Jody Yearwood

Jody Yearwood, Senior Vice President & CIO, Executive Director of the Global Online College at Georgia Military College

We have the great opportunity to talk to business executives who decided to go back to school and get their masters degree online, and they each have their own unique story to tell. This week’s guest Jody Yearwood received his Master in management information systems online from Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business. Additionally, he oversees online learning at Georgia Military College. So Yearwood knows both sides of the coin. On this episode, he shares his online graduate experience, his thoughts on online learning in the COVID-19 era, and more with producer Jon Waterhouse.

Transcript of Show

Jon Waterhouse (00:28):
It’s business talk time on 95.5 WSB, Atlanta’s News and Talk. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse. You know, here on Lenz on Business, we have the great opportunity to talk to business executives who decided to go back to school and get their masters degree online. And they each have their own unique story to tell. And here with us this week to talk about his experience is Jody Yearwood. He’s Senior Vice President and CIO, as well as Executive Director of the Global Online College at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville. And it’s at Georgia Military College that he helped launch 29 online degree programs at both the associates and bachelors degree levels. So it made sense for this Georgia College undergraduate to go back to school via its online program for a master of management information systems. He’ll be sharing his experience and the effect it’s having on his job this week on Lenz on Business. And you can learn more about Georgia College’s online business programs at makeyournextmove.org. Jody, welcome to the show.

Jody Yearwood (01:40):
Hi, thank you for having me.

Jon Waterhouse (01:41):
So Jody, let’s talk about your job at Georgia Military College and why you went back to school and got your master’s degree online from Georgia College. Tell us a little bit more about what you do.

Jody Yearwood (01:53):
Okay, great. So right now I am overseeing the IT operations for GMC, and that spans 14 different campuses across the state of Georgia, all through the regions. So we manage all of those systems out of our department with the split across three divisions. And then the second part of my job is, I actually oversee the Global Online College, which has about 4,000 online students anywhere from the associates level up to the bachelors level. And we have students from all over the world. So our college functions much like anything else. We have the different degree programs, we oversee financial aid, coaching services, success coaching, admissions, business office services. You name it, it’s a complete package. So, it’s a very busy day-to-day operation.

Jon Waterhouse (02:42):
So you’re at the executive level. What made you want to go back and get your masters degree?

Jody Yearwood (02:47):
Well, it’s one of those lifelong goals that I always had after finishing undergrad. I started out as just a computer programmer and then worked my way up through industry and found myself in higher education, where degrees are very welcomed and expected. It’s one of those that I always planned to do but never could quite get around to doing it, with 12-hour work days and kids and family and you name it. Making that leap to go ahead and start back was always next year’s goal. But luckily my wife got involved, and wives can tend to push us pretty hard, if you’re familiar with that. So she did, she pushed me on that and said, “You know, you’re not getting any younger. It’s time to go ahead and get this done.”

Jody Yearwood (03:34):
So it put me in motion and got me looking at degree programs that are out there, and I started doing the research, and then ended up coming back home to Georgia College where I’d gotten my undergrad. It was just a natural fit for us. They had a good program, good faculty, I was familiar with them. It was online, so it worked around the schedule. And with enough pushing from her, I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet and get it done.

Jon Waterhouse (03:58):
So any other reason that you chose Georgia College? Because there are quite a few online graduate business programs out there. Why Georgia College for your MMIS?

Jody Yearwood (04:09):
There are. Well, they were one of the ones that had that particular program that was out there. There are a lot of MBAs, but there’s not a ton of the MMISs. I liked their program, like I said, and I was familiar with their faculty. I’ve lived in Milledgeville and had been in community groups with them, and so I was friends with some of them, knew them all, knew it was a good program. It had a great price on it, I don’t think it ran me more than about $11,000 to $12,000 out of pocket, is what I paid for it. So it was very economical. So just familiarity with the actual degree program, the price, and then anybody that has any experience with it knows it’s a great school.

Jon Waterhouse (04:48):
Folks, you’re listening to Lenz on Business, presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. 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 simply complete the form to get started. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse, and this week we’re talking with Jody Yearwood. He did just that as a graduate of one of Georgia College’s online graduate business programs. Now, Jody, when you enrolled in Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business’s online master of management information systems program, you were one of the oldest in the program at that time. How did it feel going back to school at that age? Was it a little bit of an intimidating experience to get back into that mindset?

Jody Yearwood (05:47):
I don’t know that I would say it was intimidating. I was obviously one of the oldest ones around, so that was an interesting situation to find myself in. One of the, I guess, challenges that I had is, I wanted it to be seen just as any other student that was in there. And as I was coming in as somebody that had already achieved vice president, CIO level status, obviously I had the job that a lot of people starting into that program already wanted. So it was a little weird coming back after I had the job. So that was probably the largest challenge, is just, I wanted to be seen just like every other student and really participate in the program and learn with it. But I was able to bring a lot of experience, there was a lot of group work, a lot of research projects you did together.

Jody Yearwood (06:32):
So I think getting my experience of having been in industry for over 15 years at the time was good for the students that I worked with. But it was also good for me because they had fresh perspectives and they had, a lot of them had just come out of their undergraduate a few years before. So I learned quite a bit from them, and new ways of thinking and how another generation might approach different problems. So it’s good, when you put that many different levels of professionals together, everybody can learn from each other.

Jon Waterhouse (07:02):
So Jody, let’s talk about some ways that you used your own personal experience to help others along the way, and then we can look at the other side of the coin.

Jody Yearwood (07:11):
Yeah, so especially in the group projects, I would say when we would approach a particular problem or a research project or anything that’s out there, maybe not a problem is the best way to say it. But a lot of the things that we were researching I had already had previous experience with. Whether it be redesigning entire networks if you were more of a technical class, or some of the more business and leadership focused classes, managing staff, preparing budgets, how to do project management. These were things that I had all done in my career and was actively doing. So I was able to bring that real world perspective to the project, which I think is helpful whenever you’re doing academic work.

Jody Yearwood (07:53):
But it was great for me because seeing how they approached it, a lot of them a lot younger than I was, made me pick up maybe some things that I could say differently, do differently, think about differently that would work better with my own staff that I was coming back with that are a lot younger than I was. So it was a lot of give and take, a lot of share, and I hope they learned something from me. And I know I learned a lot from them.

Jon Waterhouse (08:17):
If you’re just tuning into Lenz on Business, we’re talking with Jody Yearwood. He’s a graduate of one of Georgia College’s online graduate business programs. In fact, it’s a master of management information systems that he received at Georgia College, brought back to work just across the street at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville. Now, Jody, let’s talk about how you balanced school and work, and compare your undergraduate experience with your online masters experience. Because off the air you explained to me when you were in undergraduate school at Georgia College you were going to school at night, you were working full-time. Compare the two, that versus your online masters program experience.

Jody Yearwood (09:04):
Yeah, that’s a great question. When I was in undergrad, working full-time and having to work a traditional classroom based schedule around my work schedule, to say that was challenging would probably be an understatement. Night classes, very long night classes, if you’ve ever done night school work, very long classes, a lot of work, you’re jamming a lot there into the evenings, a lot of times after work. So you’re already tired before you ever get to classroom. Or working in classes based on the schedule, when you can take a lunch break or just trying to fit everything together and piece it together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you just can’t make everything work. So it took a long time to get that undergraduate degree finished. You fast forward into the graduate degree program, because the courses were delivered online I was really able to tailor it around my schedule.

Jody Yearwood (09:56):
So I’m the type of person that likes to work in very long blocks of time. Maybe it’s my programming background or something, I don’t like to break it up into chunks. I like to dive into a project and get it done. So you do a couple of things during the week, attend a couple of lectures if you need to, that sort of thing. But I was really able to schedule a lot of my weekend time, Saturdays and Sundays, spent a lot of time in the office working 10 and 11 hour stretches, and get most of my work completed that way. So you really could tailor it around what you had going on in life, which was just such a better experience. Well, maybe not better, but an easier experience for a working adult.

Jody Yearwood (10:36):
My wife actually decided at the same time, she pushed me into going back to school, so I pushed her as well. So she started her graduate degree at the same time I started mine, and she approached it completely differently. She likes working in small chunks and she likes breaking up her days, and she was able to do that as well. She’d work over lunch breaks or maybe an hour every evening. So I would support the house and the kids and everything else while she was working on hers during the week, and we’d swap and she’d take over everything on the weekends. And I would sequester in my office for several long blocks of time. And at the end of the day we both graduated at the same time with pretty good GPAs.

Jon Waterhouse (11:14):
Well, I look forward to diving deeper into that topic. Because as you mentioned, you have two small children and you all were both going back to school at the same time and handling that as well. So I’m very curious about that. Folks, you’re listening 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 we’re talking with a Georgia College online business graduate, Jody Yearwood, here on the show. We’ll be back with more from Jody right here on Lenz on Business on WSB.

Richard Lenz (12:05):
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 (12:34):
We are back at you with more business talk here on Lenz on Business, presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse, and this week we’re talking with Jody Yearwood. He’s senior vice president and CIO as well as executive director of the Global Online College at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville. He received his master of management information systems online from Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, also based out of Milledgeville. And this week Jody is sharing his experience and the effect that his graduate degree is having on his job. You can learn more about Georgia College’s online business programs at makeyournextmove.org.

Jon Waterhouse (13:21):
Now, Jody, before the break you brought up an interesting note. Your wife also decided to go back and participate in another online masters program at Georgia College at the same time you decided to go back to school. And you both have two small children. Let’s talk a little bit more about how that worked. You were explaining about that before the break, but if you can dig a little deeper and give us an idea how you guys made that happen?

Jody Yearwood (13:50):
Yeah, that’s a great question. So definitely I would say that we like a challenge as a couple, apparently, and maybe we just like punishment and pain. Because it was not easy, three years together was in graduate school with the kids, and it was a lot of juggling. But being that the programs were delivered in the format that they were, the online, and we were able to work around and build the schoolwork around our already existing, pretty hectic schedule, we really were able to come together as a team and make it work. And a lot of that is because we approach work very differently. As I was saying before, my brain works, I do not like to be broken in a train of thought. So if I need to sit down and research and write a paper or do a project and it’s going to take six, seven hours, I want to work for six or seven hours and be uninterrupted. It’s just the way my brain kind of operates.

Jody Yearwood (14:44):
Hers is completely different. If she has to work for longer than an hour on any one particular task, I think she would go absolutely insane. So because of that compatibility of the way we worked, I was able to really work through most of the week with her, she could take a couple of hours a day, maybe at lunch or maybe in the evening after the kids settled down a little bit, and really knock her work out in small chunks, which worked for her. It wasn’t overwhelming, and she was able to get everything done that she needed to in the course of the week. And I was able to keep up with during the week if there were discussion forum posts or anything that I had to sign in to or be available for.

Jody Yearwood (15:24):
But most of the work in grad school is done in research papers, projects, that sort of thing that I find really fit well with that long block of time. So we would swap on Friday evenings and she would go over and she would be done with her work for the most part, and I would start sequestering in the office and just knocking out large chunks of work. It was not unheard of for me to pull a 12-hour Saturday in order to pump a paper out and get it ready to go for the next week. But it worked for us. If we had had to go to a traditional program where we were sitting in a classroom, I don’t think that we would have ever been able to pull that off, especially not at the same time.

Jon Waterhouse (16:06):
Well, this is incredibly inspiring that you both were able to pull that off at the same time. Folks, you’re listening to Lenz on Business, presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. And don’t forget, you can make just like our guest this week, Jody Yearwood, and participate in their program. You can get your MBA, your master of logistics, or master of management information systems. That’s what Jody did. You can get those online, and GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournextmove.org and complete the form. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse. We’ll be back with more Jody Yearwood on Lenz on Business after news, weather, and traffic right here on WSP.

Richard Lenz (16:53):
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 (17:16):
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 joining me this week is someone who knows that program from the inside out. Jody Yearwood is here with us, he’s Senior Vice President and CIO as well as Executive Director of the Global Online College at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville. And it’s at Georgia Military College that Jody helped launch 29 online degree programs at both the associates and bachelors degree levels.

Jon Waterhouse (18:07):
So it made sense for this Georgia College undergrad, that’s where he went to school earlier, it made sense for him to go back to Georgia College via its online program for his master of management information systems degree. Jody is sharing his experience and the effect it’s having on his job with us this week. And you can learn more about Georgia College’s online graduate business programs at makeyournextmove.org. So Jody, let’s talk about some of the work that you experienced in the program. If someone is going back to school and is interested in the master of management information systems program via Georgia College’s online program, what should they expect as far as work goes and that type of involvement?

Jody Yearwood (18:54):
I would say I would break the type of work that you’re going to do into three very broad categories. And the classes are going to span, some of the classes are going to be focused almost all in one category and others will span all three, the first one being the technical aspect. You’re going to take a lot of, well, not a lot, but you’ll take some classes in there that are going to be very technical focused. You’re going to learn about networking infrastructure or maybe app development, programming, web development, e-commerce, security, and logistics. So all of these things, ERP, you’re going to take classes in these areas, and these are going to be very technically focused classes. So you’ll be doing a lot of projects, in-depth research on these particular areas and topics of study using a lot of online learning labs.

Jody Yearwood (19:41):
I really loved some of those that a lot of the professors have used where, and I forget the name of the software now, but you actually would log into it and build a network rack together by dragging and dropping certain components and plugging them in and making them all work and programming the routers and all of that fun stuff. So yeah, if you’re into the technical aspect of it, which I know most people in the information systems field are, there’s going to be quite a bit of that work. And it’s challenging, it’s not overwhelming, but I think it’s good to teach you the conceptual skills of some of the more technical aspect of your job.

Jody Yearwood (20:16):
And the second part of it will be the more business or soft skills. So there’s quite a bit about leadership development, staff development, managing teams, managing projects, managing budgets and expectations. You’ll spend quite a bit of your class time focused on the management aspect of somebody that is in business with a technical focus. So great classes, great topics, and I think those are the ones that will probably stay with me longest. Technical skills can get outdated pretty quickly, although the concepts, you can pretty much work with just about anything. But the soft skills are the ones that seem to never go away. Those are the ones that will stick with you. And working with people and working within companies and organizations and being an expert in those particular situations, I think, are something that will stay with anyone throughout the span of their career.

Jody Yearwood (21:13):
And then the third area that I would say, and this really runs through all of them, would be the research component. And it was probably the one I was least prepared for. I thought that I had done research. We say that a lot, “I’m going to research this topic and get back to you.” I didn’t have a clue until I hit that first class what actual research was. And they will make you very good at it. They’ll drill it into you and you’ll do it in just about any class. So I don’t care if it was a technical class or more of a business focus, it’s probably all of it’s going to have a research component. And you’re going to do papers, they’re going to require quite a bit of work.

Jody Yearwood (21:52):
And there’s a very specific way that is done. And I learned that one the hard way very quickly. So that was probably the most challenging aspect of it but the one that I maybe got the most reward out of it. Because it taught me how to go through and really research, dissect, put together a plan, and I’ve been able to use that in my career after taking those courses.

Jon Waterhouse (22:14):
And I want to learn more, Jody, about what you’ve learned and what you’ve applied in your career across the street over there at Georgia Military College. Folks, you’re listening to Lenz on Business, presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. And don’t forget, you can get your MBA, your master of logistics, or master of management information systems online just like Jody here, and GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournextmove.org and simply complete the form to get started. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse, and yes, we’re talking with Jody Yearwood, a graduate of one of Georgia College’s online graduate business programs. In fact, he’s a graduate of the master of management information systems degree. And Jody, let’s talk about some ways that you’re using your degree in your job at Georgia Military College.

Jody Yearwood (23:10):
I wish I could tell you that I do a lot of technical work. Those days seem to be behind me. I think I spend most of my days in meetings or projects or coordination and you name it. My teams don’t let me touch technical things any more because they think I might break it. I don’t believe that. I think I could probably pull it off, but we’ll see. But yeah, so I would say probably the main aspect that I brought back and really developed in my role now would be understanding and being able to apply academic research in a business setting. Before that, I am a data driven individual, I like making data driven decisions, we have tons of data in the college world and higher education. But being able to really look at a problem and build a research problem around it, do the literature review, set up your experiments, dive into it, and figure out what the problem is, and not only go on what you think the data and your intuition is telling you, but being able to actually do the research properly, has really opened my eyes.

Jody Yearwood (24:20):
Being that I run a college campus of about 4,000 students, one of the things that we dove into around the same time, and I actually used part of it for a project that I was doing in graduate school, was raising the success rates of online learners. I set that up with our deans and some of our faculties, we built the research project, we dove into the data, we did the literature review, we did it just like you were going to publish it somewhere. And at the end of the day we ended up with some very actionable solutions that probably none of us were thinking about before we went into the project. I certainly wasn’t myself, but we were able to, through implementing some of those tools, doing the research, doing it correctly, we were able to build an actual strategic plan that achieved our goals.

Jody Yearwood (25:10):
We raised the success rates of those students in those courses because we were able to really research and identify what the issues that were causing them to not be successful were. So it was bringing it home from the graduate studies into the workplace and being able to put it to good use and actually have a deliverable for the organization you work with.

Jon Waterhouse (25:31):
So Jody, you were talking about your experience, of course, in online studies in the graduate program there, Georgia College’s master of management information systems. Of course you had a great experience studying online, and your job over at Georgia Military College is as executive director of the Global Online College. So you have this great experience not only as an online student, but as an online executive director of study. Jody, how do you think the current COVID-19 era is going to have an effect on online learning? Obviously this gives us an opportunity amidst some of the social distancing guidelines that are being set up, and who knows how long some of these things will be on people’s minds and how it’s going to change things. How do you think online learning is going to impact this current era?

Jody Yearwood (26:26):
Well, I think, wow, I wish I had a crystal ball to really foresee the future. I think the ground is shifting underneath us in higher ed just about every day trying to keep up with the different directions and everything that’s coming out. I will say this, I think that online learning will probably be taken a lot more seriously in the coming years. If it’s not a part of your college’s delivery mode of education, if you’ve stayed away from it, if maybe you haven’t really launched those programs, I guarantee you every college president out there right now is wondering how they can get their online programs up and running. To give you an example, with GMC’s online programs, those 4,000 students, when we had to transition because our campuses went from in-seat learning to remote distance learning where everything had to be done remotely, like most other colleges, it was a large ground shift and everybody was scrambling to pull it off.

Jody Yearwood (27:22):
Our faculty did an amazing job, but it was not an easy lift. In the online college we didn’t miss a beat. It was already set up. We had everything built for the remote services. The students were used to taking the remote classes. The only impact we had was, we had more students coming into that online environment. And I think you’re going to see a lot more of that, especially as the uncertainty that’s out there in the higher ed marketplace right now, people are probably going to be looking for those online programs a little more than they were before this happened.

Jon Waterhouse (27:50):
Well, folks, you’re listening to Lenz on Business, presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. And don’t forget 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. And we’re going to be learning more from Jody Yearwood, a graduate of one of Georgia College’s online graduate business programs here on Lenz on Business. We’ll be back with more in just a few moments right here on WSB.

Richard Lenz (28:35):
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 (28:58):
You’re locked into Lenz on Business here on WSB, presented by the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse, and this week we’ve been chatting with Jody Yearwood. He’s Senior Vice President and CIO as well as Executive Director of the Global Online College at Georgia Military College, based out of Milledgeville. He received his master of management information systems online from Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, and he’s been sharing his online studies experience and the effect it’s been having on his job with us this week on Lenz on Business. And you can learn more about Georgia College’s graduate business programs at makeyournextmove.org. Now, Jody, if I’m not mistaken, you also received a promotion recently, not too long ago. And did your masters degree play a part in this?

Jody Yearwood (29:57):
Yes, it actually did. Yes, I was lucky enough to get promoted about, I guess, five months ago. I went from being a Vice President of information technology to a Senior Vice President. So what that means is that I was able to step up, and I actually have a cabinet level position now, reporting directly to the President. The graduate degree played a huge role in that. Number one, you wouldn’t be qualified to have a senior vice president role without a graduate degree. So it was that last piece that I needed in order to be able to earn the promotions that were in front of me.

Jody Yearwood (30:32):
But secondly, through the experience and some of the projects that we put in place that I talked about earlier with the research projects and really being able to apply that and move the needle on some business outcomes, we made the institutional decision to rebrand and relaunch our online programs from being an online campus, Georgia focus, to the Global Online College this past year. So I think it really showed the President what the capabilities and the possibilities are for what we can do and what we can bring to students worldwide. And that’s been growing gangbusters since we’ve done it, and it’s really going well. So without that degree I wouldn’t have qualified for it, and without the learning that I had there I don’t think I would have ever pulled off some of those projects in order to move some of my operations forward.

Jon Waterhouse (31:23):
And so, Jody, obviously you are a proponent of online learning. You were talking just a few moments ago about how this is definitely a game-changer in the world of higher education. Let’s talk a little bit more before the end of the program here some final thoughts regarding online learning, and why do you think people should consider it and consider a program like one that’s available, a masters program at Georgia College?

Jody Yearwood (31:49):
Well, it is an effective way to study. And I think a lot of people are scared of the format. They think they need to sit in a classroom in order to learn. And we’ve proved day in and day out that you don’t, you can have a very effective education without being in a classroom. So people don’t need to fear online learning. And they also need to understand, especially for the working adults and the people that need education to fit within their lives, online is a great option for them to be able to do that. There is no other way that you can really schedule all your work/life/school balance that you would need to have without that online option. So I hope that people stop fearing it and really understand that it’s a viable way to learn and it’s just as good as any masters degree you would get sitting in the classroom for three years.

Jon Waterhouse (32:38):
Well, thank you so much, Jody Yearwood, 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 onbusiness.com. And the whole shebang is brought to you by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. You can get your MBA, your master of logistics, or master of management information systems online, GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournextmove.org. I’m producer Jon Waterhouse. We’ll see you next time on Lenz on Business right here on WSB.

Richard Lenz (33:21):
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.