13:49 PM

For Amelia Henry, MSOP Degree Offers Career Flexibility and Options

Bellevue University’s online Master of Science in Organizational Performance (MSOP) degree program is enabling Amelia Henry of Council Bluffs, Iowa, to move forward in her life and career journey. The program’s practical content and innovative design includes Action Projects that fit her interest and involvement in nonprofit organizations and causes.

Henry’s journey has been challenging, at times. Five years ago, she was a 28-year-old single-parent working eight- to 10-hour days as a childcare provider, supporting her five sons, ages eight months to 9 years. “With my lack of education, it was harder and harder to find a good job,” she recalls. “I had taken so much time off to be with my boys that I lacked practical work experience.”

Seeking advancement, she pursued a two-year Associate’s degree in Marketing at Iowa Western Community College, then enrolled in Bellevue University’s online B.S. in Marketing program, with scholarship help from a local nonprofit organization that assists low-income students and families. She also benefited from Bellevue University’s donor-funded American Dream Scholarship program. Although she enjoyed her studies, it wasn’t easy. She almost gave up at one point. “But my boys kept me going,” she recalls. “They strengthened that mindset of ‘How bad do I want this?’”

When a scholarship administrator job opened at the nonprofit which provided her initial scholarship, she applied but was told her bachelor’s degree would make her over-qualified. “I told them working with my kids for four or five years had limited my professional business experience. I thought that (nonprofit) position could be a stepping stone and enable me to build my career network,” said Henry, who got the job, gaining valuable work experience and grant-writing skills that enabled her to help enrich the lives of needy community children and families.

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Henry focused on work, family, and community volunteerism, at times working alongside her sons at a local homeless shelter. “I wanted the boys to see what they could do in the community.”

A Graduate Admissions Advisor job opening brought Henry to Bellevue University in 2019, and she resumed her education, tapping her employee tuition benefit. She pursued a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree for one term before deciding it wasn’t for her. When her father died, she considered abandoning the dream of a graduate degree. “But I realized I couldn’t give up. He wouldn’t want me to do that, because he never gave up,” she said. After additional research, she realized the MSOP was a better fit and something she could do. “It was more in tune with what I had learned from my Marketing degree and what I would like to do in the future,” she said.

Each of the six courses in the 36-credit MSOP program includes a practical Action Project that aligns with the individual student’s interests. “The MSOP program is quite unique,” said John Patterson, Associate Professor in the University College of Business and director of the MSOP program. “The Action Projects provide opportunities for professional certifications like Six Sigma, Project Management Professional® and other credentials that will distinguish them from a graduate of an MBA or other graduate program. Students not only earn a degree but gain credentials and workplace projects for their resume that ad value and make marketable and better able to branch out in their careers. That will mean a lot, going forward.”

Now midway through the MSOP program, Henry has implemented Action Projects that align with her interest and experience with nonprofit causes. One project was a successful grant proposal to bring the performing arts into the lives of disadvantaged area teens. Funding helped them produce promotional videos and purchased tickets and transportation to a local Omaha Performing Arts concert, including dinner beforehand. A second project grant application to a local nonprofit early childhood literacy program is pending. If approved, it will show low-income Council Bluffs Public Schools students that reading can be fun, getting parents involved and enabling students to meet, interact with, and learn from local authors.

“I think Amelia’s story can inspire others,” Patterson said. “She chose Action Projects that are community and civic-minded and can touch just about anyone. That’s the kind of story that, if more people heard it, would draw them to Bellevue University.”

For now, Henry is enjoying her life, job, studies, and her sons, now ages 7 to 16.

“It’s been a journey, for sure,” she said. And it continues.