NCU Recent blog posts

E-Learning Gives You Educational Flexibility

Recent Blog Posts - 07-01-2015 16:53




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Do you ever wish you had more flexibility in your education? For most of us, the answer is yes.

And if you are working and going to school, you are probably finding yourself very pressed for study time. That’s why e-learning could be the answer to a flexible education.

Because she is such a fan of Northcentral’s very flexible model, we asked School of Psychology faculty member Dr. Jeannine Klein to weigh in. She believes online learning is one of the best ways to ensure flexibility in your education. “With around-the-clock access, it’s hard for them to say, ‘I can’t find the time to go back to school,’ because school is always open!”

She added that if you have a computer and a reliable internet connection, you can go to class. Online courses let you study on your own schedule, and eliminate the time-consuming factors of a traditional education. The countless hours spent driving to and from school, sitting through lectures and being required to participate in group work are just some of the ground campus elements that can easily eat up a lot of your time.  

And it’s not just the online learning aspect that gives you educational flexibility. At NCU, you won’t have to wait months for a class to start, because they start every week. That means you can have more flexibility when it comes to when you graduate.   

“Having a flexible program allows you to decide when you want to learn, but within some parameters that guide that learning and help you move toward your goal of a degree,” points out Dr. Klein.

Looking to learn more about NCU’s flexible advanced degree programs? NCU offers online master’s and doctorate degrees in the School of Business & Technology Management, School of Education, School of Psychology and the School of Marriage and Family Sciences that might help. 

Blog Tags: online educatione-learningeducationonline programseducational flexibility
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

NCU’s Research Team Awarded Best Paper at 2015 Distance Learning Administration Conference

Recent Blog Posts - 06-30-2015 14:17

As a graduate and research focused institution, Northcentral University’s academic leadership, faculty and team members actively pursue opportunities to contribute to the betterment of online graduate education. With this focus in mind, Doctors Jama Bradley, Diane Blyler, Scott Burrus, Ray Rodriguez and Melanie Shaw embarked upon research around the implementation of learning contracts in the online dissertation process. From this research emerged their paper, “The Use of Learning Contracts to Promote Student Success in Online Doctoral Programs,” which provided evidence of the benefits of learning contracts in online higher education and has been awarded the Best Paper Award at the 2015 Distance Learning Administration Conference.

“The purpose of our study was to evaluate rates of milestone completion, rates of student program completion, and student perceptions of the learning contract as a factor influencing their success,” explains Dr. Melanie Shaw, dissertation chair. “Data were gathered from doctoral students who had completed all course work and comprehensive exams, but failed to make expected progress on dissertation. These students were given the opportunity to participate in a voluntary program requiring the execution of a learning contract under which they worked directly with a dissertation chair for four hours per week over the duration of a year.”

“Results show on average, students completed the dissertation in 316 days and at the time of publication, 62% of participants had graduated from their doctoral program,” shares Dr. Shaw. “Further, students believed learning contracts were helpful to their overall success in their doctoral program. The team hopes that this study will serve as encouragement for institutions wishing to increase graduation rates, improve time to completion, and provide students with strategies for doctoral program success.”

In addition to presenting twice this week at the 2015 Distance Learning Administration conference, the team’s paper will be published in the Online Journal for Distance Learning Administration, one of the premier peer-reviewed journals in the field of online education and leadership.

Blog Categories: getting-research-publishedresearchBlog Tags: researchonline learningDoctoral EducationDistance Learning
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Here’s Why You Should Pursue an MBA

Recent Blog Posts - 06-24-2015 10:51

We all know that earning an MBA is no easy task. The cost, the time and the overall life sacrifices that often go hand-in-hand with achieving such a degree can be discouraging for many prospective students. Also, the thought of having to take a GRE® or GMAT® exam can be daunting for many students. Not to mention the fact that most graduate schools require a certain score on these exams for students to even have the chance of getting into the school’s MBA program.

The cost of such a degree is also a big hurdle for many scholars to overcome. Tuition and book costs can often throw a “monkey wrench” into someone’s plans of pursuing an MBA.

After taking all of this into perspective, it’s important to consider what the employment atmospheres look like for MBA grads. That way, you’ll know what might be in store for you after graduation.

Recent research shows that the U.S. MBA graduate hiring outlook looks pretty good. Nine out of 10 companies that plan to bring MBA candidates aboard say they’ll add as many, or more, qualified candidates this year than they did last year, according to a 2014 survey of 169 employers from 33 countries by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).The news gets even better for business school graduates. The survey shows that these graduates can expect to see base salaries rise over 2014. In addition, no surveyed employers plan to lower MBA salaries compared to last year. And 47% of these employers also forecast a spike in compensation that mirrors the rate of inflation. While 18% predict MBA pay would be higher than the inflation rate, the rest of the participating employers say MBA compensation would remain flat.

Besides the optimistic data, it’s imperative that you’re also cognizant of what employers are really looking for in a globalized economy that’s constantly changing. “Earning a graduate degree shows employers and potential employers that the student has determination to take on the challenges of earning an advanced degree, which opens the door for promotion or a new career,” explains Dr. Jennifer Scott, faculty member for NCU’s School of Business and Technology Management.

Choosing the right MBA program can also propel an already working professional’s career forward. Dr. Scott says, “Regardless of the reason students are enrolled in the MBA program, students learn about real events through a number of venues, and then apply their learning in their real world of work. Times are changing and to be marketable (for a promotion or a career) one must be innovative, flexible and ready for upcoming challenges and opportunities.”

At Northcentral University, GRE and GMAT exams are non-existent. All you need to get the ball rolling are your college transcripts. Students at NCU can get a head start at earning their advanced degree right off the bat.

You may also find it necessary to leave your current profession to be able to handle the course loads and time constraints involved with earning an MBA at brick and mortar campuses. At NCU, none of this true. With our flexible approach, working professionals have the freedom to accomplish course assignments and projects on their own time. And when it comes to earning an advanced degree, time management is everything.

“NCU’s MBA courses are 100% online and students may work on their coursework when it is convenient for them, as long as they have access to an Internet connection and a computer. NCU’s faculty members work individually with each student. Ground campuses can have anywhere from 30 to several hundred students in one class. Time is saved commuting to class, because there is no commute! NCU MBA students are all around the world!” explains Dr. Scott.

But when deliberating on any graduate school, it’s imperative to take into account flexibility, quality of faculty, accreditation and cost. It’s also important to keep in mind the long list of benefits that graduate degrees can afford. As the old saying goes, “investing in you is the best investment you can make,” so too then is a graduate degree that can pay dividends both professionally and personally throughout a lifetime.

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

3 Things I Learned from My Dad

Recent Blog Posts - 06-19-2015 11:29

Not every child is lucky enough to have the kind of father that I do. The kind that leads by example in everything he does, instills in you a sense of pride through his work ethic and dedication to his family, chases you up the stairs pretending he’s a monster until you’re far too old to believe it, and walks you down the aisle with pride. I get it – I’m lucky.

Dads come in all shapes in sizes and from avenues we wouldn’t expect. Some of us are lucky to have a special relationship with our biological father who has been there from the day we were born, others of us cherish our step-fathers or father figures we have adopted through mentoring relationships, still others are lucky enough to have all three. But no matter who our “dads” might be, the relationship is special. I might even argue that it is almost impossible to replicate.

“It is really important to point out that fathers play a crucial role in children's development,” says Dr. Kristi Harrison, faculty member for NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences. A new parent herself, Dr. Harrison is trained to lead relationship expert John Gottman’s parent support program called Bringing Baby Home.

“Gottman has done some fascinating research on the unique contributions that fathers make,” she asserts. “It turns out that that dads’ more physical style of play helps babies' develop motor skills and other self-regulation skills that don't come up as much during moms' play with babies. One of the things I really like about Bringing Baby Home, and Gottman's work in general, is that it praises dads for what they bring to the table. This seems really fitting to think about on Father's Day!”

The footprint that a father leaves on his child’s life never goes away, and this Father’s Day we should all be thanking our fathers – whomever they might be – for helping to make us who we are today. I could share countless lessons my dad has taught me throughout my life, but here three that I think we can all relate to.

Don’t Expect it to be Handed to You – Work For It

Everything I have today, I owe to a little bit of talent and a lot of hard work. My sisters and I have our dad to thank for our relentless work ethic – he taught us at a very early age that if we want something we need to work hard to get it. That’s a lesson we should all remember, even on those long Wednesday afternoons that seem to go on for days!

A Little Loyalty Goes a Long Way

Our family is loyal, almost to a fault. We are those scrappy folks – the ones that argue on a Monday night and defend each other on a Friday night. You should be loyal to others as your pet would be loyal to you. It sounds silly, but it’s something that can help you in all facets of your life. Employers value loyal employees, friends value loyal friends and we could all use a few of those.

Above All – Be Accountable

My dad is always on time, always remembers to call and always holds up his end of the bargain. It’s something we take for granted in people, but accountability is important. Whether it’s showing up on time for a meeting, committing to getting the job done and delivering a flawless end product every time, or admitting you may have hurt a friend or family member – own yourself and your actions. Only you can be accountable for you.

Here’s to a Happy Father’s Day to every “dad” out there. May you continue to provide us all with lifelong memories and instill in us the values that make you proud to be dads!

Are you interested in helping families? Click here to learn more about NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences

Blog Categories: family-relationshipsmarriage-and-family-therapyyour-life-your-healthBlog Tags: Marriage and Family TherapyFather's DayDadsFathersMentoring
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

Recognizing and Overcoming LGBTQ Discrimination in a University Setting

Recent Blog Posts - 06-10-2015 10:27

Too often LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) students fall victim to discrimination – simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Just because you haven’t seen it yourself, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Unfortunately, blatant discrimination against LGBTQ students has proven not to be isolated. In fact, it happens more than you think. According to a 2013 report by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Network, a whopping seventy-five percent of LGBTQ students experienced verbal harassment last year because of their sexual orientation. Another fifty-five percent fell victim to verbal abuse based on their gender expression.

While many of us would agree that this type of behavior is totally inappropriate, not to mention hurtful, it still continues. And keep in mind that the abuse doesn’t just potentially hurt an LGBTQ student’s physical or mental well-being, but it can also be detrimental to their academic performance. In fact, recent research shows that victims of such abuse are more prone to have their grade point averages take a dip – by as much as nine to 15 points, compared to other classmates.

With these alarming statistics in mind, we sought direction from Dr. Valerie Glass, faculty member for NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences. Dr. Glass, a former president of a campus-run LGBTQ organization, was kind enough to provide us with a little advice on how to address some of the challenges this group faces within the academic atmosphere and how you or someone you know can overcome some of those difficulties.

Because many U.S. universities have some type of student-run LGBTQ group on campus, these dedicated groups can be beneficial for LGBTQ students who are trying to cope with discrimination amongst their peers in and out of the classroom. “I frequently would hear how student-run organizations were life-saving,’’ explains Dr. Glass. She also says that by having these types of organizations the universities are sending a powerful message to their LGBTQ students. A message that says, “we care about you.”

As a former president for a campus-run LGBTQ organization, Dr. Glass is well-versed on the discriminatory injustices that these students can face all too often. She also warns that discrimination can come in many different forms. “Students at times were bullied or struggled with what they heard in class or read in their academic materials,” Dr. Glass remembers.

In order to help overcome these feelings, she recommends these students to find an advocate or mentor. These dedicated individuals can help those afflicted by harassment learn how to better cope with those types of issues. “I have found, in mentoring LGBTQ students, that they open up to me because of my willingness to be their advocate,’’ she says.

But besides the LGBTQ organizations and mentor support, some universities are also working to develop and implement new ways to help assist this segment of the student body.

According to Dr. Glass, the University of Washington and Ohio State University have introduced an LGBTQ inclusiveness course in their freshman seminars. Some schools are also in the process of developing “ally projects” that can assist them in battling bullying amongst the LGBTQ student body. Still other universities are working to revamp their policies to make their physical campuses more gender-friendly for the transgender population. These changes include: gender neutral bathrooms, locating comfortable living arrangements in residence halls, preferred names and pronouns for student rosters and helping to enlighten the student body as a whole.

Dr. Glass says the use of language in the classroom can also be improved. “I, personally, have found that much of the language being used in classrooms or in student life focuses on heteronormative assumptions that all individuals are seeking opposite sex partners and adhering to specific gender roles,” she says. “These symbols and images can be overwhelming to LGBTQ students. Certainly, this can disrupt their ability to learn.’’

Dr. Glass also provided another helpful tip – sex education can help LGBTQ students live healthier lives. As Dr. Glass points out, “Students that are engaging in same sex relationships should have comprehensive knowledge of sex education the same as their heterosexual counterparts. Opening up the conversations to be inclusive would allow LGBTQ individuals to lead more safe and sexually informed lives.’’

Are you experiencing discrimination or just need a place to go with questions, comments or just an opportunity to vent about anything you’re dealing with? Contact the gender network to find LGBTQ support services and information in your area.

Interested in learning more about gender diversity and education? NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences offers master’s, doctoral and certificate programs that may help.

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

6 Things You Should Know About Your GI Bill

Recent Blog Posts - 06-04-2015 14:59

Northcentral University has military students around the world who are using their hard-earned GI Bill® benefits to pay for higher learning. And with our flexible approach, NCU is helping students take full advantage of their benefits, making us a very GI Bill-friendly atmosphere. But understanding how these benefits work can be challenging. So here are six GI Bill facts to help you achieve your academic goals.

Benefits Time Frame

Are you worried about your GI Bill benefits running out? If so, here’s some good news. Active duty service members and veterans may have 10 years to use all of their GI Bill benefits from the time of separation from service. And for Post-9/11 benefits, the time is even longer. Add on five more years and you’re looking at 15 years to take advantage of your benefits.   

Your GI Bill is More Flexible than You Think

Often life has a way of throwing a “curve ball” in our plans, which is why it’s great to know that your benefits have some flexibility, depending on the school and program you enroll in.

The bill will also help you climb the educational ladder of higher degrees. You can use it to earn your associates, bachelors and later, masters and doctorate degrees.  

Entitlement Months

Did you know that the VA allows for a service member to use a total of 36 months of entitlement under one chapter of the GI Bill, and up to 48 months under multiple chapters? That means if you run out of entitlement under one chapter, you should be sure to check with the VA to find out if you have further eligibility under another.

Credits & GI Bill Payments

So you have your classes and credits tallied up and picked out. That’s great! But wait! Here are a few things you’ll want to pay close attention to when it comes to credits and GI Bill payments.

Remember to pay close attention to your credit load. It’s the biggest factor that determines your GI Bill payment rates. Your enrollment status - full-time, half-time, or part-time – may impact your benefits.

And don’t forget - GI Bill payment rates may be raised every year or as needed. However, the payment rates can also stay the same.  

Also, if you’re using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, take note that it pays based on the number of months served on active duty and the number of credits taken.

Yellow Ribbon Program

Choosing a school that participates in the Yellow Ribbon Programcan end up saving you some money later on. The program may help students avoid out-of-pocket tuition and fees associated with educational programs that might surpass the Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition benefit. 

As a Yellow Ribbon Program participating school, NCU will contribute up to $2,000 for tuition and fees after a student exhausts the annual funding limit. The Veterans Administration matches that amount and issues payment directly to NCU.

Get started using your benefits today by filling out and following instructions on the VA Form 22-1990, Application for Education Benefits.

Dependent & Spouse Benefits

The U.S Department of Veteran Affairs also provides education benefits for spouses and dependents of service members and veterans. For instance, a service member could be eligible to transfer their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependent.

Post 9/11 GI Bill Transferability, Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program and the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship are some of the benefits that are offered to a spouse or dependent of service members and veterans.

Are you looking for more information about how your benefits will apply toward an advanced degree at NCU? Contact our VA Educational Benefits Specialist at

Blog Categories: education-2online-learning-2tips-to-improve-your-lifeBlog Tags: GI Billmilitaryveterans9/11DependentVeterans Benefits
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Northcentral University Visits Universidad de la Habana

Recent Blog Posts - 05-27-2015 16:00

Northcentral University doctoral students of all disciplines were recently presented with the opportunity to visit Cuba's Universidad de la Habana. During their visit, students participated in field placements to learn about Cuban education, applied and research psychology and marriage and family therapy, and emerging business opportunities. The following is a short, visual representation of their time spent impacting the local community.

Northcentral University visits Universidad de la Habana from Northcentral University Blog Categories: marriage-and-family-therapyphd-program-doctoral-programspsychologyresearchBlog Tags: Universidad de la HabanaCubaresearchDoctoral
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5 Common Core Resources for Parents

Recent Blog Posts - 05-12-2015 12:05

Are you struggling to understand how Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have changed your child’s classroom, homework and overall educational experience? You’re not alone. As states choose to adopt these standards, it’s not just the teachers and students that have been forced to make adjustments, it’s parents like you, too.

The resources listed below can help you understand the CCSS, learn more about what actually happens in the classroom, and provide you with meaningful questions you can use to have meaningful interaction with your child’s teachers.

The Teaching Channel

Check out the Teaching Channel to learn more about just what’s happening in your child’s classroom. You can watch teachers who are implementing Common Core, which will give you a better understanding of how to speak to it at home.

Achieve the Core

Become equipped to talk Common Core and learn what it takes for your child to succeed. Get general information on the Common Core State Standards, check out the “Common Core 101” guide and download PDF and interactive versions of the standards.

National PTA – Parents’ Guides to Student Success

Developed by teachers, parents and experts in the field of education, the Parents’ Guides to Student Success can help you understand how to help your child remain successful in the Common Core classroom. You’ll find guides for grades K-8 in the subjects of language arts and mathematics.

Council of the Great City Schools – Parent Roadmaps to Common Core

The Parent Roadmaps to Common Core take student success a step further with snapshots of how your child should be progressing over a three-year period. With the help of these roadmaps, you can help your child become college ready at the time they graduate from high school.

19 Meaningful Questions You Should Ask Your Child’s Teacher

Show your interest in what’s going on in the classroom by asking a few more direct questions. Your child’s teacher will appreciate the interest and opportunity to explain the thought behind the lesson plans. You’ll also get to know the classroom AND the teacher a little better!

What other resources have you discovered to help you understand the impact Common Core State Standards have on your child’s education? Please share your thoughts in our comments section below!

Blog Categories: education-2Blog Tags: Common CoreTips for ParentsParenting
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10 Psychology Books You Should Read

Recent Blog Posts - 04-08-2015 15:27

There are classic or influential books in every field that should be read to gain a fuller breadth of understanding. With an eye to this, we have asked the leaders of Northcentral University School of Psychology to share the indispensible psychology books from their reading lists.

Compiling their responses, we present 10 Psychology Books You Should Read, which have all made a considerable impact on the field of psychology.

Their recommendations follow in no particular order:

1. The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind, Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff & Patricia K. Kuhl; William Morrow Paperbacks, 2000.

As recognized authorities on children development, Gopnik, et al, conclude that infants solve problems the same way that scientists do research: They repeatedly test how things will work against real outcomes, and then modify their initial “theories” to match that observed reality. The authors use this core thesis to organize their research into a compelling and interesting read.

2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain; Broadway Paperbacks, 2012.

Filled with years of research from many sources, Cain, renowned for her TED Talk on the subject, offers a fascinating exploration of what constitutes the life challenges of the world’s introverts. Including a clear comparison and contrast of introverts and extroverts, the author explores how these highly sensitive people might better tackle public speaking, managing businesses, as well as navigating marriages and other relationships. It also explores introverts in light of the human population being predominately extroverted, and as a result introverts are often encouraged to adapt their style of relating. With a wide variety of interesting case studies, Cain chronicles the lives of introverts and what they quietly bring to the world.

3. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, by Michael White and David Epston; W.W. Norton & Company, 1990.

With its often light approach to serious subjects, White and Epston present their experience with a groundbreaking theory, that people encounter problems when “the stories of their lives” do not accurately represent their actual life experiences. White and Epston suggest that an effective approach to therapy is the process of shaping and reshaping the lives and experiences of their patients through “narrative storytelling” – by “storying” and “restorying” experiences – thereby helping their patients process life experiences. With interesting case studies, the authors show how this approach to therapy helps and empowers their patients.

4. The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients, by Irvin Yalom, M.D.; Harper Perennial, 2002.

A surprisingly easy read, Yalom, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University, uses his 40 years of clinical experience to give advice on best practices to the next generation of therapists. The result is as much a personal and profound memoir of his work as it is useful guidebook. Including his 85 insightful "tips for beginner therapists," Yalom’s book aims to enrich the therapy process for a new generation of patients and counselors.

5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5, American Psychological Association; American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.

The 5th Edition of this exhaustive manual is the most comprehensive, current, and critical resource for clinical practice available to today's mental health clinicians and researchers of all orientations, representing more than 10 years of effort by international experts across all aspects of mental health. The manual creates a common language for clinicians as they diagnosis mental disorders, and includes to-the-point information and specific criteria for facilitating objective assessment of symptoms wherever psychological care is offered.

6. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy, by Carl R. Rogers; Constable, 1974 (revised 2004).

One of America's most distinguished psychologists shares his experiences in helping people through what he called “becoming,” what we have come to know as “personal growth.” While contemporary psychology focuses on minute aspects of psychological behavior, or with diagnosing mental illness, Rogers espouses the view that psychology and psychiatry should aim higher, toward maximizing human potential. Using non-technical jargon, Rogers has written a book that is both groundbreaking and accessible.

7. The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.; Harper Perennial, 1960 (revised 2010).

While some see Szasz’s work as an attack and others consider it a work of genius, it is viewed by many as “the most influential critique of psychiatry ever written,” as puts it. To sum it up, as Szasz wrote so succinctly, “Psychiatry is…in the company of alchemy and astrology and commits it to the category of pseudoscience. The reason for this is that there is no such thing as ‘mental illness.’” By so doing, he called the views of every major American psychiatrist into question. While he acknowledges in the book that people have emotional problems, he insists that these are not mental diseases that can be treated by medicine like pneumonia or heart failure.

8. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales, Oliver Sacks, M.D.; Touchstone, 1998.

Hailed by The New York Times as “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century,” Sacks recounts the case studies of individuals afflicted with bizarre delusions and intellectual aberrations, but he treats each with great humanity, not as spectacle. Each is an exploration of people bravely attempting to deal with unbelievable mental obstacles. Whether schizophrenia or memory loss, Sacks moves his reader to empathize with their plight as well as their triumphs.

9. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman; Bantam Books, 1995 (revised 2005).

As put it, “Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why.” Thanks to this Pulitzer-nominate science writer there is clearer understanding, identifying five core areas of emotional intelligence, all based on psychology and advances in neuroscience. Goleman argues that our emotions are often more important than intelligence in determining individual success by examining factors like impulse control, self-motivation, empathy for others, and sensitivity in interpersonal relationships.

10. Games People Play, Eric Berne; Ballantine Books, 1964 (revised 1996).

Considered explosive upon its release 50 years ago, Games People Play altered our understanding of what is really going on in basic social interactions, and coined the phrase “transactional analysis.” Among the first in a wave of “pop psychology” books, Berne identifies and explores the often unconscious “mind games” we all play as we maneuver through life and relationships. Still revolutionary, Berne’s seminal bestseller is often referred to as among “the most original and influential popular psychology books” ever published.

Which psychology books have impacted your understanding of yourself or others? Which books would you place on your
must-read list?

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

How to Create a Winning Business Plan

Recent Blog Posts - 03-30-2015 09:26

Perhaps it’s hard to imagine Shakespeare weighing in on important business decisions, but to paraphrase his famed words from Hamlet: To write a business plan or not to write a business plan? That is the question.

It seems that entrepreneurs and business plans go together like Shakespeare and great writing. To be sure, there certainly is great interest in their use within business circles. Just Google the phrase “business plan,” for instance. The search will yield more than half a billion results!

With so much interest in the topic, it's important to know what an effective business plan includes, and why. And that's why we've put together this article for you.  And at the end of the article, you will even find a link to a downloadable business plan checklist, to help you make sure you include all the necessary elements as you go.

Organizing the Business Plan

It’s clear there are benefits from organizing your ideas on paper. There are a variety of how-to’s on the Web, including guidance provided by the SBA, which outline nine distinct sections for a proper business plan. However, the majority of business plan guides follow a simpler, but complete, seven-section approach. After examining several approaches, we have landed on an even simpler six-section model, with an optional seventh section, depending upon the plan’s purpose. According to Business Plan Mentor, the final length of the formal business plan should be about 15 to 20 pages, while the SBA suggests it could require a document between 30 and 50 pages.

Check out NCU’s step-by-step guide to creating your own business plan.

1. Executive Summary After the title page, which should comprise the name of the company and contact information, comes the Executive Summary. The Executive Summary is a condensed overview of the entire business plan and is typically between one and two pages. Though it’s the first section in the business plan, the executive summary should be written last since it summarizes the entire plan.

The SBA suggests that due to the nature of this section many consider it the most important section. Many readers will not continue reading past this point unless the business proposition is compelling.

The executive summary should evidence that you have thoroughly considered and analyzed the business and product or service offering. Be balanced by providing information about downsides in the market, but also how your offering can exploit it. In the end, this section should be concise, but should also seek to persuade the reader that this business can succeed.

The executive summary should contain:

  • • Mission statement – the objective and values of the company.
  • • Company history – the development of the company and/or how long it has existed. Other items can include the location, the number of partners, whether the company is incorporated, its form of incorporation, and, if there are employees, how many. If a startup company, then this section should focus on the professional achievements of its leadership.
  • • Growth highlights – if not a startup, how has the company grown since its founding.
  • • Nature of the product or service – discuss the market for the product or service and what need, want or problem it solves for the consumer or another business.
  • • Financial information – include information about current banking institutions, existing investors, and financial statements such as assets, liabilities and cash flow.
  • • Future plans – include the long-term vision of the company such as how the product or service line might expand or deepen.

2. Company Description This section is like an extended “elevator pitch.” It should quickly communicate the benefits of the company and the essence of its product or service. It is intended to provide readers and potential investors with a concise, clear understanding what you aim to do and why.

The company description should contain:

  • • The nature of the industry – include who the primary competitors are.
  • • The nature of the proposed business – include the product benefits.
  • • The identified need of consumers – to show that there will be demand for the business or products.
  • • The identified consumer – include any known demographics.
  • • The competitive advantages of the company and its product – include such things as location, expertise, operations efficiencies, or other ways the offering is superior to that of competitors.

3. Market Analysis The purpose of this section is to analyze and explore the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within this particular market and the strategies planned to capitalize on them.

The market analysis section should contain:

  • • Projections for the industry – include who the primary customer is or will be.
  • • The nature of the target market – be mindful not to narrow your description to the actual likely customer, though many entrepreneurs make the mistake of too large a target.
  • • The size of the likely target market – include the rationale for this conclusion.
  • • Likely share to be gained in the market – by the product or service.
  • • Pricing and gross margin expectations – include rationale for the strategy on this point.
  • • Analysis of the competition – include any that might already be in the market. This should include any research and development news for the industry.
  • • Any regulatory restrictions – include any that the product or service might face, now or in the future.

4. Organization & Management “Experts agree that one of the strongest factors for success in any growth company is the ability and track record of its owner/management team, ” according to the SBA.

This section should contain:

  • • Company’s organizational structure – if the company consists of more than a couple of owners an organizational chart is recommended.
  • • Particulars for the company’s key personnel – include full names, management profiles with education, percentage of ownership, pertinent experience, compensation basis and levels, etc.
  • • Highlight how the skill sets of personnel/owners complement one another – preferably without too much overlap or redundancy in areas of expertise.
  • • Provide details on the makeup of the Board of Directors – include any significant particulars as to their areas of expertise and their areas of input toward the company’s success. 

5. Product or Service Details This section’s purpose is to give investors a clear sense of the product's design and function or, if a service, the nature of that offering.

This section of the business plan should describe:

  • • The nature of your product or service – include photographs of prototypes or product design schematics.
  • • The benefits of your product or service – include a brief but complete exploration.
  • • The lifecycle of your product offering – i.e. how long it might last under normal usage.
  • • Any exclusivity associated with the offering – e.g. copyrights, patents, patents pending, or whether the product might be classified as a trade secret.
  • • Any legal agreements associated with the offering – if existing, especially if there are any potential competitors who have previously signed non-compete agreements.
  • • Any research and development plans – include any that are in the works for improving this product or for additional products on the drawing board.

6. Financial Projections This section needs to provide realistic and achievable financial projections and potential ROI for investors. 

According to Inc. Magazine, the following elements make up a solid core for the financial section of a great business plan:

  • • Provide a sales forecast for your product or service – include three years’ worth of projections, monthly for the first year but quarterly for the balance.
  • • Create an expenses budget – like the sales forecast, this is not an exercise in accounting, but an educated estimate based on simple assumptions.
  • • Project a cash flow statement – include projected cash on hand you will need out to 12 months.
  • • Standard profit and loss statement – include a forecast of the expected performance of over the company’s first three years.
  • • Break-even analysis – include a call out to the reader of the estimated point in the first three years of the business when expenses will match sales or service volume.

Also, due to its importance, the SBA recommends that this section be reviewed and confirmed as reasonable and accurate by an accounting professional.

What follows is an optional seventh section, which is dependent upon whether the end goal of the business plan is to gain funding.

7. Funding request (optional) If a central goal of the business plan is to use it as a tool to gain investment or business loans, then the amount needed and rationale for it should be included.

This section of your business plan would contain:

  • • Request the amount of funding sought – include the amount desired now and over the next five years, and place it up front.
  • • Be sure to spell out the nature of the funds request – that is, whether as equity (participation in profit or owner’s stake) or as debt (a loan).
  • • Reveal how much of the company’s leadership/owners own money will be invested – do so to show the level of confidence the leadership has in the idea.
  • • Explain how the money will be used – do so in general; no itemization necessary.
  • • Explain how the money will benefit the business – include how it will help to launch and/or grow the business.
  • • Identify when and how the money will be reimbursed to the investor/lender – do so with approximates and without promising anything.

To aid in writing your business plan, download our Business Plan Checklist by clicking HERE.


Categories: NCU Recent blog posts


Recent Blog Posts - 03-27-2015 14:10

In every field of study and discipline there are classic books that every person should read. With that in mind, we have reached out to faculty members in Northcentral University’s School of Business and Technology Management, asking them to share the must-reads on their list.

After distilling their responses, we have put together NCU’s Top 10 Must-Read Business Books, all of which are considered landmark in the field of business.

The recommendations that follow come in no particular order:

1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't, by Jim Collins; HarperBusiness, 2001.

Collins put together a 21-person team to enact broad research of the world’s most successful companies and deduces what made each of them great. At the core of his ruminations on the results is a notion that Collins calls “the Hedgehog Concept” – doing one thing and doing it well – which he deduced is foundational to the success of most successful companies.

2. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas L. Friedman; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.

What Friedman means by "flat" is that our world, its people, its nations, and its economies, are intricately interconnected. In this book he explores and illuminates through diverse examples why the lowering of barriers and the advancement of the Digital Revolution have made it possible to interact instantaneously with billions of other people no matter where one lives.

3. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras; HarperBusiness, 2004.

Setting out to assess what keeps "visionary" companies like Walt Disney and Wal-Mart “at the very top of their game,” Collins and Porras compare and contrast these with businesses that they classify as "successful-but-second-rank.” Significantly, they assert that great companies do not necessarily begin with a great product, but rather remain flexible and innovative due to a corporate culture where people are not afraid to make mistakes.

4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Steven Covey; Free Press, 1990.

Covey famously introduced the concept of “paradigm shift” into the cultural lexicon, that is, two people can observe the same thing and yet differ with each other on an event’s meaning and implications. With that as his foundational premise, Covey introduces the seven effective habits. Also groundbreaking was Covey’s concept of the “abundance mindset,” the belief that they do not exist in a closed system of finite resources and therefore finite successes, which Covey calls a “scarcity mindset,” i.e., if one wins another must lose.

5. OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time & Money (and what to do instead), by Aubrey Daniels; Performance Management Publications, 2009.

Built on the premise exemplified by the idea that “no man is an island,” Daniels asserts that managing individual behavior is the key to making an entire organization successful. And with an eye to what not to do, she explores basic behavior-based principles that drive good performance and how to implement them.

6. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink; Riverhead Books, 2011.

After analyzing some 40 years of scientific research on what motivates people, Pink explores what business doesn’t seem to appreciate: There are three primary motivators, even in the workplace, and surprisingly more money isn’t one of them. Instead, he identifies autonomy, mastery, and purpose as our primary motivators, and how to implement them in the workplace. A controversial but well-researched work, it emphasizes the motivational power of the deeply held human need to better ourselves and the world in which we live.

7. Leading Change, by John P. Kotter; Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

Few on this list have had the impact of Kotter's book on change management and leadership. A global bestseller, this book offers up Kotter’s now widely accepted eight-step process for managing change. It provides practical advice for leaders and managers to enact initiatives that make positive change within their business organizations.

8. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, by Peter M. Senge; Doubleday Business, 1994.

MIT's Senge proposes that "systems thinking" is the fifth requisite discipline for business, part and parcel to what he calls a true "learning organization," which is hallmark of companies that continuously improve. With millions of adherents around the globe, Senge’s analysis utilizes ideas that come from fields as diverse as science and religion to lay out his principles of management, while offering basic tools for putting systems thinking into practice.

9. The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything, by Guy Kawasaki; Portfolio, 2004.

Drawing on his success in directing the marketing of Apple in its early days by converting average consumers into “evangelists” for the brand, Kawasaki has shown his ideas to be reliable, thanks to the dozens of successful startups he has birthed via his own investment capital firm. Kawasaki opens his book by listing the five most important things an entrepreneur must accomplish, thereby defining the “art of the start.”

10. Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management, by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel; Free Press, 2005.

Considered a classic, a book used by many MBA programs around the world, few business books harmonize the history and evolution of strategic management in such an accessible way. Mintzberg, et al, isolate 10 unique schools of business strategy and explore how they have positively impacted businesses.

Which books on business have impacted your understanding? Which must-read books would you have on your list?

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

5 Tips on Coping with Addiction in Your Family

Recent Blog Posts - 03-23-2015 11:43

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the drug overdose death rate has more than doubled from 1999 through 2013. However, what may be even more alarming is that this statistic probably won’t surprise the millions of family members and friends of addicts throughout the United States.

“Living with someone who is struggling with an addiction can be a very difficult and traumatic experience,” expresses Dr. Patricia Postanowicz, a Core Faculty member for NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences and an expert in the areas of substance abuse, chronic mental illness and sexual trauma. “It can cause stress, anxiety, depression and put [the family] at risk for substance abuse issues to cope with their feelings.”

For many, the natural reaction is to attempt to “cure” at all costs. While helping your addicted friend or family member get help may be an initial concern, you should also remember to take care of yourself. It is okay – and recommended – to help yourself and the rest of your family cope, even if the addict is not willing to take steps toward recovery.

Wondering where to start? We asked Dr. Postanowicz for a few tips to help guide you in the right direction.

Start Attending Meetings

Whether you choose a nationwide group such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or another addictions group specific to your community, you should start attending now. The idea is to learn more through listening to others and talking about your own concerns. And hopefully you’ll learn how to emotionally separate from the addiction to take care of yourself and your family even if the person is still using.

Set Boundaries

Be sure to set boundaries that prevent your addicted friend or family member from negatively affecting your life as much as possible. For example, a mother may set a boundary for a father who is actively using by not allowing him to drive with their children in the car. She may even need to take the car seats out of his car if necessary. This boundary takes away stress and allows her to continue with everyday activities without worrying about the safety of her children.

Stop Making Excuses

Remember to clearly state that you will not make excuses for the addict, no matter who it may be. This includes instances such as missing work or family events, bailing them out financially for issues related to their addiction, and enabling the addict by allowing your plans to be altered because of their addiction. While it will take resolve and steadfast support from the rest of your friends and family, be sure to stand firm.

Give Family Therapy a Try

Addiction is a family disease. Often, families with addicts begin to operate in a manner that protects the addiction, even allowing it to define the family. Don’t be afraid to seek therapy as a family, even if the addict chooses to work toward becoming sober. Family therapy can offer you the opportunity to work through underlying issues regarding addiction, feelings and how to move forward as a family unit.

Commit to Making the Change

Sometimes, when the addiction disappears it can cause the family to sabotage the recovery of the addict in an effort to return to “normal.” Learning new ways to communicate and interact with one another (often through family therapy sessions) once the addiction is no longer present can help you and your family avoid falling back into old, “normal” patterns of behavior. 

Ultimately, the best way to treat addiction is through prevention, and nobody understands that better than families like yours. That’s why the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) promotes the Family Checkup program developed by the Child and Family Center at the University of Oregon. The Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse program serves to help you become more proactive by providing the information and support you need to stop addiction before it starts.

Are you passionate about helping addicts and looking for ways to make an impact? With the rise in drug use and drug-related deaths, formal education in these areas is becoming even more important. If you’re looking for educational opportunities, programs such as NCU’s certificates in Addictions and Addictions and Rehabilitation could be a great first step.

If you know someone struggling with addition, take the time to learn more about the resources available via the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Please remember to share with those close to you.


Call:        800.622.HELP (4357)

Blog Categories: family-relationshipsmarriage-and-family-therapypsychologytips-to-improve-your-lifeyour-life-your-healthBlog Tags: Addictions; Family; Recovery; Coping with Addiction
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts


Recent Blog Posts - 03-18-2015 15:13

Who among us hasn’t heard the buzz about mentoring? It has even coined a new word, the “mentee,” or the recipient of mentoring, formerly known as a protégé or mentoree. The good news is that whatever it’s called, being mentored has significant benefits. Perhaps more surprisingly, being a mentor also provides amazing benefits, for the mentor and for their organization. Read on and you’ll discover the potential benefits afforded to everyone involved.

But what is mentoring precisely? For that answer, we turn to the experts.

Per Michael Page, an international staffing firm, “The role of a mentor is to encourage the personal and professional development of a mentoree through the sharing of knowledge, expertise and experience.” In other words, it is when an experienced person in an organization directly imparts knowledge and secondhand experience through relationship to someone with lesser experience or education. It also might be viewed as personal education gained in a one-to-one environment, not unlike the online education provided by Northcentral University (NCU).

We invited NCU’s Dr. Georgia Grantham, Associate Director, Faculty Support and Development, School of Business and Technology Management, to weigh in. She offered, “We know that success rarely occurs without the knowledge and support of others. And mentoring definitely makes a positive difference.”

Grantham went on to say, “One-to-one mentoring at Northcentral University is about building relationships of trust, providing academic support and exposing students to real-world experiences. Because every student is unique at NCU, our mentors provide quality feedback that inspires, teaches, and challenges students to achieve their personal and professional goals.”

Mentoring Means… Upward Mobility

What’s more, a research study by Sun Microsystems tracked the careers of 1,000 Sun employees, and concluded that both mentors and mentees get “promoted faster, and enjoy more salary increases.” More specifically, mentees were promoted five times more often than those without mentors! And those who mentored others did even better, being promoted six times as often as those who did not mentor others.

The Benefits of Mentoring for the Mentor

• Provides an opportunity to hone interpersonal skills.
• Increases one’s own personal satisfaction.
• Passes one’s own experience to another.
• Requires consideration of one’s own business practices, as well as those of the organization.
• Improves one’s own job satisfaction; there is an inherent personal satisfaction that comes from helping the mentee and seeing how it impacts everyone else.

The Benefits of Mentoring for the Mentee

• Develops a supportive relationship.
Offers professional development; as mentors communicate their experience on many levels to their mentees it serves as cost-free professional seminars.
• Increases scope of understanding regarding the organization.
• Improves self-confidence.
• Facilitates critical feedback in key areas, such as communications, technical abilities, and leadership skills.
• Provides relevant skills and knowledge.

The Benefits of Mentoring for the Organization

Fosters retention; mentees have someone they can turn to whom when they hit inevitable rough patches during their employment.
• Improves team efficiency; the personal element of mentoring can improve process implementation.
• Empowers personal development.
• Improves communication; this, again, is a function of the depth of personal relationship formed by mentoring.
Safe haven for freer exchange of new ideas; mentors and mentees can bounce ideas off one another without fear of embarrassment or loss of the ideas.

Mentoring Means “Trust”

In the end, as NCU’s own Dr. Grantham shared, together mentors and mentees build “relationships of trust.” And we believe that is a big part of why students at NCU gain so much from our one-to-one, mentoring approach to education.

Have you been mentored? Have you ever been a mentor? How have those experiences shaped your career path?

Blog Categories: career-advice
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

Five Things Everyone Should Know About Negotiating

Recent Blog Posts - 03-17-2015 15:08

President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” And like it or not, the evidence is clear: Although negotiating may make us feel uncomfortable, those who are willing to negotiate have higher incomes and better positions.

As reported in the Harvard Business Review, for fear of being labeled as difficult or demanding, the majority of people do not negotiate in the workplace. According to Linda Babcock, Professor of Economics at the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management of Carnegie Mellon University, while 32 percent of us negotiate for matters such as higher pay, 68 percent of us do not. Babcock recounts the study more fully in her book and recounts that those who negotiate for larger salaries tend to receive them. Her conclusion: Those who are unwilling to negotiate actually pay a heavy price.

So, what does it take to negotiate successfully?

Overcome Your Own Expectations

According to negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon, what drives most people’s fears and what frustrates them is actually fairly common, which she characterizes as “self-fulfilling prophecies.” In effect, people get what they expect.

Susan Adams of Forbes Magazine says the first step in changing is to decide to defy your own expectations. In other words, women and men should choose to negotiate for what they want and choose to break free from their own self-fulfilling prophecies — whatever they may identify them to be.

Defy Expectations: 5 Keys to Negotiating

1. DO NOT FEAR. According to Babcock, men and women who do not negotiate typically do so for fear of recriminations and fear of gaining a negative reputation on the job. But, as Pynchon asserts, for those who are able to overcome these fears and choose to negotiate, it can pay big dividends, including in quality of life benefits.

2. KNOW YOUR WORTH. Again according to Babcock, preparation must be done before entering into negotiations. She asserts that women who do choose to negotiate typically enter into negotiations less prepared than do men, according to her research. If preparation is key, one essential component of preparation is to know what others at your level, with your education, and with your resume, make in the market. If you do not know what the range of salary and typical benefits is for your position, it will be hard to argue factually for what you want. There are many resources available online to aid researching wages in a particular market, such as and

3. TAKE THE “LET ME HELP YOU” APPROACH. This tip is particularly important for women in negotiations. While Babcock asserts that men are generally able to boast of their competencies without creating a negative perception, for women, that approach can unfortunately yield an unwanted perception. Babcock suggests to frame your request communally from the perspective of how your competencies will benefit the organization. Heed the words of JFK and ask not what the company should do for you, but explain to the one you’re negotiating with what you can do for the company.

4. BE REASONABLE. This tip is actually tied to tip#2 above. If the best people in your position earn $75,000 a year, but you are unaware and ask for $100,000, you could come off as ill-prepared. So, know your facts and figures about every aspect of the job title and make sure to account for salary variances based on location. Even with the same position responsibilities, a marketing manager working in Savannah, Georgia, will likely have a much different salary than someone with the same job in New York City.

5. DON’T FORGET THE PERKS. Should you come to an impasse regarding the level of income you’ve requested, don’t overlook the value of other benefits as points of negotiation. A good benefit package can actually exceed the value, in dollars and cents, of a higher salary. A better insurance package, more vacation time, virtual commutes, flex-time, company car, frequency of job review, should be considered as part of the negotiation process.

In the end, remember that negotiations are usually not personal. The most successful negotiators are able to overcome the feelings of fear and being labeled as demanding. Successful negotiators are able to articulate their requests respectfully and professionally.

While negotiating shouldn’t be approached as a fight, it is a battle, first, to overcome your own fears of making your requests known. So, as you choose to enter into negotiations to get what you want, remember this: You won’t always get what you want. But, then again, as Lauren Bacall once said, “You don’t always win your battles, but it’s good to know you fought.”

What have you negotiated in your career? What was the outcome? Were the benefits worth the risks? How did you feel explaining what you wanted?

Blog Categories: career-adviceBlog Tags: NegiotiationsNegotiatingHow to Negotiate
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts


Recent Blog Posts - 03-13-2015 12:07

In response to requests from students and faculty, and in conjunction with our ongoing efforts to make the best resources available at Northcentral University, we are pleased to announce that The Chronicle of Higher Education is now available to our student and faculty family at the NCU online Library.

As NCU Director of Library Services Ed Salazar describes this fantastic resource, “The Chronicle of Higher Education is the number one source of news, information, and jobs for people in academe. Published every weekday, The Chronicle's website features the complete contents of the latest issue, now available to NCU students and faculty.”

While The Chronicle has its own online version of the newspaper, it is only available in its full form to paid subscribers. Published every weekday, The Chronicle online features the complete contents of the latest issue; daily news and advice columns; hundreds of current job listings; vibrant discussion forums; and career-building tools such as online curriculum vitae management, salary databases, and more.

When you log on with your NCU ID, you will even find an archive of previously published content!

A Taste of Chronicle Fare…

Recent examples of articles and features that can be found in this well-respected daily publication include:

• “Fulbright Pitches International Exchanges to 2-Year Colleges,” an article that examines how the Fulbright Program aims to help faculty members of community colleges benefit and bring more international perspectives to these institutions.

• “Colleges Ponder Their Options When Racism Is Set in Stone,” which explores the conundrum that colleges and universities find themselves in when the involvement of their founders or early patrons who are associated with racism and/or bigotry are enshrined in artwork and masonry on campus.

• “It’s Time to Review Your Adjunct Employment Policies,” is an article that takes a look at the challenges colleges face when adjunct faculty involve Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in their contract negotiations.

• “The Plague of tl;dr,” is found in The Chronicle’s regular insert, The Chronicle Review, a free-standing B-section, and discusses the trend of less and less reading being done by both faculty and students, with a title that refers to the online shorthand for “too long; didn’t read.”

• “Only Writers Left Alive,” comes from the “Careers” section, a regular feature of The Chronicle, and advises on the importance of students identifying for themselves whether they prefer being educators or being researchers as soon as they can “before you waste your time and money, and some of your best professional years.”

• “Isolated Scholars: Making Bricks, Not Shaping Policy,” is an opinion piece by the University of Michigan’s Andrew J. Hoffman, a professor and director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise from The Chronicle’s daily “Point of View” column.

And, each issue of The Chronicle carries an extensive "Careers" section posting position openings from universities and institutions that are hiring faculty and other personnel, with posters as diverse as Harvard University and Fingerlakes Community College.

Were you aware of The Chronicle of Higher Education? Is this a feature of enrollment in NCU something that you will utilize?

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts