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South University Volunteers Help to Develop IT Skills in Autism Community

by South University
June 22, 2018
A photo of an information technology professional using a computer.

Angelo E. Thalassinidis, PhD, Chair of the Department of Information Systems and Technology at South University, Tampa, first started volunteering with the MacDonald Training Center (MTC) at their Help Desk around 7 years ago, and it’s a partnership that, over the years, has kept growing.

Founded in 1953, MTC was one of the first US preschools for children with disabilities and has been a leader in serving individuals with disabilities ever since. They currently offer educational, vocational, and residential support programs to individuals with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities in Tampa and Plant City, Florida.

IT Career Opportunities for People with Autism

By 2020, the US will have nearly 3 million adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and, of the current adults with ASD, 70-90% are categorized as underemployed or unemployed.

"There is a huge question as to how we can help this community escape the barriers to employment that they face," says Dr. Thalassinidis. "So, we are asking what more can the Macdonald Training Center do, as well as what can we as a department do to be more involved in addressing this issue."

According to the National Institute for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), part of the problem is that traditional efforts to employ these adults focus largely on social deficiencies rather than cognitive strengths. Interestingly, Dr. Thalassinidis and other academics note that many people with ASD have strengths uniquely suited for careers within the information technology field, including high-demand areas like cyber security. Not only do most people with ASD have average or above average IQs, NICE reports that many of these individuals are skilled in:

  • Critical thinking
  • Rapid pattern recognition
  • Efficient quantitative analysis of data
  • Precision focus

"There are tracks within information technology where people with differences perform much better than the average person," explains Dr. Thalassinidis. "In those areas, we need people with special skills, and some of those special skills are commonly found within the disability realm."

Building a Partnership & a Solution: South University & MTC

With curriculum development support from South University and Dr. Thalassinidis, MTC has recently launched an innovative training program, Excellence in Computer Education and Learning (EXCEL), designed to help prepare youth on the autism spectrum for careers in technical industries and positions.

Currently, the South University, Tampa department has one IT instructor teaching at MTC, an experience they hope to learn from and build on. “We are starting with a course on Microsoft Office Software right now, but the dream is to expand to cybersecurity,” says Dr. Thalassinidis, explaining that their first priority is understanding the educational needs and learning styles of this population.

In the near future, Dr. Thalassinidis hopes to start having South University students volunteer at MTC under the guidance of the IT instructor. He believes doing so will not only help the instructor reach more students but will also contribute to the University’s mission of helping to shape the character of our students.

"We strive to develop our students as citizens. We try constantly to instill volunteerism into their everyday life by engaging them in community events on and off campus," says Dr. Thalassinidis.

From working with and better integrating disability communities into society to offering local organizations a helping hand, this practice of supporting each other and focusing on our strengths is what Dr. Thalassinidis believes will help us to keep up with the technology that is continually reshaping our lives.

"By looking at and working on our strengths rather than our weaknesses, by looking at and embracing diversity and change, this is how we will be able to survive all of this disruptive innovation and evolution in technology that we are experiencing."

Learn more about the MacDonald Training Center here or about South University Information Systems and Technology programs here.

by South University
June 22, 2018
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Going Back to School as an Adult - Overcoming Your Fears

by South University
April 9, 2018

Earning a degree is no doubt different for adult learners than for those fresh out of high school, but being an adult learner has it positives. At a younger age, maybe you were less confident about what you wanted or had to delay degree completion for personal reasons. Now, you’re at a different time in your life with more defined career goals, life skills and experience—all things that will come in handy in as you pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree.

If you are looking start or finish your degree but have fears about going back to school, know that it is possible to achieve your academic goals. Below, we compare four common concerns of potential students to the realities of going back to school as an adult learner.

Myth #1: You Don’t Have Room in Your Schedule

Balancing a job, family, friends, and school won't be easy, but many before you have a found a way. With the right amount of planning, you can too. When talking with school representatives, ask how many hours you can expect to spend in class and doing class work. Then, create a plan for how to divide your time each day. Simply knowing you have a plan can go a long way.

Beyond this plan, you'll need support from those around you. Before you start classes, let your family know that they'll have to pitch in a little more while you’re in school. Then, talk with your friends about why you’re continuing your education and how much this means to you, so that they can offer emotional support and will understand if you miss the occasional get-together.

If earning your undergraduate or graduate degree could enhance your current career, share your plans with your boss. Hopefully, they’ll offer encouragement and maybe flexibility in your work schedule. (Plus, there's always the possibility of tuition assistance.) During classes, one way to save time is by relating your schoolwork to your job where possible. For example, for a class assignment, you might choose to create a business proposal that could be reused for your job.

Myth #2: You've Been Out of School Too Long

In reality, your life and work experience will likely benefit you as a student. Instructors appreciate adult learners who ask informed questions and bring real-world examples to class discussions. Besides that, if you've participated in continuing education courses, learned new software, or had to prepare for presentations at work, then you’ve already been using many of the same skills you’ll need in school.

Today, nontraditional students are becoming the norm and schools often design undergraduate and graduate degree programs with adult learners in mind. As you research schools, ask how many adult learners are currently enrolled. See if they offer an orientation class to ease you into the swing of things or provide support staff who will be readily available to answer your questions. Once you’re in school, get to know other adult learners; you can swap study and scheduling tips, and make valuable contacts for after you graduate.

Myth #3: You’re Not Skilled Enough with Computers or New Technology

Orientation classes can help you get up to speed on the software you’ll need, and schools commonly offer software tutorials, tutoring, and webinars for those who want extra training. Even in online programs, these days, online classrooms are designed with ease of use as a key goal for everyone, regardless of technological expertise. So many careers require computer skills today anyway, so, while it might sound stressful, brushing up on your tech knowledge will be good for you.

Myth #4: You Won’t be Able to Manage the Cost of Your Education

An important aspect of returning to school is knowing what return on investment to expect from your program. Tools like the government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook can offer helpful details about the value of education in specific fields. Beyond this, try finding programmatic alumni stories and talking to your manager and others in the field to understand how a degree might help you.

If you’re worried about the cost of degree completion, make sure you explore all options—including federal financial aid, employer tuition assistance, military benefits, and scholarships from private and public organizations. By transferring credit from past college experience, you may be able to save time and money. As you narrow in on your top schools, take the time to talk to their finance counselors about transferring credit and other options for making a degree program more affordable.

Moving Forward with Confidence

Remember, age can play in your favor when going back to school. Life and work experience often teach lessons and skills that young students rarely possess, things like time management and not being afraid to seek help when it’s needed. As an adult, you’re likely more organized, responsible, and motivated to get your degree.

Along with offering a full array of academic resources and dedicated support staff for every student, South University's campus and online programs are designed to accommodate the schedules of busy, working adults. To learn more about how we support adult learners across all undergraduate and graduate degree programs, contact us today.

Note: This blog was originally published October 6, 2016 and updated April 9, 2018.

by South University
April 9, 2018
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Occupational Therapy Careers: Changing Lives and Communities

by South University
October 31, 2017
An image of a healthcare professional assisting a woman.

From working with individual patients to making public spaces more accessible to all, occupational therapy professionals have a profound opportunity to change lives. Within this field, both occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants play critical roles in helping people recover and cope with illness and injury, as well as regain and maintain functional independence in their day-to-day tasks.

"The occupational therapy field attracts compassionate, caring professionals who will go to the mat to be the advocate for their clients. We're very caring people. That is the core of what we do," says Terrie Nolinske, the Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Tampa.

The Power of One-on-One Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy professionals work with patients to assess their strengths and needs before developing diverse treatment plans unique to each individual. From there, they monitor and work with patients to help them achieve their goals, documenting progress as it occurs. Occupational therapy can involve working with patients across the lifespan and include:

  • Helping children with disabilities lead a more fulfilling life
  • Providing recovery plan and treatment regimens for adults
  • Assisting older adults with physical and cognitive changes
  • Recommending adaptive equipment and instruct patients on its use
  • Performing patient evaluations and ongoing patient care

Occupational therapy professionals may work in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, a patient’s home, mental health centers, rehabilitation centers, community centers, schools, and continuum of care communities offering independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Occupational therapy assistants operate under the supervision of licensed occupational therapists, and both therapists and their assistants may collaborate frequently with other care providers, such as psychologists, social workers, physicians, and speech pathologists.

Occupational Therapy Expertise Applied on a Bigger Scale

Those who study occupational therapy and understand the needs of individuals with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses can also apply their knowledge to improve the accessibility of everyday spaces. For example, occupational therapists may collaborate with employers to create work environments that accommodates their employees’ needs. Other occupational therapists may provide support in designing parks, shopping centers, and other public areas to ensure that everyone can equally experience and enjoy these destinations.

Nolinske, for example, has applied her occupational therapy knowledge to support both the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry.

At the Lincoln Park Zoo, she spearheaded a Universal Access Initiative which included developing new hands-on programs for zoo visitors with special needs, introducing additional tactile elements across exhibits, and writing staff guidelines on how to assist people with disabilities. Through this project, she led the zoo to win a national accessibility award.

In 2004, at the Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry, she led the creation of a 13,700-sq. foot interactive exhibit, The Amazing You, which explored key stages in the journey through life, including developmental milestones as well as common health issues and their treatment.

For Nolinkse, the project tapped into everything she’d done, learned, and experienced throughout her career. Designed to be accessible to all ages and abilities, all visitors left with a better understanding of human development, from birth to death.

"The end of life area of the exhibition prompted visitors to talk about what they would do 'if.' What would they put into a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare? Would they seek treatment or not if the cure was worse than the disease?" Nolinske explains. "It was an incredibly powerful exhibit."

Prepare for Your Career in Occupational Therapy

If you're interested in preparing for a career in the occupational therapy field, explore our Occupational Therapy programs online or contact us today at 1.888.444.3404.


by South University
October 31, 2017
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Why Choose a Career in Medical Assisting

by South University
August 30, 2017
A photo of a woman talking with a healthcare professional, perhaps a medical assistant.

If you're considering pursuing a career in healthcare, medical assisting can allow you to do meaningful work that matters in your community. Medical assistants play an essential role in the day-to-day operations of healthcare facilities and are often among the first and last people a patient sees at their check-ups or doctor's appointments. If you think the healthcare field could be right for you, here are three reasons why medical assisting is a great place to start.

1. Medical assisting is more than just a job. It's an important healthcare career.

Medical assisting is a rewarding healthcare career that can give you the chance to contribute to patient health and care as you support physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. Medical assistants often interact with patients and, with an upbeat attitude and positive demeanor, can help to keep patients feeling at ease and smiling during a physician’s visit that might otherwise be stressful. In fact, when South University recently checked in with our Associate of Science in Medical Assisting 2014 and 2015 graduates from our Montgomery, Savannah, and Columbia campuses, they reported a 100% graduate satisfaction rate.

As a medical assistant, you’ll also be learning a lot about the healthcare field, and, in time, may find opportunities for advancement into roles like medical office or records manager, healthcare administrator, or other related jobs.

2. Medical assisting encompasses many duties, keeping you engaged and on your toes.

As a medical assistant, you may perform a diverse mix of administrative and clinical responsibilities. On the administrative side, you might schedule appointments, greet patients, update electronic health records, and handle billing and insurance. Clinical duties can include recording patient information and history, instructing patients on medications, checking vital signs, preparing blood samples, conducting basic lab tests, and assisting the doctor before and during a patient exam. In some states, medical assistants may also give patients injections or medications as instructed by the physician.

Medical assistants can work in a variety of care facilities, with most having full-time schedules while others have the option to work part-time instead. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost 60% of medical assistants work in physician's offices, with an additional 10% working in offices of other health practitioners. If you work in a physician's or practitioner's office, you’re likely to work a predictable schedule as most clinics and offices open during standard business hours, allowing you to more easily plan and schedule time with family and friends. Other large employers of medical assistants include hospitals and outpatient care centers.

3. Employment of medical assistants is growing faster than average.

According to the BLS, medical assistant employment is expected to increase 23% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the 7% average across all occupations. Medical assistant employment growth follows the general growth of the healthcare industry and the increasing need for support workers at healthcare facilities. By 2024, the BLS projects that 730,200 medical assistants will be employed in the US, compared to the 591,300 medical assistants counted in 2014. Such an increase in demand can provide workers with increased career stability and the knowledge that, no matter where they are in the country, medical assistants will be needed.

How to Prepare for Your Medical Assisting Career

At South University, our medical assisting associate's degree program can prepare you to begin working as a medical assistant in as little as 2 years. Learn more today about South University's medical assisting program available at our Columbia, Montgomery, and Savannah campuses.


by South University
August 30, 2017
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4 Tactics for Building Your HR Career - South University

by South University
May 15, 2017
Image of a motor vehicle start button with the words Future Start written on it.

In today's knowledge-driven global economy, having top-tier talent can be critical to success. As a result, senior management teams are making room for smart, strategic HR leaders who can guide them in developing and implementing strategies to efficiently attract, retain, and manage their employees.

Still, moving from a role in HR administration to strategic HR management can be tricky. As you work to enhance your HR career, here are four steps—suggested by faculty from our Human Resources Management program—to help you to establish yourself as a respected HR leader.

1. Join HR Organizations

With 289,000 members in more than 165 countries, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest professional HR society. SHRM provides members with a vast and useful assortment of resources, including sample employee handbooks, HR forms, policies, employee engagement surveys, how-to guides, job descriptions, interview questions, and more. SHRM also offers in-person and virtual events that support professional growth and offer a chance to network with influential HR leaders in your region and beyond. Whether at an event or online, connecting with other SHRM members can lead to exciting career opportunities.

For students, SHRM offers discounted membership and event rates, as well as student-focused events and scholarships.

2. Commit to Lifelong Learning

Earning a master’s degree in human resources management can equip you with new skills, and, according to the BLS, help you with your job prospects . After completing your graduate studies, HR certification is another way for you to gain and demonstrate expertise. The most well-known HR certifications include SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, PHR, and SPHR.

Following and engaging with industry news, research, and analysis shared by HR organizations can also help you earn industry respect and credibility. Legal changes, in particular, often require organizational changes, so understanding potential laws and regulations as well as their impact on the business can make you a valuable asset in your company. You can also find many courses and trainings available to help you sharpen your skills and stay up-to-date in key HR areas like training and development, payroll, health and safety, recruitment, or succession planning. Beyond that, it’s also smart to build additional generalized skills (from practicing public speaking to learning another language) that could benefit your career.

3. Align Yourself to Organizational Needs

If you’re looking to advance in your organization or have your eye on moving to a specific company, identify any skills you need to develop and demonstrate to help them solve their HR challenges and achieve their goals. Beyond that, consider whether your current activities demonstrate your alignment to their mission. Even if your past performance shows that you’re smart and talented, companies want employees who share their values and passion. Find ways to get more involved with their industry or support their mission in the community. Doing so will show initiative and that you’re well matched with the company.

4. Learn to Utilize the Power of Technology

As it has nearly everywhere, technology has revolutionized the HR field. HR professionals need to understand how to evaluate, use, and manage intranet systems, internal university e-learning software, employee benefit self service options, online recruiting tools, and more. HR metric and information systems can even allow you to easily track and share the critical value you and your department provides. When used properly, HR technology becomes a tool that helps you more efficiently and effectively identify and solve problems—and sometimes find and stop potential issues before they ever occur.

If you work in HR, learn more today about how South University’s Master of Science in Human Resources Management can help prepare you for a spot at the senior strategic leadership team of your organization.


South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

by South University
May 15, 2017
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