The University's Continuing Education & Outreach staff have implemented virtual solutions to aid clients during COVID-19. (TROY photo)
For Marine Col. Chris Richie, Troy University’s Continuing Education & Outreach hit more than just a home run for the General “Hap” Arnold Executive Leadership Series – it was more of a grand slam.
Richie directs the program as a faculty member within the Air War College, a part of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base. In April, the series was scheduled for two, day-long seminars that normally are conducted in person, and brings a panel of Air War College students together with the community to provide a greater understanding of the United States military. All was set, that is, until COVID-19 shut down the plans.
The Arnold program has partnered with TROY through Continuing Education & Outreach for several years, bringing programs to the University’s campuses and the greater Alabama community. For Laura Chambliss, a market development manager for CE&O, finding a solution for Richie was a click away.
“Due to COVID-19, the two live events had to be cancelled; however, not to be deterred, Laura took the initiative to reach me and brainstorm options,” Richie said. “Our solution centered on setting up a virtual event on the Cisco WebEx platform. With less than a week’s prep time, we went live with Laura hosting two separate events.”
The results, Richie said were dynamic – bringing 96 participants from seven states and one from Italy to the table.
“Both events were a complete success and enabled six of our AWC students to share their stories and leadership lessons,” he said.
That type of service is typical of what the CE&O team has been doing during the pandemic – continuing to serve clients with the best possible solutions for delivering education and training programs.
“Regardless the location, CE&O has served private companies, government agencies, non-profits and charities to help develop both people and organizations,” said Dr. Lee Vardaman, who oversees the department. That commitment hasn’t changed during the disruption of many face-to-face gatherings.
Live Facebook Motivational Mondays, 10-20 minutes for each program, were designed and implemented, as were “Virtual Fridays Coffee and Conversation,” 30-minute, content-driven programs with a flair of humor. Added to these programs have been social media posts from CE&O instructors and posts about successes and leadership that have kept the department’s brand before their clients.
And while some 60-plus deliveries were interrupted during March and April, the department has continued to work with organizational consulting clients and the team’s Professional Administrative Conference, scheduled for April 22, was moved into a virtual format with great success.
“Troy University Continuing Education has found wonderful and creative ways to keep people engaged during this time,” said Lori Moneyham, public relations specialist with the Alabama Real Estate Commission. “The complimentary motivational sessions, leadership training, and seminars have been very beneficial. I have been uplifted by the positive messages and learned new leadership tips to enhance my professional life, as well as my personal life. I appreciate the trainers and staff for giving their time to provide these excellent growth opportunities.”
In fact, over the past seven years, CE&O has innovated new programs and new methods of delivery to meet the needs of an expanded client base. It’s grown by more than 800 percent, making it a profit center for the University. The organization has grown from revenues of $131,961 in fiscal year 2012 to generating some $1.4 million in FY19.
“All of the new programs we’ve developed over the past seven years have been added to serve the people and organizations of Alabama and the Southeast region,” Vardaman said. “It has extended to include international locations serving private companies and military contractors.”
Those companies are responding with an increasing reliance on the expertise CE&O is able to bring to the table.
“We wanted an organized but still easy and pressure-free way to touch base with our Leadership Forum program participants during this strange and difficult time. We turned to Joel Hughes and Laura Chambliss at Troy University’s Continuing Education and Outreach to see if they had any suggestions and they hit the nail on the head,” said Ashley Penhale, who is director of programs at the Alabama State Bar.
“Our virtual meeting call was exactly what we were hoping for. Our participants were able to connect with each other in a structured yet fun-and-relaxed environment,” she said.
The CE&O team consists of: Dr. Lee Vardaman, Associate Provost-Academic Support, Sharleen Smith, Director,Laura Chambliss, Market Development Manager, Joel Hughes, Trainer and Consultant, Dr. Jane Goodson, Training and Organizational Consultant, Carla Lymon-Howze, Client Services Coordinator, Sherri Burns, Continuing Education Specialist II, and Krista Granger, Continuing Education Specialist I.
“I quickly asked myself what my team members needed from me, what do our clients need from me, and how can I support my leader,” Smith said of the changes in operation occurring both within and outside of the University. “Our team met immediately to assess the situation, look at repercussions to our services to our clients, ways to continue services as scheduled, ways to virtually reach potential clients and ways we can serve our communities with providing free virtual training and more during this time.”
“Any team venture is an individual and collective effort to reach goals. TROY is an exceptional place to work anytime but especially during this situation. Why? TROY is a team, a family, and we all pull together to do what is necessary to meet TROY’s mission and vision, which includes the impactful work that Continuing Education and Outreach provides,” she said.
Learn more about the offerings through Continuing Education and Outreach at https://www.troy.edu/academics/continuing-education/.