By Dr. Justin Ako
Dean, Online BSHA and MHA programs
When I think back on the things that made me the person and leader I am today, at or near the top of the list would have to be my upbringing in Hawai’i, where the influence and importance of “Ohana,” family, are so intrinsically a part of the island culture.
I moved to the mainland in 2011 and to Texas in 2021, but the desire to treat those closest to me like family remains as strong as ever and is really the cornerstone of the culture I've tried to create and model as the Dean of the Online Bachelor and Masters of Health Administration programs at West Coast University.
ONE PROGRAM, ONE FAMILY
I treat the BSHA and MHA faculty like family, and collectively we treat our students like they are our own. Beyond being a reflection of my own values, I think it is also an especially vital driver of success for distance learners who don’t have all the natural support resources that come with being on a physical campus.
I’m with the students every step of the way along their journey, whether that’s an email or a zoom call, whether it’s to talk about a class or their career, whatever. And while some students may need more of a frequent touch, others may flourish with more space, and that’s something I’ve learned to pick up along the way, but the common thread is that you are never alone at WCU, and that extends beyond graduation.
Our career services team helps look for specific openings based on a student’s desired path, and then it shares those opportunities with the students. Of course, I will also be available for as much – or as little – assistance as a student may want with letters of recommendation, career advice, or just to lend an ear.
One student who knew my “office hours” better than most was Paolo Linao, and that’s what I’m here for; whether it’s a question about classwork or a program or a career, that’s the thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction, helping a student to achieve their goals – Paolo earned his BSHA in May 2021 and his MHA in May 2022.
In addition to being treated like family, students in our programs will experience a rich learning environment with instruction that will take them beyond theory to provide real-time, real-world examples to help to bridge the gap between the classroom and work in risk management, quality control, project management, leadership, creating and managing financial statements and creating policy.
We have been able to achieve that because our curriculum is taught by industry professionals – they’ve worked on the floor, they’ve worked in the field – and so they can give our students real-world examples as these events are happening.
We’ve also incorporated a number of technological advancements to enhance online learning:
- We have a “streaming series” that’s part of the first class (FYS002) in our BSHA program;
- We have added an app that allows for easy flow of communication between students and faculty; and
- We have created a partnership with LinkedIn that allows our students access to LinkedIn Learning where, among other things, they can earn certificates and obtain skills necessary to be competitive in the marketplace.
What’s more, students in the Online BSHA and MHA programs at West Coast University can move at an accelerated pace if life allows for that or, if you’re one of the many people who feel like there aren’t ever enough hours in the day, you can move at a little slower pace.
Dr. Justin Ako
Dean, Online BSHA and MHA Programs, WCU
The opinion is the individual’s sole opinion and not necessarily representative of that of the school, any instructor or any other student.
WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment.
WCU Distance education programs are delivered out of the California and Texas campuses and may not be available to residents in all states.