Aaron McPherson

Aaron McPherson, Vice President of Integrated Care Services, Institute on Aging

McPherson, a seasoned healthcare executive, discusses how he went back to school through Georgia College’s WebMBA program, despite being located in Alaska. He shares online graduate school tips and tricks, and how attaining an MBA helps with career advancement.

Transcript of Show

Speaker 1: 00:02
It’s time for Lenz on Business with Richard Lenz on 95.5 WSB, Atlanta’s news and talk. Presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, exploring Atlanta’s business leaders and inspiring stories, lessons learned and tips for growth and success.

Jon Waterhouse: 00:26
Yes, it’s time to talk business on 95.5 WSB Atlanta’s news and talk. I’m producer John Waterhouse. And 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 master’s degrees online, and they each have a very unique story to tell. And here with us this week to talk about his own experience is Aaron McPherson. Aaron is a seasoned healthcare executive and currently the Vice President of Integrated Care Services for the Institute on Aging based in San Francisco, California. He received his Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of South Carolina, and he earned his Master of Business Administration through Georgia College’s WebMBA program. You can learn more about Georgia College’s online graduate business programs at makeyournextmove.org. Aaron, welcome to the show.

Aaron McPherson: 01:26
Hey. Good morning, John. Thank you for having me.

Jon Waterhouse: 01:27
And with the wonder of technology, we’re speaking to you in San Francisco, California. How are things in San Francisco?

Aaron McPherson: 01:35
It’s a beautiful day today. Great weather, definitely a good place to be in the summer.

Jon Waterhouse: 01:40
Wow. I know, it’s funny here in Atlanta the weather is fluctuating and I’m a bit envious. I love that mild weather in San Francisco, so I hope you are able to enjoy that right now. So Aaron, I want to talk a little bit about your background. You have a clinical background in physical therapy, but you eventually were attracted to explore the business side of the healthcare industry. What led you to that?

Aaron McPherson: 02:08
Right, yeah. So, as a clinician I had known, I guess since I was a child that I really wanted to get into healthcare. And all the way through my doctorate program I really loved working with people, I loved helping people, and being a clinician was all I knew. But once I really got into the clinical role, I realized that I gravitated more towards the business side. I always wanted to be a leader, I wanted to be able to make a decision for the team. And I realized that I wasn’t in a position to do that unless I had the credentials, or at least the position to do that. So, I’d always had the ability to communicate well, so I figured the management side would be kind of a given. But I didn’t really have the background knowledge to be successful in business, the finance aspect or accounting, those types of things.

So I always wanted to go back to school to get a business degree just to make sure that I could have that good foundation to be a business leader. Also, talking to people that were in positions of leadership, I always kind of asked, where is it that I need to go next before I can kind of fill the roles that you guys have? And business school always came up. It didn’t necessarily mean an MBA, it could have been something in healthcare administration. But I wanted it to be very, I guess diverse in my education. So I chose a business school, and I thought once I do this I really will have the keys to open the next door.

Jon Waterhouse: 03:42
And let’s talk a little bit about the doors that have opened in regard to your WebMBA. You’re currently working at the Institute on Aging. Can you explain what your company does and what exactly you do at your company?

Aaron McPherson: 03:57
Sure. So we’re a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that basically tries to meet the needs of seniors, those over 50 who have aging related needs. This can be everything from working on securing housing to making sure that they have medical care, and then all the social aspects of aging, making sure that they have the ability to socialize, work with other, or at least converse with other seniors in getting groups. We work on making sure that their food insecurity is taken care of. So it’s an organization that really focuses on making sure that seniors are taken care of. And as a clinician, that was always what I wanted to do, and now I’m doing it from a little bit different angle and looking at it through a different lens. In the organization we have 20 plus programs that kind of attack the aging spectrum, the problems associated with it, at least, from a lot of different angles.

And integrated care in which I manage from the VP level really looks at how to build a team around these vulnerable seniors and address all the issues kind of as one interdisciplinary team to make sure that we’re not missing anything. Not every senior is the same, and sometimes they need physical care, sometimes they need emotional care, sometimes it’s psychological, sometimes it’s as simple as just having someone to talk to. So having that kind of background to be able to lean on as a clinician has also helped in the business world.

Jon Waterhouse: 05:33
And Aaron, I definitely want to learn more about how your WebMBA played a role into you obtaining this position at your current employer, and very interested in learning more about that. And we’ll be tackling that later on in the show, but let’s go back a little bit. As far as your decision to go back to school, why did you choose Georgia College’s WebMBA program?

Aaron McPherson: 05:57
Well, I had grown up in Georgia. I knew that getting an education in Georgia would definitely allow me the connections with individuals, not just in Georgia, but the Southeast. With Atlanta being such a huge metro area business center, knowing the right people in the Southeast was key to me. So I knew that I wanted the benefit of knowing the right people. And going online, and when you’re looking at business schools it seems like you have all the time in the world to try to pick the right one. And I did my research. I went back and I looked, and the WebMBA program was very cost effective.

So I knew that I probably would never be a Fortune 500 CEO and I didn’t need the $150,000 MBA. I wanted something that was very cost effective for me that would allow me to move up in my career, but do it in a reasonable manner. So Georgia College’s reputation as a brick and mortar school is huge. It’s a great program, very good reputation in the Southeast, and I thought it really aligned with where I wanted to be. And then it also allowed the flexibility of doing that program from either Alaska, or California, or wherever you really were.

Jon Waterhouse: 07:14
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 John Waterhouse, and this week we’re chatting with Aaron McPherson. He is a graduate of Georgia College’s WebMBA program. And Aaron, you were mentioning just before I was giving our sponsorship read here that the fact that the program was online played a big part in your decision. Let’s talk about the flexibility of online learning and why that was so important to you?

Aaron McPherson: 08:02
Well, obviously as someone that has to work to make a living, it really was a huge aspect of choosing what business school to attend. Because if I had gone to a traditional school where I had to be in class at certain hours, I probably wasn’t going to be able to keep the same job that I had. It would have definitely been a huge life change to make that move. So finding an online program that really allowed me to continue my work, continue living where I was living and meeting all the needs of that employment, having the online option played directly into that. So, all I really needed was a good connection and the time to do it, and it worked out perfectly.

Jon Waterhouse: 08:44
Was it a challenge to balance work and life with school? I mean, here you are in the midst of an executive career and you’re diving back into studies. How hard was that?

Aaron McPherson: 08:55
Well, I would love say that it was super easy. I’d always been really good at school, but actually doing an online program was a challenge in its own. First of all, when you’re working in a position, I was a director at the time, a director job is never 40 hours a week, so you can’t really guarantee that you’re going to be off at five or that you’re not going to have to go in at night or on a weekend. So for me, it was really just learning, how do I manage my time? How do I manage the aspects of my job? How do I make sure that I have time for interpersonal relationships for my family? Those types of things.

So understanding that time management was the biggest aspect was huge. The only way I could really be successful was learning how to do that. After that it was building relationships with the people that I was in the cohort with on the program, knowing that business school was never just an individual effort, but it was working with people. And once I was able to do that, it worked out very well. Education, I think was a common goal for everyone in our cohort, obviously, so we were working towards the same goal.

Jon Waterhouse: 10:06
And one thing I’ve learned talking to other Georgia College WebMBA grads and folks who have participated in their online business graduate business programs, is life happens, it doesn’t slow down during the program. Were there any specific challenges that you had to face during this time and how were you able to overcome them?

Aaron McPherson: 10:26
Sure. So I had just moved from New Mexico up to Alaska right when I was accepted in the business program. I had just taken a brand new job, so it seemed like everything in my life was in turmoil. Not necessarily in a bad spot, but there was just a lot going on. So I was learning a new community, I was learning a new job, I was learning a new school, and nothing in life stopped. It was one of those things that you just had to kind of go with the flow and make it work. One of the most difficult parts of being in Alaska and doing a program at Georgia College was there was a four hour time difference. So managing the aspect that most of the peers that you’re working with are getting off of work at five o’clock their time and it’s only one o’clock my time.

And then understanding that group meetings and group projects would all have to be done on the majority of the group’s time was a huge adjustment for me. The team itself really appreciated my aspect as well and said, hey, we’ll work with you on that. But understanding that it wasn’t going to change and just buying into the fact that, hey, this is kind of business anyway. Sometimes you’re going to be in a different area code, especially international business, understanding that was really helpful for me as well.

Jon Waterhouse: 11:43
I’m sure it was. Folks, you’re listening to Lenz on Business. I’m producer John 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. You can learn more at gcsu.edu/business, and we’ll be back with more Lenz on Business right here on WSB.

Richard Lenz: 12:12
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: 12:42
We’re 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 John Waterhouse, and this week we’re talking with Aaron McPherson. Aaron is a seasoned healthcare executive and the Vice President of Integrated Care Services for the Institute on Aging based in San Francisco, California. He received his Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of South Carolina, and later he earned his Master of Business Administration through Georgia College’s WebMBA program. And you can learn more about Georgia College’s online graduate business programs at makeyournextmove.org. Now, Aaron, before the break you were talking about the fact that you were actually based in Alaska at the time when you were undergoing and experiencing Georgia College’s WebMBA program. You were talking about the challenges of that. Can you talk a little bit more about what that was like?

Aaron McPherson: 13:40
Definitely. So, one of the great things about the state of Alaska is there’s plenty of things to do, especially in the summertime. Great weather, plenty of outdoor activities, along with work. So, I think the hardest part for me was realizing that I was going to have to actually set some time aside for school and realize that I couldn’t do all the traditional outdoor activities that I really wanted to do in the summer. There were a couple of times that I was doing a group call from a boat while I was fishing for salmon or something like that. But, I think that the biggest part of it’s really realizing that no matter where you are, as long as you have an internet connection, the ability to meet with your team, there’s a lot of technology out there that will help you do that.

So I didn’t feel 4,000 miles away, I felt like I was always able to be very connected with the program. And for me that was key. Most of the people that were in my cohort, they also weren’t based in Atlanta, so they were mostly on the East Coast. But it was a program that we could bring all of our diverse aspects of our experiences of our jobs to the role. When I was in Alaska I had this viewpoint from a nonprofit, medical, small town hospital experience while I was working with other people that may have had bigger metropolitan or urban experiences. So I think it allowed me to bring a different aspect of experience to the group.

Jon Waterhouse: 15:08
Wow. Fascinating stuff. Folks, we’re talking with Aaron McPherson. He is a graduate of Georgia College’s WebMBA program, the online program, and he’s currently the Vice President of Integrated Care Services for the Institute on Aging in San Francisco, California. And you are listening to Lenz on Business presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. Don’t forget you can get your MBA Master of Logistics or Master of Management Information Systems online. GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournextmove.org and complete the form to get started. And we’ll be back with more from Aaron McPherson right here on Lenz on Business after news, weather and traffic on WSB.

Richard Lenz: 15:59
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 gcsuu.edu/business.

Jon Waterhouse: 16:21
Welcome back to Lenz on Business. I’m producer John 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, Aaron McPherson. Aaron is a seasoned healthcare executive and the Vice President of Integrated Care Services for the Institute on Aging based in San Francisco, California. He received his Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of South Carolina, and he earned his Master of Business Administration through Georgia College’s WebMBA program.

You can learn more about that program at makeyournextmove.org. Now, Aaron, we were talking about the fact that you were actually living in Alaska at the time when you were participating in Georgia College’s WebMBA program. And I think a testament to the program is the fact that you not only see students from all over the country participate in the program, but the bond is strong enough with the university and their classmates to the fact that you came all the way from Alaska to attend the commencement ceremonies. Can you talk a little bit about that and the bond that was forged with you and the members of your cohort, and Georgia College at large?

Aaron McPherson: 17:54
Definitely. So when you spend the amount of time that you spend with those people in your cohort you build this bond. You’re talking to them every week, you’re talking to them throughout the week, you’re spending hours with these people. And I think during the orientation process you learn a little bit about someone, but when you see them for just a weekend, you don’t really get to dive in. But through the process of 20 months, almost two years in the program, people start to have children, people get married, people get promotions. You see people grow in their careers and you get to celebrate those victories with them. We had a great group and everyone was really dedicated to the program, but also you could tell when somebody got a new house that the whole group was excited for them. When somebody moved into a new role, there was a celebration there as well.

So there was this bond formed. And once you’re finally done with the program, you don’t want to just say goodbye by logging out. You want to make sure that you get to shake hands, and hug, and enjoy a meal and get to join that celebration with your group. The professors that you meet, the professors and the administration that you build a bond with, it’s really hard to just kind of wrap up the program with just, like I said, just logging off. You really want to see them, shake their hand, enjoy the fact that you completed something of such meaning and that you finally have some closure almost. It’s such a joyous moment, you want to make sure that you’re there to celebrate with everyone else

Jon Waterhouse: 19:32
And a running theme, Aaron, that I seem to see with some of the graduates of the online graduate business programs through Georgia College, is the fact that these cohort experiences really do forge not only support and friendships during the learning process, but as you said, you don’t just log off. A lot of these people who I’ve spoken with talk about the fact that they lean on some of their former classmates in day to day business decisions and challenges, they’re able to reach for them, and also reach for some of their professors who they studied under during that time. Is that true for you?

Aaron McPherson: 20:12
It is. With LinkedIn being so prevalent and prominent now that the ability to connect with the circle that you’ve kind of formed really makes it easy. And then you get to know their circle. So the networking aspect is huge. You’re building bonds with people in different careers. My cohort was made up of banking executives, IT executives, government workers. And then of course, as you mentioned, the professors, they’re the subject matter experts, and it’s always great to keep that bond so when you do have a question in the business world, you’re able to kind of do your homework before going into a big meeting, and you’ve run it by somebody that knows and that has this experience. So, I think the best part about the WebMBA program was actually building those relationships and building that bond and network with those that I worked with for so long.

Jon Waterhouse: 21:04
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 complete that form to get started. I’m producer John Waterhouse, and this week we’re chatting with Aaron McPherson. He’s a graduate of Georgia College’s WebMBA program. And Aaron, let’s talk a little bit about how the WebMBA program really sets you up for professional success? I do believe you have quite the story there.

Aaron McPherson: 21:48
Well, for me having the ability to get that background, that foundational education that you can take and basically show your employers, hey, I know what I’m talking about. I have the experience now, or I have the education now, I really just need the experience. For me, I was working as a director in a small hospital in Alaska, and after graduation I realized that I really was set up for a larger job. So, just having an MBA really helped me move from a small position into a large market like San Francisco Bay area. It allowed me to take the experience that I had working as a clinician, it took the ability for me to show that I had management experience as a director, but it really gave me that foundation that said, hey, this guy knows a little bit about business now, he’s probably in a position where he can go for a bigger role. So that opened up the vice president world to me, and I moved down to the Bay area and took a job as a Vice President of Operations. And it really did open that door for me, it allowed me to step in and show that I was ready for that next move.

Jon Waterhouse: 23:01
So what are some of the professional challenges you’ve been able to overcome thanks to your WebMBA? And I’m speaking about the more practical sense, maybe some skills that you attained during your studies that you’ve put to action, put to use?

Aaron McPherson: 23:15
Sure. So, for me I always knew the managerial side pretty well, but I had no idea about how to read a balance sheet or work with the finances of an organization. And as soon as you step into a vice president role you’re managing budgets, you’re putting together forecast on a regular basis, you’re having to read the financial documents to even stay in the game. So for me, it really was the accounting courses, the finance courses, utilizing the business statistics courses to really stay relevant in my field. There was course on international business and entrepreneurship that really propelled me into being able to make some decisions with some organizations that were international. Dealing with with some of those people was, I think for me it was kind of intimidating at first, but then I realized that I had something to lean on.

And I mean, I think just the fact of working with a cohort added to that. So it wasn’t a formal course, but as you’re working through this program, you’re learning how to delegate among your team, you’re learning how to build those interpersonal relationships when one team member may not be in line with the way of thinking of the rest of the group. So you’re learning how to work through those delicate conversations already just by working in a group all the time. So for me, it really just allowed me to step right in and feel like I had been doing this for years.

Jon Waterhouse: 24:41
Do you think that attaining an MBA is key for career growth in the healthcare industry on the executive level?

Aaron McPherson: 24:50
I think that’s kind of a loaded question. I think that I’ve seen a lot of students go straight from their undergraduate studies and start a business program, and they come out without the background or the experience, boots on the ground experience. And I don’t think it’s as helpful. But if you’re looking for something to supplement the experience that you’ve already gained in the workforce, I think it’s essential. I think that itself, if you have some experience and then the education, you’re going to be able to grow so much faster. So in the healthcare field, I think a lot of clinicians have that background knowledge of the medical aspect. Now working with a team that’s not only medical requires a little bit more education and requires a little bit more experience with an interdisciplinary team. And the MBA provides that. It gives you an opportunity to kind of branch out from just the clinical knowledge, but now you have that interpersonal and business knowledge.

Jon Waterhouse: 25:53
And we were talking just a few moments ago about some of the practical applications of your WebMBA degree in your work life. Do you have any particular favorite courses that really stand out to you that you really enjoyed, that you feel like you got the most out of through Georgia College’s WebMBA program?

Aaron McPherson: 26:11
I think the entrepreneurship class just blew me away. It was a totally different way of thinking than I had ever been used to. So learning that aspect kind of just gave me a different way of thinking, which was extremely, extremely great. I would talk to friends, and every time I completed a lesson for the week I’d take it back to work and I’d say, hey, and I’d apply it there. And I’d say, this is something I really learned, it was really cool. And then I would also say the finance and the accounting classes. Because it was a different language to me, it was totally foreign, it felt like it opened up a door that I had never been exposed to.

Going through the biology undergrad and then getting a doctorate in physical therapy all very much science-based. But the language of money just really intrigued me. So going through those courses, even though they were a little bit more difficult for me, I definitely did not ace those courses by any means, but it gave me a whole new language. It was like learning French or something. And it allowed me to at least be competent at the time, and now it’s given me that foundation where I can really thrive. So those three courses really stood out.

Jon Waterhouse: 27:24
And we’re going to be hearing more from Aaron McPherson, a graduate of Georgia College’s WebMBA program. And Lenz on Business is presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. 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. And also 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’ll be back with more Lenz on Business in just a few moments.

Richard Lenz: 28:15
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.

Jon Waterhouse: 28:36
You’re listening to Lenz on Business presented by the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College, Georgia is public liberal arts university, I’m producer, John Waterhouse, And today we’re chatting with Aaron McPherson. Aaron is a seasoned healthcare executive and the Vice President of Integrated Care Services for the Institute on Aging based in San Francisco, California. He received his Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of South Carolina, and he earned his Master of Business Administration through Georgia College’s WebMBA program. You can learn more about that program at makeyournextmove.org. So Aaron, you were talking a little bit about the cohort earlier, actually a good little bit about the cohort. Can you kind of give our listeners a definition of what the Georgia College WebMBA Online Graduate Business program cohort is all about?

Aaron McPherson: 29:31
Sure. The reason I mentioned it is because I think that was really one of the biggest parts of the program, is that was your group. That was the team that you worked with throughout the whole program. So once you start the program there’s an orientation in Atlanta, and everyone, the whole group of new applicants, new admittee’s to the program are altogether, and you get to pick a cohort. You get to pick a group of six or seven people that you want to go through the program with. And of course you don’t get to know them extremely well at the very beginning, but definitely throughout the whole program you do. That cohort, that six or seven people start the same curriculum. You’re in the same two courses every semester throughout the whole program. So you really get to learn their working styles, their learning styles, how they like to study, what kind of content they’re going to bring to the group. And throughout the program, the majority of the work is group work. It’s something that you may have to study individually and you may have to take tests individually, but you’re always producing some content together as a group. So you’re working with these individuals as a team to make sure that you’re succeeding as that cohort, as that team.

Jon Waterhouse: 30:48
Fantastic stuff. And as you said, working as a team, it enhances your work life. It kind of spills over. You learn those skills, they get sharpened.

Aaron McPherson: 30:58
Right, definitely. I mean, there’s very few positions in this world where you’re working independently, and the majority of the time in business you’re working with a team. And understanding how to manage a team, how to delegate through a team, how to have difficult conversations with a team, those are the most important parts of business school. You’re coming out with the ability to communicate and to move a group forward. Any company is going to be made up of multiple people, and being able to manage that function of bringing a team together and moving forward is essential. So that cohort environment allows you to do that.

Jon Waterhouse: 31:34
Well, thank you so much, Aaron, for joining us this week on Lenz on Business. And make sure and check out our website for our library of past shows at lensonbusiness.com. That’s L-E-N-Z onbusiness.com. And the whole shebang is presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business, Georgia’s public liberal arts university. Don’t forget you can get your MBA Master of Logistics or Master of Management Information Systems online, and GMAT waivers are available. Visit makeyournext move.org and complete the form to get started. I’m producer John Waterhouse. Thanks so much for joining us and we’ll see you next time on Lenz on Business right here on WSB.

Richard Lenz: 32:26
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.