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Academic Spotlight: Dr. Zuzana Buzzell, Associate Dean of Business

SNHU Associate Dean of Business Dr. Zuzana Buzzell wearing her cap and gown at a Commencement ceremony.Dr. Zuzana Buzzell has worked at Southern New Hampshire University for nearly two decades following a career as a business and accounting analyst. Now the associate dean of SNHU’s online business program, she has earned an MBA and doctorate from SNHU. Recently she answered questions about the importance of education, how education has shaped her career and more.

Can you tell us about your professional background?  

I started in the finance industry as a fund accountant and worked in various positions, leaving as a senior business analyst. I had the opportunity to work with varied financial products, specializing in derivative securities, and support an amazing team in our subsidiary in India which shaped my future educational goals.

What first drew you to higher education? 

When I started in finance, it was still an old-fashion industry where time spent in the office mattered. I knew that this would be unsustainable in the long run and decided to work on a career change. I always mentored new employees and interns while working in the corporate world, and while studying for one of my degrees I personally worked to help one of my classmates through difficult classes. Going into higher education and working with adult learners seemed like a great fit.

On a fun note, when I started my PhD, I met a professor in one of my evening courses who described how he painted his porch that morning and how flexible the work was. And I was impressed thinking of my peeling wooden deck. Needless to say, our porch now has composite decking as that is not the lifestyle I lead.

What aspects of your own education have been influential in shaping your career in academia? 

As an international student, I was able to see the differences between studying in another country and the United States. My undergraduate studies were completed at a university system where you are told to “sit, listen, write,” take an exam once a year and your course grade depended on that single exam.

Coming to a graduate school in the United States where you have a voice, you can think, research, and your opinion counts is liberating, yet it could be intimidating.

I would never take this academic freedom for granted. Having the opportunity to research a topic and speak about it also makes it more interesting and as a student, you are invested in the learning.

When teaching in class, I understood how important it is to provide a welcoming environment for international students and also for the quieter students to speak and voice their opinions.

In a way, the online environment leveled the playing field and students are provided with equal opportunity to share their knowledge without the fear of jumping in first, getting the first word in.

What attracted you to this field of study? What keeps you excited about it? 

Currently, I am overseeing operations and project management. I consider myself lucky as I was able to seamlessly transition from a couple of fields of study to the current one. The first field was international business, followed by finance and now I am further developing myself in project management.

I consider myself a lifelong learner; I know, so many educators do. Transitioning to a new field of study is not only interesting, but it also allows me to develop new skill sets and the opportunity to learn. I took several project management certification courses and completed badges to supplement my knowledge. I embrace change as it allows me to learn and meet new people.

How have you found ways to effectively connect with students?

I like to connect via videos. Creating step-by-step procedures while sharing my screen, and also providing explanations that relate the topics we are learning to current events makes the class more student-friendly and the materials easier to learn.

I also try to greet every student with a personalized video in module one. I have found that the majority of online students have not heard their names said out loud in a class throughout their entire program. Imagine how that must feel studying for 4 years and never hearing your name out loud once. 

What brings you the greatest joy in your work as an associate dean? 

I view the associate deans as a bridge within the university between faculty, students and other university stakeholders. We bring in industry experience that provides insight into what students need to be competitive in the current job market and succeed in their careers. We work with our counterparts in other departments to improve our programs and curriculum based on our findings. We also help our faculty to be successful in their courses and to understand our student population. And most importantly, we are here to support our students and see them succeed.

But what gets me up and excited to start the daily work is the amazing team I work with. I can rely on everyone around me and, if needed, lean on them for help. There is so much energy and enthusiasm in our team. I can count on coming in and learning something new from my coworkers almost every day.

What does SNHU’s mission to transform the lives of learners mean to you? 

Students in our programs face challenges that many traditional learners can’t even imagine. We are working with non-traditional learners who oftentimes burn the candle on both sides. They have children and parents to take care of. Their families and jobs come first, and we are lucky if we make it as priority #3 on their list.

We are here to offer them the opportunity to finish a degree that often was begun after high school before life challenges took over and they had to dedicate time, resources and energy to manage those challenges.

I have encountered students who are homeless and completing their classes from libraries, students who are actively deployed, and even parents and children who are completing their degrees together. They need to study at a flexible university, that works with their schedules, and understands that sometimes, life throws them a curveball and they need to take a pause and regroup.

But in the end, when the students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas and see their dreams come true, you can’t help but admire their grit and determination. The world of career options opens wider and the earning potential increases, but most importantly, the pride you see in their eyes and their families cheering on them during this important day is priceless.  

Outside of work, what’s something you’re passionate about or really enjoy doing?  

As a mom of two with children who have a very busy schedule, I don’t have much spare time. But whenever I can, and every time I drop my children off at their extracurricular activities, I put on my sneakers and go for a walk while listening to history podcasts. My goal is to walk 20 minutes every day.

A degree can change your life. Choose your program from 200+ SNHU degrees that can take you where you want to go.

Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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