Published in: Springfield Business Journal
Author: Jeremy Elwood
The Springfield campus of Webster University has added three new adjunct faculty members to a staff that relies on professional experience.
The Ozarks Regional Campus of the St. Louis-based university added local businesspeople Randy Hyde, Gerry Lee and Dennis Lewis to the list of 30 faculty teaching in the spring semester, which started Jan. 5.
Webster's stated mission is to offer "excellence in higher education for working adults." The school opened its Ozarks Regional Campus in 1998 and offers six master's degree programs, including a Master of Business Administration.
The three new teachers have vast real-world experience in their fields.
Hyde has 21 years of human resources experience and serves as HR director for Hiland Dairy; Lewis has nearly 30 years of police and security experience, most recently as director of school safety for Springfield Public Schools, and co-owns school safety consulting company Edu-Safe LLC; and Lee spent 28 years in management for City Utilities, taking early retirement in 2005 as assistant general manager and chief operations officer.
Campus Director Laura Ward said the experience the trio brings to Webster falls right in line with the school's philosophy; all faculty members have at least a master's degree and seven years of work experience in their fields.
"They have a lot of professional experience that allows them to present different viewpoints on a lot of issues," Ward said, noting that most faculty also draw on their business colleagues to act as guest speakers. "That generates a lot of classroom discussion, which is especially valuable when you're talking about theories of leadership or business."
Lewis, tapped to teach security administration in Webster's Business and Organizational Security Management master's program, said having a teacher who knows the ropes of working in the field is a big advantage for students.
"I've sat through courses where the instructor may have had the credentials to teach the course but there was no real-world experience," said Lewis, who spent two years teaching at the Springfield Police Department academy during his time as an officer. "Then I've had classes with people who had experienced what they were teaching about. It was so much more meaningful when the instructor could relate to you and take the material from the textbook to show how it could be applied."
Real-world experience will be especially helpful for Hyde, who has worked for Hiland Dairy for 28 years.
He said the course he is teaching - labor and management relations, a core course in the Master of Arts in human resource management program - covers a constantly changing subject. That subject, he added, will get even more complicated this year with a new president taking office.
"As we go from a Republican to a Democratic president, (Barack) Obama has already promised to change a lot of things that affect labor relations," Hyde said. "In the coming year, more than in the last several years, we're going to be looking at a lot of changes in the labor laws."
Lee, who teaches a managerial leadership course in the school's Management and Leadership master's program, said he gets as much benefit from teaching the class as his students to do by attending; he also taught evening classes at Drury University in the late 1990s.
Webster campus director Ward said there won't be a shortage of qualified professionals who want to teach courses. She often runs into people at networking meetings who want to know how they can get in front of a class.
"I get approached a lot by people who just want to do a little teaching - it helps keep them engaged in their profession beyond the day-to-day," she said.
"I'll put those away in the back of my mind, and then as things become available I'll call them up if I know they have the professional background and the desire to teach."
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