp. USA approved a strategy to make the company more cost-efficient. This new policy resulted in the layoff of employees who were considered the lifeblood of the company. Now, the union feels abandoned and as director of operations and union liaison, you face some tough decisions. What is your next move?

Businesses in Columbus and around the world face problems like these on a daily basis. From preparing their companies for globalization to maximizing shareholder value in a declining and saturated economy, today’s business leaders encounter some of the most complicated issues in the history of commerce. But are they adequately prepared to address them?

Traditionally, many business schools have utilized what is known as a problem-solution model. In class exercises, students are given a series of mock problems and then asked to come up with solutions. While this seems like a logical training ground for professional-based learning, it simply does not reflect life in the real business world.

As most business leaders know, real problems do not usually fit neatly into specific categories. They are not always readily identifiable as human resource problems, PR problems or supply chain problems. In fact, many issues are misattributed or incorrectly correlated. This is why it is important that an MBA program teach students not just how to solve problems but how to identify them.

Business schools take different approaches to address this new reality. For example, a new MBA program focuses on properly identifying problems so they can be solved more effectively. The program is the product of hours spent with several Fortune 1000 companies, listening to their concerns. The result is a hefty volume of real-world scenarios that are presented in advanced simulations. These allow students to make realistic decisions, just as they would in the workplace.

Schools using a similar program may communicate mock business environments using a series of e-mails, personal conversations and meetings with the students. Just as is the case in the business world, different students or learning teams may come up with different problems and solutions. They must then create and defend their assessments. If a team misidentifies a problem and begins an ill-advised solution, it is not given the opportunity to do it over. Instead, it must move forward with the consequences of its decision and make a better choice for the following quarter or year. This accurately simulates the real-world business experience where there are no second takes.

Because of the no do-over reality of business, strong judgment and problem-solving capabilities are among the skills in most demand in the workplace. In fact, a recent University of Phoenix survey of employers in America’s fastest-growing industries revealed that while technical skills are valuable, critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills are the most important in the workplace. Employers are looking for team players who also possess strong learning aptitude.

Students must be able to solve contemporary business problems as well as determine how they could have been avoided in the first place. This type of thinking is not just a luxury in today’s business environment — it is a necessity.

ERIC ZIEHLKE is campus director for University of Phoenix-Columbus campus.

University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with over 280,000 students at more than 172 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Tuesday, 28 June 2005 20:00

Taking time to save time

New gadgets hit store shelves each month, altering the very core of how Americans conduct business. With more devices than ever before, you might think that the American worker would be more productive.

In reality, this is not always the case. We all dread the constant chime of e-mail interrupting our big project or the constant blinking of the voicemail light, beckoning us to respond -- right now. Often, our very job seems to revolve around responding to e-mails, and our actual work is relegated to just a handful of hours -- or even minutes -- each day.

In fact, technology is now allowing a record number of businesspeople to take their work home, logging on into the wee hours of the morning.

As the line between home and work blurs, there is no single solution to making more effective use of your time. However, there are some tricks that can make time management a little easier.

* Disconnect the chime. Many of us have an irresistible urge to check our e-mail the moment that we hear the familiar chime. However, if you're in the middle of a project and are constantly checking e-mail, it can throw your schedule into a tailspin.

To avoid this, turn off your e-mail for part of the day. It may only be an hour, but this allows you to focus on what's important. If coworkers or clients expect instant responses, let them know you are using a new time management strategy and will respond to their e-mail within a few hours.

* Master your phone. With the invention of voicemail and caller ID, it's become easier to decide whether you want to take a call. However, many workers still can't resist the urge to pick up on the first ring, no matter who is calling.

In most cases, there is nothing wrong with screening your calls if you are in the middle of a project. Let callers leave a voicemail message, then dedicate a particular time of day to return messages. If you return messages in bulk, it will be much faster and more efficient.

You might even alert callers on your voicemail that you return calls between certain hours or at certain times of the day.

* Cut the chitchat. While it's great to converse with your coworkers, we all know those chatty people who take water cooler talk well beyond the water cooler. If you are fortunate enough to have your own office, don't be afraid to shut the door when you're swamped.

Put up a sign alerting folks that you are on deadline and can only be interrupted in emergencies. If you work in a cubicle, place a sign on the back of your chair and let coworkers know you simply cannot talk until your project is complete.

* Keep your home and work life separate. Even if you take work home, make sure you set clear boundaries so that you enjoy some free time each day. Exercise or pursue a favorite hobby. Dedicate a family night one evening a week.

Or consider going back to school. Several colleges offer night and weekend classes that cater to busy executives. Do everything possible to set a firm time for your free time.

These are just a few strategies that can help. It's not always easy to implement time management strategies, but the benefits are limitless. By finding strategies that work for you, you can improve your life at work and create a life outside of work.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for University of Phoenix-Columbus campus. University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Have other time saving or organizational tools? Share them with Ziehlke at or (614) 433-0095.

Monday, 22 November 2004 08:07

Giving the gift of education

The holidays are a time for sharing and re-evaluating your personal and professional goals. What better way to show your employees that you care about their goals than to give the gift of education?

While for many owners and managers, formal education for employees is not high on the list of priorities for business growth and future investment, it is, in fact, worth careful consideration.

Last December, I wrote about how companies are beginning to make larger strides with education assistant programs and how businesses are investing in their workers. In Columbus, the trend continues to catch on, and with good reason. Approximately 50 percent of students receive some type of company reimbursement at the University of Phoenix Columbus Campus. As an organization succeeds, its work force grows, and leaders begin to emerge. And the effect is not as intangible as you might think.

Research shows that education assistance programs can give businesses an edge in recruiting and retaining talent. By strengthening the core competencies of its staff, a company with such a program can count on each employee to provide higher quality work at an increased volume, improving overall productivity. This can translate into wider margins in a well-managed environment.

The American Society of Training and Development found that investing in employee training and education may pay dividends in just a few years. Based on research conducted on publicly held firms between 1996 and 1998, the group concluded that increasing education-based expenditures by $680 per employee yielded an average 6 percent improvement in shareholder return.

The added benefits of higher education for employees can be as enticing as internal training programs. Company-directed instruction may translate to credits toward a bachelor's degree. Many universities have articulation agreements with firms around the nation that allow employees to receive credit for proprietary courses taken for work.

In fact, a growing number of organizations are partnering with learning institutions to develop training programs tailored to their business.

Employer benefits

Higher education remains vital to continued professional success for employees and the organizations for which they work. There are numerous motivators for businesses to offer and encourage education assistance programs, such as:

* Applicable knowledge. While pursuing a degree, employees can master a range of pertinent skills and are exposed to emerging strategies, trends and models for success that may not be utilized by their organization. Many of today's forward-thinking universities focus on working-adult learners by providing real-world applications that are relevant on the job the following day.

* Employee retention. Managers can show their long-term dedication to their team by supporting an employee's educational aspirations. Although the economic downturn has seen businesses of all sizes scale back benefits and perks, savvy firms know that key programs such as education assistance are valued by and benefit employees.

* Perspective. Many schools focus on collaborative learning between students and instructors, stimulating education based on ideas and experiences. By working with a diverse group of peers, adult learners gain valuable new perspectives and can apply these insights to their jobs the next day.

* Flexibility. Nontraditional universities enable working professionals to earn degrees more efficiently by offering manageable course loads and convenient night, evening and online courses. This allows employees to attend classes without missing work.

* Networking. Because classes for today's working adults are typically filled with professionals, it is not uncommon for key business leads or strategic alliances to develop as a result of a collaborative project or regular study group.

This holiday season, give your employees the gift of education -- you just might receive a larger gift in return.

Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 200,000 students at more than 140 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or

Wednesday, 21 July 2004 11:25

Education climate changing

It's that time of year again, when parents load up their minivans, empty their wallets and say goodbye to their children as a new crop of kids heads to college.

But these days, it's not just 18-year-olds in the classroom -- it's their parents. This year, a growing number of working adults are packing college classrooms, and the education landscape in Columbus continues to change. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are now 6 million college students over the age of 25, comprising 37 percent of the college student population.

These nontraditional students are seeking practical skills they can use on the job and grow within the community. They are demanding flexible class schedules and taking advantage of new technology that allows them to earn a degree without putting their lives on hold.

Education experts attribute the increasing number of adults returning to the classroom to the realization that the only way to move ahead professionally is to go back school. In addition, more and more adults recognize the value of a master's degree in today's competitive marketplace.

Studies have consistently shown that students with advanced degrees earn more each year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with master's degrees can expect to earn $2.5 million over their lifetime, while graduates with a bachelor's degree earn a lifetime average of $2.1 million. High school graduates average just $1.2 million in lifetime earnings.

Although professional advancement is a primary motivator, there are other benefits of earning an advanced degree.

* Credibility. Not only does a master's degree set professionals apart from their peers and enhance personal reputation, it also reinforces the owner's dedication to his/her profession.

* Networking. Since many classes are filled with working professionals, it is not uncommon for partnerships to be fostered in the classroom that spill out into the business arena. Instructors boast a wealth of contacts from past students or current colleagues and may even own their own businesses.

* Applicable knowledge. The true motivation for pursuing a master's degree should be a desire to learn new strategies, grasp growing industry trends and seek exposure to time-tested models of business success. Most instruction is applicable the following day at work.

Institutions in Columbus are now making education accessible to even the most time-crunched students. With convenient night and weekend courses, professionals no longer need to put their lives on hold for an education.

Another way universities are catering to the busy business professional is by offering online coursework. Institutions are utilizing both in-class and online instruction. In fact, nearly 75 percent of colleges and universities have some sort of online program. In response to this growing trend, schools are offering "online courses with class" that require only one or two days of on-site instruction, giving students the ultimate in flexible education options.

Working adults are redefining the landscape of education in Columbus. They are not just debating academic theories in the classroom.

Instead, they are discussing with other working professionals how those theories are applied in our business world. It's a paradigm shift that is making education accessible and relevant to more people than ever before. Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 200,000 students at more than 142 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or

Thursday, 26 February 2004 08:32

Reloading talent

The economy continues to grow at a slow but steady pace, and Ohio business leaders are waiting for this change in direction to translate into growth for their businesses.

But with the improved economy comes another challenge for Ohio's businesses -- finding and maintaining qualified, highly educated workers to help companies compete for a bright future.

Nationwide, the shortage of workers with some college-level skills could reach more than 12 million by 2020, according to a 2002 report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education. And 70 percent of CEOs surveyed consider the difficulty of finding and retaining skilled workers a barrier to growth.

Ohio's business leaders know a highly motivated and well-educated work force is key to Ohio's ability to sustain itself economically and remain viable into the next decade. Fortunately, Ohio's workers -- especially working adults -- have taken notice of this need for additional education, and institutions of higher education are responding.

A recent editorial in The Cleveland Plain Dealer indicated a positive trend as it relates to a well-educated work force -- the number of Ohioans seeking higher education rose 8 percent at state colleges and universities from fall 1998 to fall 2002. During that same period, enrollment at proprietary schools soared by nearly 26 percent. And much of the enrollment at the proprietary, or private, schools comes from the working-adult population.

Yet Ohio is still struggling to be average when it comes to providing businesses with an educated work force. According to a study published by the Ohio Board of Regents in September 2000, Ohio trailed the national averages in all four categories of college educational attainment. As the nature of business evolves to adapt to technological advances and globalization, an educated local population becomes an increasingly important incentive to locate here or elsewhere.

Businesses don't come here for the weather. Until we can provide the kind of infrastructure that other emerging cities such as Charlotte and Austin do, Columbus and Ohio's other cities are at a disadvantage when it comes to those important decisions. That infrastructure includes the local talent pool.

Many working adults who go back to college to get a degree do it to broaden their job opportunities and increase their earnings potential. Employers look favorably upon candidates and employees who have been disciplined enough to return to college as a working adult to further their education. As a result, many adults currently in Ohio's work force are going back to school either to gain the educational skills required for a career change or to increase their value to their current employer.

And more education means lower unemployment and greater earnings for these workers, according to research by Sallie Mae, the nation's leading provider of education funding. In 2001, the unemployment rate was 2.5 percent for Americans who held a bachelor's degree and 2.1 percent for Americans who held a master's degree -- significantly lower than the 4.7 percent national unemployment rate for that year.

Residents who held a bachelor's degree earned a median income of $46,969 per year; those with a master's degree earned a median income of $56,589 per year. In contrast, median earnings for high school graduates without college degrees were $29,187 per year.

These statistics show that earning a bachelor's or master's degree greatly benefits individual workers. But Ohio employers will also benefit from having a more educated work force that will help prepare businesses for the inevitable and fundamental changes facing the state's economy. Eric Ziehlke is the associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 186,000 students at more than 139 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach Ziehlke at (614) 433-0095 or

Friday, 30 January 2004 08:03

New breed

In the past, the term "college student" conjured the image of people in their early 20s, living on campus at a traditional university, learning about life on their own for the first time and dreaming about what they may encounter in the real world.

Today, while most universities have enjoyed steadily increasing enrollment, many schools are catering more and more to the nontraditional student - the working adult.

For a growing number of American college students, life happened and they've found themselves living in the real world before completing their formal education. In spite of - and in part because of - their professional and family obligations, many are finding a way to incorporate an education into their hectic lives.

In fact, 73 percent of the nation's undergraduate students today are considered nontraditional, including a substantial number of people enrolled part time while working full time. These figures are even higher for graduate-level students.

This demographic shift is consistent with the general aging of our society. For example, in Ohio, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2002 estimates, 43 percent of our population falls in the 25- to 54-year-old category. It is this large population that is the core of our work force, and it is also fast becoming the core of our nontraditional college students, those either trying to finish a bachelor's degree or working to earn a master's degree.

And the trend is gaining momentum nationwide. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college enrollment of 25- to 29-year-olds is expected to increase by 13 percent by 2012, while enrollment of those 30 to 34 years old is projected to increase by 10 percent during the same period. This 25- to 34-year-old age group will contribute to the projected total college enrollment increase of 15 percent from 2000 to 2012.

More of today's college students have incredible responsibilities competing for their attention while they attend their programs. That's why many colleges and universities that cater to these working-adult students must ensure that the learning modules and delivery systems used can help nontraditional students apply what they learn on the job, as well as enable them to earn their degree in a manner that fits into their work and life responsibilities.

How do these changes in higher education demographics affect business in Columbus? The students who are striving to achieve their academic goals are also the people who staff your businesses and organizations - the ones who make Ohio work. They are taking incredible initiative to do something that will help them improve themselves and the companies that employ them. These are valuable members of your organization and should be encouraged.

In business, it's vital to have a motivated, well-educated staff that can meet the challenges of our ever-changing world. The more educated, technology capable and real-world-trained a work force is, the better products and services it can deliver.

Ohio businesses that support their workers' educational desires through programs such as tuition reimbursement and flexible schedules, and institutions of higher learning that understand the need to deliver curriculum and learning systems targeted at this growing student population of working adults, will prosper and grow. Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 175,000 students at more than 125 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or

Thursday, 20 November 2003 11:43

Alternative choices

It is an unfortunate reality that higher education budgets have to be cut.

The economic slowdown has led to a dramatic shortfall in tax revenue, at precisely the same time that higher education finds itself in competition for public funds with other equally critical social needs. The growth of both school-age and aging populations, an increasing number of low-income families requiring assistance and the unexpected costs of providing for homeland security, along with other factors, presage difficult decisions for those making the cuts and those facing them.

A few statistics bring the picture into sharper focus:

* Colleges and universities are bracing for a wave of students to hit campuses over the next decade. The surge, propelled by an upturn in the number of births throughout the 1980s, will produce the largest high school and college enrollments in U. S. history.

* 80 percent of post-secondary students in Ohio are enrolled in public institutions.

* Public colleges continue to become less affordable. Sixteen states have increased tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities by more than 10 percent; Ohio raised tuition by 17 percent.

The Catch-22 is that we have to cut budgets at precisely the time we can't afford to. As new technologies change the way we live and work, businesses need workers with a higher level of knowledge and skills.

Further, the recent economic downturn led major sectors of the economy to restructure. Although an economic recovery appears to be underway, thousands of displaced workers need retraining.

And those who kept their jobs have to gain new knowledge and skills just to help their companies -- and themselves -- survive.

Education is the best way to retrain and reposition our work force so we can navigate these rapids and move toward long-term, stable prosperity. Ohio and many other states will need to adopt a strategic approach that recognizes all educational resources within the context of their ability to serve distinct populations according to their needs.

As public institutions prepare to handle the influx of high school graduates and maintain service levels on decreased budgets, private institutions must rise to the occasion and assist in meeting the state's needs.

Adults in Greater Columbus have tremendous educational opportunities in the private sector. Several Columbus-based institutions, including Franklin, Capital and Ohio Dominican universities, and Otterbein College, offer adult-centered programs. Others, including Ashland and Mount Vernon Nazarene universities, have an established presence with similar programs.

The University of Phoenix and DeVry University have always focused on the specialized needs of the business community and operate campuses in Columbus, as well. All of these institutions provide a much-needed service to the community, and for-profit universities don't demand a share of scarce state funds. Instead, they contribute back to the tax base of the state.

As our legislators continue to battle for funds to meet all of the state's needs, a number of quality private, for-profit institutions stand ready to assist by providing relevant and quality education within the context of the world of work. Their innovative teaching and learning processes enable them to meet the unique needs of adult students without placing further burden on the taxpayers.

A blended solution, leveraging the best of the public and private sector, will serve as the best model for meeting the educational needs of the future.

Eric Ziehlke is the associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 175,000 students at more than 125 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or

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