Business Instructor Dr. Linda Ellington: A Faculty Q&A
Dr. Linda Ellington has spent her career in corporate and academia. She has an Ed.D. in Higher Education and is lead faculty member in SNHU's online business programs with expertise in organizational leadership. She shared her views on connecting with students, the importance of education and more.
Tell us a little bit about your professional background.
I worked at IBM for 23 years in various leadership roles. While working at IBM, I taught as an adjunct professor at several colleges and universities. When I retired from IBM, I began teaching full-time at SNHU, in 2014.
I have written and published one book, 25 chapters in international books, 9 articles in journal publications and 9 children’s books. I am a research reviewer for academic organizations, journals and international books.
What first drew you to higher education?
Working in higher education offers a continuous intellectual curiosity to flourish, whether through teaching, leading or researching. During my tenure at IBM, we were always encouraged to learn more and to share the learning. That love of learning is a way to discover new concepts and ideas. I have always found joy in facilitating the learning process, sharing knowledge and helping others to reach their full potential.
When working at IBM, I was given the privilege to attend The University of London, School of Lifelong Education and International Development, and the London Business Institute. I always had an inkling to teach in higher education, and during my experiences in England, the university bug bit me! I knew I would transition this passion from corporate America to higher education, as I wanted to continue on a shared experience of discovery.
What aspects of your own education have been particularly influential in shaping your professional life in academia?
Being given the encouragement to learn and to not be afraid of what I may uncover during that learning, has a great influence on my professional life in academia. I always had an inquisitive mind, always asking the why question – and now I get to ask students to be curious and ask along their academic journey, why?
IBM expected all of us to be professional, and ethical and to honor our word when given. I worked in a corporate environment that embraced inclusivity and diversity. I draw on those experiences working with students and their exposure to diversity-related concepts during their education to create inclusive and equitable learning opportunities.
How do you continue to learn and evolve as a leader in higher education?
I wonder about things all the time! That takes me down the pathways into research, writing, conferences and especially when reading to children in a low socio-economic library.
Leadership is in every chair, and we as leaders must not only thank the chef but also the person washing the dishes!
My curiosity is a key driver in evolving as a leader. I know it takes self-awareness, skill development and adapting to changing circumstances, and to be resilient and bounce back from adversity to evolve as a leader. I grab every opportunity I can that will provide me with knowledge and experiences in those four areas.
Leading by example is another way I continue to improve in leadership. Building a strong professional network by connecting with other leaders, both within and outside SNHU, provides me with valuable insights and support. Keeping up-to-date with industry trends and global events is pivotal to being an effective leader.
I am an advocate for leaders to be storytellers. I am sure the universe is made of stories, not atoms! In the realm of leadership, stories capture the hearts and minds of others, making us bold adventurers in the grand saga of an organizational journey.
What do you feel is unique about the faculty, students, and programs you oversee?
There is an ethos in SNHU to stay curious, open-minded and to seek out experiences and activities to have a substantial impact on SNHU. SNHU provides educational opportunities for individuals who might not have had access to higher education. This is particularly important for first-generation college students or those from underserved communities. The student-centric philosophy serves as a valuable resource for all students seeking to improve their educational and career prospects.
Can you think of a particularly impactful or eye-opening moment as a faculty member?
As faculty, we never truly know the breadth of our reach. A few years ago I hosted a welcome coffee café with newly enrolled undergraduate students, and expressed a truism that they can achieve their academic goals. I wanted to motivate and inspire them to reach for and attain their dreams, letting them know that all of SNHU was with them on their academic journey. A few months ago, the university leaders shared a letter with me written by a graduate student who entered a hospice. She said she completed her bachelor's degree because I inspired her to do so all those years ago. She then remembered my words, and entered the graduate program! She got to the capstone course, and during that course could not complete it due to health.
We never know our reach! Thus teach with kindness, caring, empathy, accountability and love of learning!
How have you found ways to effectively connect with students?
Be present! Walk with them, not in front of them! Communicate with kindness and empathy. Be accessible. Laugh with them! Be vulnerable. Share stories with them, and let them share their stories with you. Encourage them to ask questions. Ask for their opinions. And do all this through emails, course discussions, assignments, coffee chats and webinars. Connect with them on a ‘human to human’ level. I always say to my students, “We are all in this together.”
What advice do you have for new and current students?
Take deep breaths along the journey and give yourself grace. Feel the love of learning and the joy of then sharing that learning with others. Approach all your academic work with an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow. While academics are important, do not forget to have fun and enjoy the experiences. Seek help when needed. If you are struggling, do not hesitate to reach out to professors, academic advisors and other opportunities available to you at SNHU. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
When it comes to the future of education, particularly for business professions, what is on your mind?
As technology, globalization and societal values continue to change, the business profession will also change. What is on all our minds at the moment is how artificial intelligence is having a profound impact across various business sectors and functions. Along with the adoption of AI come challenges and ethical considerations, such as data privacy, algorithmic bias and the impact on employment. An example within education is that chatbots significantly reduce the cost of university operations. They can handle a large volume of inquiries simultaneously, and this allows educational institutions to handle a higher volume of student interactions without proportionally increasing the support staff.
Why is education important to you and the world at large?
In our current global chaotic environment, education will foster global awareness and understanding. Our worlds are interconnected, and education helps people appreciate different cultures and global issues, which is important to endorse peace and cooperation. Educating all people is essential for promoting human rights and social justice. It empowers individuals to understand their rights, to stand up for justice and to work towards a fair and equitable society.
Basically, education is a fundamental building block for individual and societal development. It empowers individuals, strengthens economics, promotes social equality and contributes to the well-being of people and the planet. Investing in education is one of the most effective ways to improve the world at large.
Beyond work, what is something you are passionate about or really enjoy doing?
I enjoy writing children’s books about bullying, taking care of our planet and being honest citizens of the world. I take my books to lower socio-economic libraries throughout the state and read to children, ask them lots of questions, listen to them and walk away with more learning than I could ever imagine.
I am also passionate about taking care of abused animals. I sponsor many rescued animals throughout the U.S. to help pay for their care. One example is a horse named Snickers, who is being cared for in Utah, at an animal rescue farm. She was abused by starving her. She lost all her teeth and lost a great deal of weight. The rescue heroes nursed her back to health, and she eats well now, gained weight, and enjoys walking around the pasture with her best friends, two goats, Milli and Nutmeg.
Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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