I sometimes feel bad about being born. Not so much the actual event, mind you, just the timing. I was born during what should have been my mother’s last year of college.
At many colleges in those days, when a woman got married, she was forced to move out of the daytime program and into night school. You know what a bad influence those married women can be. And if she got pregnant? Well, that was evidently just too much for the delicate sensibilities of college administrators of the time.
My mom and dad got married in between her junior and senior years of college. I was born in March the following spring. Although she wasn’t showing when the fall semester started, she knew she couldn’t hide it until Christmas.
Since this was a teacher’s college, and she’d be practice teaching in real schools, she risked being arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor if she didn’t fess up right from the start. So, because of me, she had to drop out just two semesters short of her degree.
But did mom let it get to her? No, instead she did what many resourceful Depression/WWII-Era folks did: As soon as she got my youngest sibling into full-day first grade, she worked two jobs and went to night school to finish her degree. By the time I entered high school she was working on her masters.
When that’s how you grow up, that’s what you think is normal. So when it came time for me to put myself through college, I did it her way (although without the pregnancy). It took me five colleges to finally get through it all - three community colleges and two four-year schools across three states. I went until the money ran out, worked and saved a bit more, went back for more classes, rinse and repeat until done.
As a result of her experiences and mine, I came to see education more as a process than an event.
Despite having been born at a time when I could watch the Apollo launches and moon landings live, it would've been convenient had the Internet come along a bit sooner.
What with Coursera and Open Course and Kahn Academy and online distance education programs, my own children will probably never be forced into a formal educational break.
But at least I get to take advantage of what’s on offer now that my children are through college. I’ve been having some fun these past several months with friends and colleagues who ask, “What’s new, Leo?” I whip out my official NC State University student ID card and reply, “This!”
NC State, the official university of the Sadovy Family, offers a Masters of Statistics program/degree entirely online/distance ed, including some really cool electives like Clinical Trial Data Analysis and (fingers-crossed) Spatial Analytics.
They’ve thought their targeted audience through pretty well – the courses run Wed-to-Wed, so that you always have a weekend in between modules, assignments and quizzes. That way, even if you’re traveling that week, there’s plenty of time to do your homework.
NC State is home to the nation’s first Masters in Analytics program, supported by SAS and its longtime commitment to education, (including SAS University Edition available at no charge to analytics students and faculty anywhere). But NC State is not the only game in town.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, there’s a whole new educational world out there. My research uncovered numerous online/distance ed programs in everything from cybersecurity to public health to IT, as well as the numerous business/MBA programs that have been available for some time.
One notable program is with SAS partner Capella University, which has terrific online programs in analytics and IT systems management. Contact Ryan Jasperson, Enrollment Counselor (Ryan.Jasperson@capella.edu, 888.221.8615) to get your questions answered and get yourself enrolled.
Why am I doing this? For the value-add to both my own skills and my clients’ projects. As I discussed in this post, Good habits for big data, I start with the business problem and work back towards the Big Honkin’ Data Cube.
The path that links the two has a name: Analytics. And I want to get to know and understand that path the way an experienced mountain guide knows the trail to the summit. You hire that guide to get you there as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible, which is what SAS business analytics consulting does for its clients.
All that to say, I have no intention of taking up golf in my retirement. A quote I once read said that a life could be divided into thirds: One-third to learn, one-third to earn, and one-third to serve.
I am still in my middle third, which will likely take up half, but volunteering, as I've done for almost two decades with the Scouts, is always going to be a priority. And my son’s experience with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the globe has demonstrated to me how critically they need analytics for problems such as fighting epidemics, dealing with the effects of global warming, improving education and healthcare, and monitoring their fragile environments.
So I have a plan for what remains for me of that middle third as well as the final one -- a plan fueled by a passion for lifelong learning, inspired by mom.