Skills employers want: New York woman enrolls in GVSU program to meet changing industry needs

Tara Daggett has worked for a wireless phone company for 20 years. As she began to see an increasing industry reliance on data, analytics and databases, Daggett, who is a community engagement manager, looked for a program to learn how to interpret and use data in the workplace.

The search was not easy, she said. From her home in Buffalo, New York, Daggett looked at 12 universities but none offered programs that met her needs, until she found Grand Valley's accelerated degree and certification program.

"I wanted an asynchronous program and one that could be done in a short period of time," Daggett said. "Because my company offers tuition reimbursement, the program needed to be for actual class credit, not a bootcamp or continuing education credits."

Grand Valley launched its accelerated degree program, LEADS, in 2020. One year later, enrollment rose by 70 percent. 

portrait of Tara Daggett in a purple shirt in front of a purple background for Metro by TMobile
Tara Daggett enrolled in the accelerated degree program from her New York home to learn how to build databases and interpret data for her job with a wireless phone company.
Image credit - courtesy photo

The flexible and customizable degree program, with six-week classes, allows students to shape their bachelor's degree and earn a certificate in a high-demand area (business fundamentals, leadership, applied data analytics, project management or intercultural competence and communication). Students also can choose to enroll in a certificate program only.

For Daggett, the program checked all her boxes. She enrolled in the Applied Data Analytics certificate program and worked with GVSU staff members to transfer credits from her bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York, Oswego.

"I liked that the second class in the program was offered for free and I could start almost immediately. I'm now three classes in and will finish rest next year; the faculty have been great," she said.

Simone Jonaitis, executive director of Adult and Continuing Studies, said Daggett represents a good example of how the appeal of LEADS is attracting students not only in Michigan but throughout the country.

"The program is the right format to serve adult learners. They are able to walk away with a certificate or degree and have a tangible skill to apply to their jobs or even boost their careers," Jonaitis said. "We're offering Grand Valley's foundation in liberal arts integrated with opportunities to develop and explore new skills." 

Daggett said she is learning how to build databases and dashboards, tasks her director said will help her advance at her company. Together they are creating a plan for Daggett to sit in on meetings with departments she might not normally work with, to listen and learn about upcoming projects.

"I'm talking to people I work with about my classes, it's applicable and real-world experience," she said. "At the same time, I'm updating my LinkedIn profile and my skills on the company intranet."

The next session of LEADS classes will begin on August 29, a second session for the fall semester will begin October 12.


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