My name is Ryan Esslinger and I am a student in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) program. I have been asked to share my experiences as an online UIC student, so for the next few months I will do my best to take you along for the ride that is my life! This December marks nearly a year since I have been enrolled. My how time flies! I am currently enrolled in a business communications course and have about four weeks left of class until winter break. Soon enough, spring semester 2011 will be here and my second year as a working student will be well underway.
To me, there’s nothing more that speaks to the phrase “modern day working student” than being enrolled in the UIC MSHI program. While the program is also offered in the traditional academic setting, (onsite at UIC in Chicago) I opted to take the online-only route. This was a logical choice for me as I was not keen on relocating out of state. While I do love Chicago, (I spent 3 years there) I’m not yet ready to leave the beautiful weather here in Atlanta. I’ll admit that the online-only program is not for everybody, but it definitely fit the bill for me. I’m able to work full-time while simultaneously working towards my degree in one of the hottest fields known to my generation. Not only that, I’m able to do all of this from the comfort of my home, or wherever an Internet or wireless connection is readily available. Surely I don’t envy those that have to commute in bumper to bumper traffic to one of the local universities here in Atlanta!
Background, Experience, and How I Entered the Program
I’ll never forget the day I discovered UIC’s program. I was doing my usual web surfing and research, when I came across a banner advertisement for UIC’s Master of Science in Health Informatics program on a popular Healthcare IT (HIT) blog. The more I learned about the program, the more excited I became. What better way to supplement my work experience than to learn more about the evolving field that I already had experience in? I quickly got to work on gathering the necessary pieces together for admission and started the application process. At the time, I even did some comparison shopping to see if there were any other schools out there that offered similar programs. There were other programs, but none seemed to fit my preferences quite like UIC’s. After anxiously waiting several weeks to hear about my admissions status, I was accepted into the program in December 2009. I happily accepted and by January 2010, I was enrolled and fully engaged in my first online class.
My Life as a UIC Student
I usually kick off my day by checking the headlines and blogs to see what’s new in the HIT world. Coffee in hand, I typically spend at least 15-20 minutes doing this every morning. It goes without saying that there is a ton of activity happening in the HIT industry, and I continually try to push myself to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies. Who’s hiring? Who bought who? Which VP left which company? These are all questions that I’m seeking to understand. I argue that part of being a good student is simply being informed. There are limitless applications, no matter what course I’m currently enrolled in.
It may not seem like it, but my life as a student is far from routine. Every week is different. Three weeks ago I was doing schoolwork while on vacation in Cancun, Mexico. Two weeks ago I was finalizing a paper while relaxing and hiking in north Georgia over the weekend. This week I was taking notes at a local HIT Executive Summit in Atlanta and following up on my assigned group’s discussion. This weekend, I’ll enjoy the company of my family coming into town, while wrapping up my second paper for my latest unit. I’ve even easily managed to ask my longtime girlfriend to marry me, all while remaining fully engaged in class. Do you see what I’m getting at with the benefits of a non-traditional program? The girlfriend (now fiance) said yes by the way!
And So We Begin. . .
Having a full-time job and taking masters-level courses as a student (even when online) requires a lifestyle adjustment. Depending on my workload, I typically devote at least 20 hours a week to school. This is on top of my 45+ hour work week. I always prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, and I do my best not to be discouraged by the added stress of a job. And now I’ve added Healthcare IT Today Blogger to my list of to-dos! I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you as I forge ahead with UIC’s Master’s in Health Informatics program – I welcome your comments and suggestions! Until next time ~