Student Spotlight

Competency-based education and culture of support: the combination to a college degree

March 12, 2019 by Victoria Lim
Brandman MyPath™ student Joe Pishgar works full time while earning his business degree.                    

He remembers “the awful math.”

Method and applications.

Quantitative literacy level A.

And statistics.

“Oh, statistics! Murder me! That was awful. I actually use a lot of statistics to calculate metrics and I have to chart plots and present it to the CEO, so I thought, ‘oh statistics will be great and easy,’” recalled Joe Pishgar, a director of community for a new media conglomerate and Brandman MyPath™ student. “That took me months to get through and get the final just right. I went through 12 different versions of that final by the end of it. I even failed one.”

But he is still on pace to earn a bachelor’s of arts in business administration; he credits Brandman University’s culture of support and the self-paced and flexible nature of Brandman MyPath™ for getting him through “the awful math.”

Pishgar’s pursuit of a college degree has been sporadic since high school in Florida.

Back then, while his peers were playing video games, Pishgar was developing them.

He dropped out of college and incorporated his expertise in gaming to develop what was then a new field in marketing, called community management. (The building and monitoring of conversations on behalf of brands in online properties such as blogs, forums and social media.)

“The discipline is only about 12-ish years old. Maybe 15 years. It got its start with AOL, and I was one of the very first community managers in its guide program,” Pishgar said.

While he’s always worked remotely, Pishgar relocated to New Hampshire to be closer to his company’s headquarters. He has risen through the ranks of running online communities to now managing assistant community managers, social media professionals and a couple of hundred moderators across the world, growing the community “370 percent over eight years.” Some of the communities include three-to-four million members.

But despite his proven success, when he would look for new jobs, he couldn’t meet one consistent requirement: a college degree.

“I would put feelers out there, and I was getting rejected automatically because I just didn’t have the paper. Human resources would filter out those resumes without initials after the name. I need to get a degree,” Pishgar said.

He wants to continue working while pursuing his bachelor’s and his research led him to Brandman University. By enrolling in Brandman MyPath™, the competency-based education modality, he is able to capitalize on his experience and knowledge to move faster through his classes and spend more time on the subject matter he doesn’t know yet. Like “the awful math.”

“I looked around and compared a bunch of different schools. (Brandman MyPath™) seemed to be the best option for me,” he said. “Brandman is super convenient to my work schedule. The courses check out how much you know with a quiz up front, and you only spend time on the stuff you don’t know. It’s better than a course professor droning on and on and you’ve got to sit through it.”

The flexibility of the modality even enabled Pishgar to keep up with his studies while on vacation in Japan. He’s also found the coursework immediately applicable to his work.

“Some of the final assessments I’ve written I’ve been able to use in my professional life. One of the big ones is the 12,000-word behemoth of a paper for interpersonal communications that I now use as a handbook for my entire department. It helps a couple of hundred moderators with conflict resolution,” he said.

To juggle all of his responsibilities, Pishgar’s schedule follows a daily pattern: work a full day, cook dinner, relax and spend time with his husband and their dogs, then tackle his coursework. On the weekends, he said he usually sets aside an hour or two. While all of his courses and books are online, he knows he’s not alone in his journey.

“It was my academic coach, Brad (Bourdon) who was able to pick me back up,” he recalled. “I told him statistics was giving me a panic attack, I had flunked the final, I didn’t know what I was going to do and said it was a commonality among anyone who takes statistics it’s like learning a new language. I related with him and got back to it. It helped a lot having Brad to talk with and on the subject of this really difficult course.”

“I’ve told him before, maybe not in such glowing terms, that I kind of blame him for me passing,” he added with a chuckle.

When Pishgar earns his BBA, he will not only complete a professional milestone but a personal one as well.

“I’ve always wanted to get a degree. I will be the first person in my family to get a degree,” he said.

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