Georgia College connects us with business school graduates who have interesting back stories. One of the most unique stories belongs to Morris. He’s spent nearly 30 years in the military, and he currently serves in the Army National Guard as an aviation safety manager for the state and a helicopter instructor pilot. He was actually deployed in Afghanistan when he decided to enroll in Georgia College’s WebMBA program. A true testament that it’s never too late to get your master’s degree, Mark was in his early 50s when he enrolled. And today he uses his knowledge on the job with the U.S. Army. He talks with producer Jon Waterhouse about these topics and a whole lot more.
Transcript of Show
Jon Waterhouse: 00:25
It’s business time on 95.5, WSB Atlanta’s news and talk. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse warming the seat this week and I think no matter one’s personal business philosophy, many agree, a business-related master’s degree will give you an edge. And periodically we have guests in the studio who have done just that by snagging a degree through one of Georgia College’s online graduate business programs. And Georgia College is our sponsor, so they help connect us with graduates who have interesting backstories and certainly one of the most interesting and unique stories belongs to this week’s guest. Please welcome Mark Morris. Mark, welcome to the show.
Mark Morris: 01:10
Good morning, Jon.
Jon Waterhouse: 01:11
It’s great to see you. And a little bit about Mark, he spent nearly 30 years in the military. He currently serves in the Army National Guard. Mark is an Aviation Safety Manager for the state and a helicopter instructor pilot. He was actually deployed in Afghanistan when he decided to enroll in Georgia College’s WebMBA Program. A true testament that it’s never too late to get your master’s degree, Mark was in his early fifties when he enrolled and today, he uses that knowledge on the job with the U.S. Army. You can learn more about Georgia College’s WebMBA Program at makeyournextmove.org. So Mark, let’s start off and talk a little bit about your background in the military.
Mark Morris: 01:59
Okay. In 1990, 1991 I pursued getting accepted in the helicopter flight training and attended the Army helicopter flight school in 1992, finished in 1993 and then I transition back to a part time reserve service working full time in IT. So in 2005 I had the opportunity to transition to full time service in the Georgia National Guard and I’ve been working in that role since then.
Jon Waterhouse: 02:33
So you had a combination of business experience and military experience converging and coming together.
Mark Morris: 02:39
Yes. I’m proud of my military service. After graduating from UGA in 1984, I worked for a family business for two years and then started an IT consulting business. I ran that for about six years and then after my flight training, I began working for defense contractors in an IT role, or had the chance to work in a couple of different states and eventually wound up on a job that allowed me to deploy worldwide.
Jon Waterhouse: 03:05
Okay. Wow. So as I said in the introduction, you’re currently serving in the Army National Guard as an Aviation Safety Manager for the state and a helicopter instructor pilot. Describe a typical day in the life for you.
Mark Morris: 03:18
Okay. Typically, we publish a weekly flight schedule, so if you’re on the flight schedule for that day, you’ll have prepped for that schedule flight. Maybe the day prior you’ll show up, you’ll meet the flight crew and finish up your planning depending on the type of flying you’re going to do, whether it’s instrument training, flying in the clouds or a tactical training, flying around a military reservation. You’ll go through the planning process, go out to the aircraft and surely aircraft’s ready, just get in and go flying. And then either I’m conducting training, either we have pilots who are receiving some training on a certain part of the flying that we’re doing or maybe I’m giving an evaluation or maybe I’m receiving an evaluation, getting a check ride, if you will. When I’m not flying, my main job is working as an Aviation Safety Officer of foreign aviation troop command here in Georgia. It’s kind of like a brigade.
Jon Waterhouse: 04:13
Mark Morris: 04:13
We have three aviation support facilities in Georgia, one in Savannah, one in Marietta, at Claremont National Guard Center, and one in Winder. So I help facilitate the safety programs for those locations. They each have their own safety managers and I work with them really ultimately to prevent accidents. And then if we have any accidents, to analyze what happened and how to prevent future accidents. And then with that, help facilitate safety training and safety inspections.
Jon Waterhouse: 04:44
Folks, you’re listening to Lenz on Business presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business. And don’t forget you can get your MBA, masters in Logistics or master of management information systems online and GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournextmove.org and simply complete the form to get started. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse and this week we’re chatting with Mark Morris, a graduate of Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business WebMBA program. And as I said earlier, Mark has a very interesting story. He has a military background, but he wanted to go and receive his MBA and he chose Georgia College’s WebMBA program. So Mark, what made you want to go back to school?
Mark Morris: 05:29
Well, I’ve been wanting to go back to school since I received my undergrad and in fact one of the first questions my oldest brother asked me the week after graduation is, when you’re going to grad school? Well, 30 years later I finally went to grad school. With raising a family or getting married for 30 years and raising four children as you guys probably know it, sometimes it can be difficult to find the time or make the time to go to grad school. But during my third deployment to Afghanistan I realized that if I was going to do this, I need to really push for it. Fortunately, the year prior while attending my daughter Kirsten’s Freshman Convocation, I met Dale Young, Georgia College, I think the Dean of the business school at that time.
Jon Waterhouse: 06:16
Mark Morris: 06:17
He pitched the WebMBA program to me. While we were talking … And was a great salesman because I thought about it during the deployment and then started the process of applying to the program while I was deployed.
Jon Waterhouse: 06:28
I thought that was incredibly fascinating. There you were in Afghanistan, thinking about going back to school and Georgia College was on your mind and as you said, you are part of the Georgia College family. Not only yourself, a Georgia College graduate, but two other children and two children currently enrolled in Georgia College.
Mark Morris: 06:46
Yeah, go bobcats. Absolutely. We were first attracted to Georgia College with our oldest son when he was doing his college search. We visited a lot of schools and we found Georgia College to be just the right size with the right programs and as experience has shown us just great professors and a great learning environment. And so, I thought that might be a great way to pursue my master’s in business, was with Georgia College and it’s worked out.
Jon Waterhouse: 07:13
And let’s talk about that selling point that Dean Young had. What really attracted you to this? I mean, some of the other reasons that really made you pull the plug on this.
Mark Morris: 07:23
Well, initially I was skeptical because I was, as I said, in my early fifties and I’m thinking, how can a 50 year old go back to school? How can I find time to write these assignments and take the test? Test taking would be a challenge. And then he quickly explained how the online delivery system works and obviously he knew what he was talking about because he helped set it up. But the biggest selling point was the ability to enroll and take classes wherever I was, not have to sit in a classroom, and then work with professors long distance. And using that process was what I was looking for.
Jon Waterhouse: 08:01
So here you are in your early fifties, you’re going back to school and you’re in the midst of a challenging work schedule. Was it intimidating for you? Was this something that you had to really mull over?
Mark Morris: 08:11
It was, especially after being accepted to the program. You read all the bios of the other students and the first thing I thought was, wow, okay, we’ve got attorneys, we’ve got business leaders, we have physicians, we had people from all walks of life. And I thought, well, I need to step up and kind of bring the A game to this program. So that was intimidating. But I enjoyed the experience overall.
Jon Waterhouse: 08:35
And let’s talk about how you made it work and made it very full life. I mean, how did you fit it into your studies in the midst of a military career?
Mark Morris: 08:44
Well, like anything that you’re going to do that’s online or in the midst of having a family and a busy business career, it was challenging. I just returned from a deployment, so I was adjusting back to being in the States and working with my children’s education, support my wife and then doing the online work in the evenings. I found that generally between 9:00 PM and 12 midnight were my times and then Saturday and Sunday afternoons were my times to really focus on the program or perhaps I can do it early in the morning. Fortunately, the team that I worked with, we had a team of six guys on our cohort. We worked well together and we were able to carve out the time to have our online meetings or text meetings or however we need to do it. And we just made it happen over 18 months.
Jon Waterhouse: 09:43
But not only were you, as you said, had this military career, but you are also helping manage your children’s education. You and your wife are homeschooling some of your children at the time, right?
Mark Morris: 09:57
Yeah. We still had two children in school. One was finishing middle school, one was in high school and the other two were in college, so the college children were doing the online thing. But the other two I would write papers for class, but I’d also grade papers for my children’s class or help grade exams and my wife did most of that. Really what I did was serve as an administrator role, help do some editing and some correction, but she did most of that work. But the writing that I had to grade helped me improve some my writing I had to do for the classes.
Jon Waterhouse: 10:36
So you had all this going on and when people say they’re waiting for the right time to make a big life change, like going back to school, I truly believe that there’s never the right time, right?
Mark Morris: 10:47
You have to make the right time. If you wait for the right time, the right time will pass you by. So you have to really work and create that opportunity.
Jon Waterhouse: 10:56
Folks. You’re listening to Lenz on Business right here on Atlanta’s news and talk 95.5 WBS. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse and you know what? Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business offers top ranked online graduate business programs including MBA, master of logistics and supply chain management and master of management information systems. Learn more at gcsu.edu/business and we’re going to be learning more about this program from Mark Morris, a graduate of Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business WebMBA program. We’ll be back in just a few moments.
Hi, this is Richard Lenz and you’re listening to Lenz on Business presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business. Visit them at gcsu.edu/business, again that’s gcsu.edu/business.
Jon Waterhouse: 12:13
Welcome back with more Lenz on Business presented by Georgia College’s. J. Whitney Bunting College of Business right here on WSB. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse and this week I’m chatting with Mark Morris. He spent nearly 30 years in the military and he currently serves in the Army National Guard. He’s an Aviation Safety Manager for the state and a helicopter instructor pilot. Mark was actually deployed in Afghanistan when he decided to enroll in Georgia College’s WebMBA program. A true testament that it’s never too late to get your master’s degree. Mark was in his early fifties when he enrolled and today he uses his knowledge on the job with the U.S. Army. You can learn more about Georgia College’s WebMBA program at makeyournextmove.org. Now Mark, some Georgia College online business students experience online learning for the first time in the program, but you are familiar with this type of education. Can you explain?
Mark Morris: 13:12
Absolutely. The U.S. Army uses an online learning model for other professional military education. Most of your Resident Courses, if not all, have a distance learning precursor or prerequisite to complete before you go resident. So some of those technologies were similar to what I used when I attended the WebMBA program.
Jon Waterhouse: 13:35
So let’s talk about some of the differences and similarities between those two types of learning.
Mark Morris: 13:39
For example, the most recent military education I completed was a senior staff course and all of their distance learning modules were delivered via something called Blackboard. There was a very similar system, also called Blackboard, just a variation that I use for the WebMBA. So, writing assignments, tests, all those things were very familiar with doing the senior staff course and with the completing of the WebMBA.
Jon Waterhouse: 14:08
So when you’re in this online environment, is it difficult to create that camaraderie amongst some of the fellow students and the professors?
Mark Morris: 14:16
At first you think so, but with our group, we had weekly video conferences so we saw each other every week. We called each other a lot. And I also find that in business and in my job, I carry out my job kind of the same fashion. I don’t get to see all my safety counterparts all the time, face to face. I may see them a couple times a month. So I depend on an online presence to make our jobs work. And so the online learning for the WebMBA was the same way.
Jon Waterhouse: 14:47
And you were talking about all these other members of the cohort coming from different backgrounds. How did you all complement each other?
Mark Morris: 14:55
Oh, pretty entertainingly. We had a physician, two engineers, a logistics guy and actually a biomedical researcher, so all those different backgrounds. We had everything from type A+ to B-, and the one thing we learned quickly it was we had to hold our meetings by an agenda. We had to have, here’s what we’re going to talk about, and that kept us on track.
Jon Waterhouse: 15:26
We’re staying on track right here on WSB Lenz on Business, talking with Mark Morris, a graduate of Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business WebMBA program. And don’t forget you can get your MBA, master of logistics or master of management information systems online and GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournextmove.org and complete that form to get started. And we’re going to be back for more Lenz on Business and Mark Morris after news, weather and traffic right here on WSB.
Hi, this is Richard Lenz and you’re listening to Lenz on Business presented by Georgia College’s. J Whitney Bunting College of Business. Visit them at gcsu.edu/business again, that’s gcsu.edu/business.
Jon Waterhouse: 16:34
Welcome Back to Lenz on Business, I’m producer Jon Waterhouse. Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business offers top ranked online graduate business programs including MBA, master of logistics and supply chain management and master of management information systems. Learn more at gcsu.edu/business and if you just tuned in the Lenz on Business, we’re talking with Mark Morris this week. Now, Mark has spent nearly 30 years in the military and he currently serves in the Army National Guard. He’s an Aviation Safety Manager for the State and a helicopter instructor pilot. He was actually deployed in Afghanistan when decided to enroll in Georgia College’s WebMBA program. And you know what? It’s never too late to get your master’s degree. Mark is living proof of that. He went back to school in his early fifties and today he uses his knowledge on the job with the U.S. Army.
Jon Waterhouse: 17:32
You can learn more about Georgia College’s WebMBA program at makeyournextmove.org. Now Mark, earlier on in the show we were talking about life balance amongst going back to school and holding down a full-time job. And some of the Georgia College online business students who’ve been on the show, they have talked to me about things happening while they’re in school and they all agree upon the fact that life indeed does happen. It doesn’t slow down, it doesn’t let up along the way. And while you were enrolled in the program, your wife faced a lifesaving surgery. Can you talk about how that impacted your world around you?
Mark Morris: 18:14
Absolutely. One of the things we talk about in the military is kind of a triangle of how you live your life. You have your career, you have your family and the National Guard and also the military service. So at different times you’re going to have different tensions in those areas. Now, adding to that, an online education, doing that at night, things are going along pretty well. My wife needed a surgery. She’d previously had a procedure done and six months after that she had to have another procedure done. So preparing for that, obviously my focus needs to be on her and getting her ready, but I also needed to satisfy the requirements for the MBA program. So my mother-in-law and I were sitting in the waiting room during her surgery. I’m sitting there with my laptop that I have with me here today, researching and typing up an MIS assignment. So I figured we’re going to be here for four hours, let’s use the time. So you have to find ways to create and use the time you have to get the job done.
Jon Waterhouse: 19:15
And let’s talk about some other creative ways that you made at work throughout the week.
Mark Morris: 19:20
Well, with the Blackboard system and with using Skyping and Google Hangouts often while traveling, either me or one of the other team members would call in to our video conferences. That was one hard fast rule. You had to have a great excuse not to be on that conference call because we had a lot of team projects that needed to get accomplished. And one of my friends on my team members was literally on a subway in L.A. calling into the conference. And so we got the meeting done and I was impressed that he had that level of diligence and desire to be a part of the team.
Jon Waterhouse: 20:02
So what was the most odd or interesting place that you noticed either yourself or one of the other participants called in from? One of those crazy locales.
Mark Morris: 20:13
That time in L.A. another time I was transporting a helicopter from Maryland back to Savannah and we had to divert to another airport due to weather. So, I had a sudden stop at a chance to call in and catch up with what the team was doing. And fortunately, with this program you can leverage technology and you don’t have to be physically present, but you can virtually be there. Occasionally, you might have to just leave a recording, make a quick video recording for your component. One of our classes required us to do a 20 minute video presentation so each team member had to record their portion of that entire video, wherever you were. So you would occasionally try to stage your background to make it kind of seamless together. But a better way to do that is to put something wacky in your background and see if you can make your teammates crack up while they’re recording their part.
Jon Waterhouse: 21:14
Did you ever do it inside a helicopter?
Mark Morris: 21:17
We did. A couple stills. I never could do into the helicopter it’s just too loud.
Jon Waterhouse: 21:23
Folks, you’re listening to Lenz on Business, presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business and don’t forget you can get your MBA, master of logistics or master of management information systems online and GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournextmove.org and complete the form to get started. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse and this week we’re chatting with Mark Morris, a graduate of Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business WebMBA program. Now Mark, let’s talk about how you’ve applied the knowledge that you gained from the program in your position in the military. That seems from the outside, like a bit of … An orthodox application. Can you talk about how the two correlate?
Mark Morris: 22:10
Absolutely. Well, if you think about the military as a huge non-profit, our business is not to make a profit from a revenue standpoint, but we do have a huge organization that’s composed of a lot of smaller organizations, especially in the National Guard because we have 54 states and territories. They have National Guard Organizations and you’ll often work with people from different backgrounds, different geographies in different skillsets. So you have to realize how to work with those or how to learn how to work with those.
Mark Morris: 22:40
Probably, the first thing I learned was in my organizational behavior class was the importance of recognizing the usefulness of friction within an organization. No organization is ever going to just run seamlessly. You’re going to have friction points at various times. And it’s usually when you’re trying to develop a new product, complete a project, or get some new idea, introduce it to an organization or some big rollout. Well, people have different ideas and instead of being friction or crisis averse, maybe you just need to engage and recognize and allow those things to play out and then look for what you can gain from it. So I got that. And then in the accounting class, the biggest thing I learned there was you have to ask questions. The professor was ready with a lot of resources to give you, but you’re all adults and he’s not going to spoon-feed you just like any other business. So you have to ask questions and you keep asking questions until you find the right questions and then you’ll start getting better answers.
Jon Waterhouse: 23:40
So how did this help enhance your communication skills in your job?
Mark Morris: 23:45
Well, again, back to the organizational behavior, it was part management and part writing class. This professor was all about written communications, even email communications. You had to take little short seminars on how to do proper business communications over the email or in written format. And some of that was really different than what I was used to. We’re used to just texting equipment, quick message notice. But in business or in an organization, you have to be sure that you communicate the message correctly and you want to make sure that you get the details correct and that class helped with that.
Jon Waterhouse: 24:20
So Mark, I understand that after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, you put together a task force for solutions including repairing dams in Puerto Rico and a whole lot more. So how did your degree help you approach this in a new way?
Mark Morris: 24:36
Well, we used some of our marketing skills because we had to market what we could do. Oftentimes when you show up to do disaster relief such as Hurricane Maria or Katrina or Ike or some of those others, you’ll show up with a team. But the customer and this case in Puerto Rico, FEMA needed to know exactly what we could and couldn’t do. So we had to market ourselves correctly and we had to have a come up plan and place and a quick demonstration or talking through what we could do to bring value to that situation. So when we arrived in Puerto Rico, the first task was to help prepare dam, the Guajataca dam in Northwest Puerto Rico. So we had to continually work with the Army Corps Engineers, with the Civil Engineer to improve on that project and you just don’t show up and say, hey, we have helicopters, figure out how to use us. We want to help inform you and educate you on how you can use us and how we can provide more value to you.
Mark Morris: 25:34
So we finished that project fairly quickly, much quicker than we thought. And then FEMA had another project to help repair the power line infrastructure. So we were literally plucking a 70 foot tall power line towers off the mountains, moving them to another spot for them to be rebuilt and reintegrate into the power line. So along with that, we’re working with civilian contractors, military personnel and government agencies. And so communications, there was really key and finding way to solve those problems. And the MBA, using their kind of a team concept, no one’s going to solve every problem by themselves you just simply can’t. You don’t have the skill sets. Maybe you don’t have the communication skills, whatever. So you have to figure out how to engage everyone on the team to bring the total solution to that situation or crisis or opportunity, if you will.
Mark Morris: 26:29
And so the WebMBA working through the program with the team, especially with a team that were in different locations, because while we’re in Puerto Rico, we occasionally had to reach back to the U.S. to Georgia to D.C. to get information. You had to continue to learn how to just engage everyone all the time.
Jon Waterhouse: 26:48
So when you were in the midst of this situation and things were popping in your head like, okay, let’s do this and I’m going to use these skills, were you cognizant of like, hey, this is something that I picked up in my WebMBA.
Mark Morris: 27:03
In some ways it was absolutely, especially a couple of times when we had a language barrier because not everyone in Puerto Rico speaks fluent English and so occasionally … And I don’t speak Spanish that well, so we would work with … We would find an expert that could help us. And so in that case that program helped me learn how to leverage local experts.
Jon Waterhouse: 27:27
Well, folks, we’re talking with Mark Morris this week. He is a graduate of Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Businesses WebMBA program. He’s also a 30 year veteran in the military and he has put what he learned at Georgia College through the WebMBA Program to work in his day job. And folks, as you know, Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Businesses sponsors the show. But we also want to remind you that marketing matters and Lenz knows marketing from brand strategy to advertising, digital marketing, to public relations. Think smart, think creative, think Lenz. Learn more at lenzmarketing.com. We’ll be back for more right here on WSB.
Hi, this is Richard Lenz and you’re listening to Lenz on Business presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business. Visit them at gcsu.edu/business, again that’s gcsu.edu/business.
Jon Waterhouse: 28:50
You’re listening to Lenz on Business, presented by the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse and today we’ve been chatting with Mark Morris. He spent nearly 30 years in the military. He’s currently serving in the Army National Guard as an Aviation Safety Manager for the state and a helicopter instructor pilot and he was actually deployed in Afghanistan when he decided to enroll in Georgia College’s WebMBA program. And today he uses his knowledge on the job with the U.S. Army. You can learn more about Georgia College’s WebMBA program at makeyournextmove.org. Now Mark, in the previous segment we were talking about ways that you’ve applied your knowledge learned during Georgia College’s WebMBA program, there at your job. Can you give some more example?
Mark Morris: 29:44
Sure. Anytime we do an aviation operation we’re putting together some task force or at least the way I work or where we work. So the entrepreneurship class really helps you work on and improve your skill sets for being innovative, either bringing novel ideas to approach a problem or solve a crisis or seek out those ideas. So that class really gave me some background on what I needed to look for and what our team needed to look for with the other leadership. And then the operations management class talk really teaches you how to evaluate your resources that you have and choose the best solution based on the scarce or find out resources that are at your disposal. So down when you’re in an environment like a disaster or a combat deployment, you always find out resources. So that program really helped me improve my skill set in that area.
Jon Waterhouse: 30:37
Can you give us a specific example?
Mark Morris: 30:39
As we said before we did some long line sling loading of the power line towers. So we had to-
Jon Waterhouse: 30:47
This is in Puerto Rico after the hurricane?
Mark Morris: 30:50
Yeah. So one thing we hadn’t done much before was work with civilian contractors directly. So we had to work with those guys and get on the same page for communications. When their line man is on top of a tower, his hands are both engaged hanging onto the tower, hooking up the long line hook to the tower. So we had to really learn and work with him on safe ways to communicate with him. We couldn’t talk to him on our radio. And so, the ops management program, well, that segment really helped us analyze what resources we have and find some ways… We went up using this helmet. They have stripes painted on their helmet depending on how they shake their head, either they climb, descend, move left, move right forward and back while he’s hanging on the tower and you’re about 150 feet above him.
Jon Waterhouse: 31:43
My goodness. Well Mark, I understand that you often come out to the WebMBA student orientations at Georgia College to meet with new students. What advice do you give new students who are stepping into this program?
Mark Morris: 31:55
Persistence, patiently persistent, be patiently persistent with the program.
Jon Waterhouse: 32:00
There you go. Words of wisdom from Mark Morris, a graduate of Georgia College’s Web MBA program. Folks, you’re listening to Lenz on Business or you have been listening to Lenz on Business. Thank you so much Mark for joining us this week and make sure and check out our website for our library of past shows at lenzonbusiness.com that’s L-E-N-Z on business.com. And the whole shebang is brought to you by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business. You can get your MBA, master of logistics or master of management information systems online and GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournextmove.org and complete the form to get started. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse. We’ll see you next time right here on Atlanta’s news and talk 95.5 WSB for more Lenz on Business.