One Graduate’s Pursuit of an Online Master of Business Administration Degree “Just For Herself” After Life Change
Recent graduate Kellie Stout earned her master’s in business administration, with a concentration in organizational leadership, this past spring. With more than 30 years experience in the healthcare industry and the support of her sons and family, she says, “It’s never too late to learn. You should always make learning new things something that you do every day.” Kellie is a director of ambulatory operations at Cooper Hospital. Here, Kellie shares more about her Rowan experience.
Did you always know you wanted to pursue a master’s degree?
I did. I graduated in 1991 on a Saturday and the following Saturday I got married. I’ve been married twice, so that was my first marriage. It was a crazy time, and then, I was newly married. Then life happened, but I always knew I wanted to go back, but not for what. I have two boys, and when my youngest was 17 is when I applied.
It’s not always something I wanted to do [a master’s in business administration program]. I always wanted to go back because I graduated from Glassboro State before it became Rowan University. I always knew I wanted to go back here.
Why specifically a business degree as opposed to a healthcare-forward degree?
Honestly, I don’t need a degree in my position. I don’t need my master’s, I have the life experience. I’ve always been in healthcare, and I have 30 years of experience. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business, specifically in accounting. I was also working in the healthcare field, and I just kind of stayed there. So I didn’t think I needed a healthcare degree since I already had years of experience. I like being a leader, and that’s one of the reasons that I went back from a job change. Four years ago into leadership, I liked meeting people. I like the ability to see growth, so I thought that organizational leadership would be something that for me. Personally, I didn’t need a degree for my advancements, I just wanted something for myself.
Why did you choose Rowan for your master’s degree?
I always wanted to go back to Rowan for my master’s. For me, it just had to be for the timing for me to come back. I knew I couldn’t do it on campus [in person]. I couldn’t come to campus with my schedule with work and my kids. My husband passed away in June of 2018. And so that was my life change. After that, I kind of realized that I had to stop putting off things that I wanted to do. I don’t ever do New Year’s resolutions, but I had things that I wanted to complete and getting my master’s was on that list. That was my catalyst; It was just something I needed to check off.
So you take 100% of your classes online?
And do you enjoy that?
I do. I have two boys who are 19 and 23. They’re both in school now, and they both hate online classes.
Some people like it, some people don’t, some people are in between.
I’m not a fan of group projects. I was 55 when I graduated in May, so I’m an older student. But some of the younger students in these group projects have been trying on me, as I have young boys, so I get it. I’m a self learner, so I enjoy that.
Can you tell us more about your position at Cooper?
I am one of a team of nine directors of ambulatory operations. My job is a little different than the majority of the directors, as I don’t oversee practices specifically; I oversee what starts as projects. I’ve been in this position for two years as a director, and I’ve been at Cooper for 13 years. I was moved into a director role to oversee a call room that had been changed. We’re trying to change our process a little bit where the patients don’t call practices, they call a ‘call room’ that can function as an office. So I was tasked with that. I teach the EMR system to our front desk staff in ambulatory operations, and then a couple other projects. But last year, I took over the COVID site. I oversee Cooper’s testing and vaccination sites.
Can you explain what an EMR system is?
So we use EPIC, the EMR system, which is the patient’s medical health record, one of the systems that has been predominantly taken over healthcare. Virtua has it. Robert Wood Johnson is going live with it; Jefferson has it. So when our new hires come for front desks, our patient services representative, the employees who check in and check out our patients, can teach them their system. It’s a six-day onboarding class. I teach those new hires and I also am the person in ambulatory operations who then, with any new endeavors, could put out or new upgrades. I will educate or push out the education to all of our staff.
What is a typical work schedule like for you at Cooper, like a shift or a weekly shift for you, because I’m guessing the remote option is not applicable.
Our director level recently voted on and put into place a one day remote option for the directors. I haven’t done one, and I probably won’t just by the nature of what I do. Especially my call room, I teach a few classes, and I’m learning a new thing right now. So I don’t think I will do the remote as much as the others might be able to do. My typical week is in itself crazy. I’m usually here by 6:30 am. I’m usually on a 12 hour day. I normally do 60 hour weeks. My COVID site is seven days a week. But my work-life balance is much better than before. Because before this, I’ve worked more which I don’t understand how that happened. You don’t get up now that the kids are older, they get themselves to wherever they have to go so I can get up and out of the house and do my thing early in the morning.
How do you balance school, work and home life?
It’s not always been easy, but my kids make it really easy. I have great family support. My sisters are amazing. So, I think in the last year, I figured out that life is a little bit crazy every day. But you just have to figure that crazy into your schedule. And it works. I don’t know. Some people look at what I say, what I’ve done, and they’re like, “How do you do that?” It just works [itself] out.
Can you tell us more about the Organizational Leadership concentration?
I finished my program with Leadership Theory. For me being a leader for 30 years, I’ve always been in leadership positions. It’s been great to see different things but it really is an interesting concept when you look at managers versus leaders. Some of the things that I’ve learned during these classes with the students that are in it, some of them are just out of their undergraduate, they’ve never been a leader. It’s been interesting for me because some of these classes, they can’t yet understand the full impact because they have not had those life experiences yet. So having life experiences makes things school a little bit easier for me, because I’ve either had situations, or I’ve had other courses that have tied into that.
Have you applied your coursework to your work at Cooper?
My leadership classes I have incorporated in my teaching, I do a two-day new hire orientation for the new hires for all of the ambulatory and I talk about school, and I talk about different things. I have 20 direct reports of employees that I have reporting to me, and the average age of my employees is 23 or 24. So I’ve gotten three of them, actually, just to go to school for their undergraduate by just speaking to them about my journey. A couple of them have applied to nursing school. I’ve used some of the things that I’ve learned differently in the leadership classes to incorporate that in how I deal with the employees that I have. I’ve never had male employees, and I have five now. My youngest is 20 years old in my phone room right now. I think the classes have made me more confident. I wasn’t as confident as I am now in my abilities to shape other people; that is something I developed through taking these classes.
What are your career goals after earning your degree?
I don’t plan that far ahead anymore. I take every day as a gift, because things are not promised to anybody. What do I want to do with my degree? I don’t know. My kids think that I’m gonna go apply to get my doctorate degree. I don’t think that’s happening. I think I might use this to apply to be an adjunct professor. That might be my next thing. I actually sit on the high school school board as a school board member. I’m not gonna rerun for that next year, and I’ll be done with school. So I gotta figure out something to do with myself since my kids are getting older.
It sounds like you like to keep busy too.
I like to keep busy. I just took two vacations. I went away on a cruise to Bermuda with my sister. Then my other sisters and I go away every year in October to the Dominican. We just did our fourth trip. I already have to plan for next year. So I try to keep busy, but I’m also trying to enjoy life a little bit differently.
Do you have any advice for future students considering an MBA?
Absolutely, I think it’s the best thing for you to develop yourself. But in organizational leadership, I think you need some life experience. Being a leader before this will be as impactful, and has been for me. And I think it’s not even just for people going for their MBA.
Was there anything else that you wanted to add that I didn’t ask you that you wanted to add to your story?
It’s never too late to learn, right? You should always learn something that you do every day. And I tell my employees this, everyday, it could be a challenge in healthcare. My team answers about 700 phone calls a day. I normally have about 15 employees on each day here. It’s gonna be tough. People are sick, and they’re in pain. So I challenged them every day to find that one person they made a difference with. But I also challenge them each day to learn something new.
We have the thing here called The Pulse, which is a page where you can go and find out anything you want about Cooper. I challenge him every day as new hires, and employees, pick a different link. I am the person that people come to all the time looking for things, usually because I know them. I like to learn and sometimes it’s a little tough. But it’s a nice thing. I just think that everyone needs that, something that makes them happy. For me, it is learning. So find out what makes you happy and go for it.
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Edited by: Jordyn Dauter, junior dance & elementary education double major