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'Benedictine lit a fire under Dickman that can't be extinguished."

Jacob Dickman came to Benedictine University with 58 previously earned college credits and no plan.

Today, the Chicago Fire Department training instructor has a Bachelor of Arts in Management from Benedictine, a master's degree from the University of Chicago, is just a few courses shy of earning a doctorate, addresses Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conferences in Washington, D.C., and owns an emergency management consulting business.

"My goals before pursuing a degree were really disjointed," he said. "I wanted to receive work promotions and perhaps apply for a chief position somewhere down the line. I felt having the degree would help with that."

But Dickman had not been in a classroom for 15 years

"I started college in the traditional method, after high school, and never got that completed," he said. "I got involved in the fire service as a paramedic and then firefighter, but I always wanted more. I had already made up my mind I was going to finish my degree somewhere but I was not sure where."

Dickman looked at several colleges, but liked what he found at Benedictine. He felt that the school would provide a more personal experience. He was also impressed with Benedictine's reputation of providing a quality education.

The cohort format at Benedictine – students progress through a series of courses at the same pace as a group – helped him to overcome any apprehension after being out of school for such a long time.

"I enjoyed the group or cohort format because I knew that I was not in this by myself," he said. "Interestingly enough, the cohort format was used in my graduate school as well and it has served me very well when it comes to working with other groups in business."

He also learned from professionals with real world experience.

"The teachers I had were all in their professions and that was invaluable because they were able to take a concept from an academia perspective and explain how it is used by a practitioner," Dickman said.

Today, Dickman's focus has changed from earning promotions in the fire department to creating emergency plans that transcend individual communities.

"I would like to change the point of view municipalities and businesses go about emergency and contingency planning," he said. "Currently, there are templates that look at each entity as an individual but not as part of a larger community system. My goal is to change that viewpoint to planning from a systems perspective."

Collaboration, Dickman said, is the most important skill he learned at Benedictine.

"The most important thing I learned during my degree work was completing projects as a group," he said. "I learned to accept diversity and understand that collaboration is more important than any personal bias I might have had. Collaboration is such an integral part of business today and one is very likely to fail without good team skills."

Benedictine University provided Dickman with the quality education and skills he expected, and more than he could have ever anticipated.

"While I certainly received the quality education and the skills that have helped me in life, I also received the desire to continue my education and to not settle for what I thought was good," he said.

"Our flexible programs were the right prescription for this working mother."

As a working single mother with a young daughter, high school graduate LaTasha Teague did not have a lot of time to pursue a college degree.

But thanks to the flexible scheduling and the adult-friendly learning environment at Benedictine University, Teague earned both an Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Management.

Now, she doesn't worry about the future for her or her daughter.

"My goal has always been to pursue my degree," Teague said. "After obtaining my degree and taking classes at Benedictine, I have gained more confidence in my skills and abilities. I am no longer afraid of applying for supervisor or management positions."

The A.A. in Business Administration program at Benedictine is designed to introduce students to the foundations and principles of business management and leadership, incorporating practical applications of theory and engaging students in the core elements of a properly functioning business.

Evening and weekend classes give working moms the opportunity to earn a degree.

The Bachelor of Arts in Management program imparts a deeper understanding of the cultural and personal dynamics present in today's businesses, preparing students to effectively manage business within a corporation. The program was ideal for some like Teague, who works for a giant retail pharmacy chain.

"Teamwork and working to meet deadlines were the most important things I learned while earning my degree," she said. "Before entering into the program, I had very little experience working with teams or meeting deadlines. Now I am more organized and have more patience in dealing with others."

Teague found the classes, taught by experts in their fields and instructors with real-world experience, both rewarding and challenging.

"The instructors were very helpful," she said. "They all seem to bring with them real world examples and anecdotes to help us relate to the class material."

One particular professor made an indelible impression on Teague.

"She always challenged us to think outside the box and never limited ourselves or our own possibilities," Teague said. "She always encouraged her students by give positive and constructive criticism along with real life anecdotes."

Completing the associate and bachelor's degree programs at Benedictine have not only given Teague hope, they have given her confidence – at home, at work, or just when meeting others for the first time.

"Completing the program has been a great accomplishment for me," she said. "My degree has encouraged me. I feel so secure when applying for a job, helping others with homework or just engaging in conversations."

"He wanted to move up higher, now he can't keep his feet on the ground."

Members of Robert Brummel's claims team might have to stand a little taller and be a little stronger if they plan to chest-bump their boss anytime soon.

After earning a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Benedictine University, Brummel is finding that the sky is the limit.

"I feel like my head is held a little higher and my chest is extended a little further," he said. "There is a great deal of pride that comes along with my accomplishments."

Brummel works for a leading provider of innovative claims and productivity management solutions with more than 150 offices in the United States and Canada. He decided to pursue an M.B.A. to move up in his company.

"I reached a point in my career where I felt I needed some additional education to reach the next level in my career progression," he said. "My goal was to prepare myself to become a senior member of the management team within the organization I work for."

He chose Benedictine because of his familiarity with the school.

"I knew first hand from my undergraduate studies that Benedictine was a quality University and the adult accelerated program was an outstanding one," he said.

Benedictine's M.B.A. program has been preparing students for managerial roles in corporate and human service organizations for more than 40 years. Students gain superior, practical management skills, learn best business practices, and gain a sense of personal and lifelong commitment to improving leadership.

The blended, flexible format of the adult accelerated M.B.A. program promotes communication and teamwork, and in Brummel's case, a better understanding of group dynamics.

"Learning to work as a team helped me to develop tolerance," he said. "I learned that every person has something that they bring to the table. I learned that great leaders don't just delegate, they are visible and vocal. They demonstrate confidence that is conveyed to all colleagues."

Classes are taught by experts in their fields, who convey practical, useful knowledge that can be applied immediately in the workplace.

"I learned new things in each and every course I took," Brummel said. "I even learned new things from the courses that were directly related to work I was already doing. My instructors challenged me to think beyond the obvious and dig deep within myself to become a stronger, more knowledgeable leader."

One professor in particular pushed Brummel to think outside the box and reach for solutions that may not be the most obvious.

"He had a great influence on my educational process," Brummel said. "He taught me to really push myself and not to settle. He taught me that If I wanted to be the best, I needed to challenge myself and think beyond the obvious.

"I learned to analyze situations and resolve problems with a greater degree of effort," Brummel added. "As a result, I have found my outcomes to be much more effective."

Brummel, who was just looking to move up at the company where he worked, also discovered a new confidence that he can succeed at any company.

"After completing the program, my goals have change slightly," he said. "I now have the confidence and ability to become a senior leader within any organization."