West Grad Goes Global--Destination: Da Nang, Vietnam

West Grad Goes Global - Destination: Da Nang, Vietnam

Adrienne Howell
Community Liaison, Public Affairs (Retired)
Southwest Gas

Phoenix, AZ


April 5, 2016   |     West Now Home

The content herein is that of the author and does not reflect the position or opinion of Western International University (West). This article originally appeared in the West Alumni Connection newsletter.

A 2013 West graduate who earned her Master of Arts in Innovative Leadership, Adrienne shares her experiences as a lifelong learner, including how she is putting the global elements of her West degree to work on the next stage of her life adventure—destination: Da Nang, Vietnam.

Why did you decide to pursue your degree at West?
Having earned an undergraduate business degree in 1987, I had long wanted to pursue a master’s degree in order to update my knowledge and skills, but found the costs to be out of my budget. In 2008, when the company for which I worked, Southwest Gas, increased the annual tuition reimbursement in its employee education assistance program, it became the right time to pursue a graduate degree. I attended my first class in early 2009. I am extremely grateful to Southwest Gas for its commitment to higher education for its employees. After looking at a number of the state’s colleges and universities, I chose West because of its focus on individual, rather than group, work. While I am not at all opposed to group work, because my undergraduate program and significant parts of my job were group-focused, I wanted an individual-work focused graduate educational experience.

What did you find most valuable about your West experience?
There are many things that I value highly about my educational experience at West, chief among them the gifted, engaging professors who significantly broadened my knowledge in important areas and the confidence I gained as a researcher, writer, and presenter.

What were the benefits to you of earning your degree?
What I learned in the Master of Arts in Innovative Leadership (MAIL) program made me a better leader, both in my workplace and in my service to the nonprofit organizations with which my company was engaged. It gave me the confidence to raise my hand and agree to be nominated—and ultimately elected—to lead a nonprofit board of directors. What I learned about leadership in the MAIL program gave me the confidence to “lean in” when future leadership opportunities present themselves.

What are your plans for the future?
I actually retired from Southwest last year, deciding that it was time to pursue new life experiences. Realizing how short and unpredictable life can be, my spouse Brian and I will spend the next few years seeing more of the world and learning about other cultures. Vietnam will be our first stop. We leave for Da Nang, Vietnam in May and may spend up to a year there. Brian, a teacher by education, plans to teach English. I intend to take the time to become familiar with the Vietnamese culture, understand how things are done there, and then determine if there are local nonprofit volunteer opportunities in which I can use my leadership skills. Until I find a suitable volunteer opportunity, I plan to pursue writing and editing assignments as a freelancer.

What would you tell a friend who is thinking of going back to school?
I would advise a friend considering the pursuit of a degree to DO IT NOW—and include West on their short list! In my personal experience, education has always been a career door opener. And in today’s rapidly changing world of work, education has never been more important. An undergraduate or graduate degree is, for many jobs, the minimum expectation for interview consideration and career advancement. I would also advise that friend to take a pragmatic approach financially by pursuing appropriate financial assistance and scheduling classes in a way that allow him/her to graduate as close as possible to debt-free.

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