For the past four decades, Dr. Gene Fisher’s life has been centered around medicine.
As the clinical service chief and chief of pediatric critical care medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, Fisher graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1984 and Doctor of Medicine in 1988.
Fisher completed his residency in pediatrics at Carolinas Medical Center in 1991 and his fellowship in pediatric critical care medicine at the Medical College of Georgia in 1994.
“I’ve now been an intensive care specialist since 1994,” Fisher said, joking that it is hard to believe how quickly time passes. “Good grief. Every time I mention the dates, I can’t believe it myself. But, frankly, over that entire time, I had no formal leadership training. And I began to realize that I needed to improve my leadership and team skills because, although I got into my career to improve care for critically ill children at the bedside, I’ve gradually seen more and more how systems of care also have trickle-down effects on individual patients.
“Therefore, I wanted to see if I could add to my toolbox to better address leadership and learn more about helping to guide systems of care toward improvements.”
After talking to several of his colleagues, Fisher decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Initially, he considered applying to a variety of universities offering a Physicians Executive MBA.
“I had people who strongly advised that I should get a Physicians Executive MBA, so that I could learn to network with other physicians, but I began wondering, ‘What would that be leaving out?’” Fisher said, explaining that he was hoping to develop leadership skills that would help him in all areas of his professional life. “So, I started looking into other MBA programs, especially within the state of Georgia, but elsewhere.”
While Fisher considered other programs across the country, he kept returning to the hybrid program of both in-class and at-home training offered by James M. Hull College of Business at Augusta University.
“Hull College really appealed to me, and I truly believe in Augusta University, so I talked to some people who’d been through the program who felt that it had been extremely helpful,” Fisher said. “I also looked at the curriculum, and Hull College had a variety of courses that I knew I needed to take if I was going to keep growing, professionally. So, I chose Hull College, and it has been an incredibly valuable experience for me.”
Whether it was courses in marketing, finance, managerial computing or strategic leadership, Fisher said Hull College helped open his eyes to better ways to communicate and promote positive changes within his own career.
“The most surprisingly helpful course for me, frankly, was marketing. I’ve got to admit, I’m a chemistry major and coming from a ‘hard science’ degree, I thought marketing was sort of mostly mumbo-jumbo,” Fisher said, laughing. “Well, I was absolutely wrong. And I should have known that, but our professor really explained how there is both internal and external marketing.”
Fisher said he learned any change worth promoting needs both internal and external marketing to make it a reality.
“The key to any idea that we have that is worthwhile to change management, which is really a major theme that I wanted to learn more about, is that you’ve got to be able to communicate and sell what needs to be changed,” he said. “So, internal marketing is very important because people need to believe and support your idea. And perceptions do matter.”
No matter if students at Augusta University are seeking an MBA or a Bachelor of Business Administration or are simply interested in taking some businesses courses as part of their major, Dr. Richard Franza, dean of Hull College of Business, explained that the faculty are committed to providing an engaging learning environment and educational experience to all.
“We feel like we have a collaborative role here at Augusta University,” Franza said. “For students taking our courses, we are trying to develop their professional skills in addition to written and oral communication skills, leadership skills and ethics. Those values play across all different majors.”
One of the keys to helping students achieve their professional goals is providing them a “personalized experience” at Hull College, Franza said.
“We get to know our students, and they get to know us,” Franza said. “We all work together to make sure whatever their goals or future degrees, the students have had a good experience because we want our students to excel in their fields and become leaders across the state and beyond.
“And with our smaller class sizes, we are able to give our students more of a private school experience in a public university.”
Students pursuing the BBA degree may choose to major in accounting or a concentration in one of several areas: applied economic analysis, digital marketing, financial services or health care management.
Students may also choose a unique group of six business electives in lieu of a concentration to “customize” their BBA for a specific job or industry, with input from their academic advisor and program faculty.
Additionally, Hull College offers a minor in accounting, business administration and economics, as well as an undergraduate certificate in hospitality administration.
While working to receive his MBA, Fisher said he enjoyed the smaller class sizes that encouraged students to work in groups to discuss and develop business plans.
“We were involved with small groups immediately and I was clearly the oldest in the group, but our small group really jelled,” Fisher said. “Having a clinician, another member from Augusta University, someone in a big business in this community, and my fourth teammate was from a smaller business in the community, was eye opening. By working together with them, I better understood the needs of our entire community.”
Fisher said Hull College’s MBA program is a perfect example of the positive relationships that have developed since the Medical College of Georgia consolidated with the former Augusta State University.
“When the [consolidation] happened years ago, there was this whole idea about a synergy that could happen between Augusta State University and MCG,” Fisher said. “I think Hull College’s ability of involving people from the medical campus in its MBA program is an example of that synergy.”
Hull College encourages an “ongoing journey of leadership” that can help anyone’s future career path, Fisher said.
“I earned my MBA in December 2019, and it was a hard two years. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t,” Fisher said. “But now I have so many more tools in my toolbox, and it’s really been paying off for me. I couldn’t be more pleased with the program. I’m really glad that I chose Hull College.”
“It all started when my mom’s Yahoo email got hacked in the infamous 2013 Yahoo data breach,” Worku said. “We tried to solve it as fast as we could by rushing to the computer repair shop. But, back then, I didn’t really have much experience with computers.”
His mother, who is from Ethiopia, was concerned that she lost all of the valuable information she had emailed to her family and friends over the years.
“I remember seeing how concerned she was about not being able to retrieve the information,” Worku said. “I was only in the sixth grade back then, but it really lit a fire in me to want to do something about it. And so that’s really what sparked my interest in cybersecurity.”
Worku, 20, just completed his sophomore year as a cybersecurity major in the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences at Augusta University.
“In the future, I want to open my own business to help educate the public, particularly minority communities, about cybersecurity,” Worku said. “I want to help people become more aware of ways they can protect themselves from hackers because it can happen to anyone.”
Worku recently received an offer for an internship with the Deloitte Cyber Risk & Financial Advisory division for the summer of 2022, and he also participated in the company’s virtual leadership conference earlier this month.
Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory helps organizations effectively navigate business risks and opportunities — from strategic, reputation and financial risks to operational, cyber and regulatory risks — to gain a competitive advantage, Worku said.
One of the courses that helped him prepare for the interviews for this prestigious internship was Hull College’s Introduction to Business taught by Dr. Melissa Furman, Worku said.
“All of the material and assignments in the course were helpful, particularly the tips for interviewing, resume writing, networking and internships,” Worku said. “They were extremely valuable in helping me land this internship offer.
“I know Dr. Furman’s course taught me important skills that will serve me for the rest of my career.”
“I am also a writing center consultant in the Augusta University Writing Center, and I run our social media page or platforms,” Osborne said. “I also write for The Bell Ringer pretty regularly. So, while my focus is in journalism, I also want to study social media marketing.”
This past year, Osborne took one of Hull College’s marketing courses to learn the fundamentals of marketing to help her in the future.
“It taught me a lot about what markets want and how to target them,” Osborne said. “That’s been very influential in just building my own brand and, also, working with the Writing Center’s social media page.”
In just one month, Osborne said she was able to double the social media page’s engagement and attracted more than 40 new followers.
While Osborne is a communication major, she believes any student at Augusta University would benefit from some of the business classes offered by Hull College.
“I think all students should take at least one marketing class because learning the fundamentals of marketing can help build your own brand,” Osborne said. “Everybody has a brand. You are your own brand, so why not learn how to promote yourself?”
Earlier this month, Jomari Jackson, 22, proudly graduated from Hull College with a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in health care management. By the fall of 2022, Jackson hopes to attend The Dental College of Georgia to earn his Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry.
While pursuing his dream to become a dentist, Jackson realized he also needed to study business to have a successful practice in the future.
“To be an entrepreneur and be able to create your own business and have the flexibility on how you market and promote your dentist office, that was extremely appealing to me,” Jackson said. “I like the independence of owning such a business, and I wanted to learn how to run it successfully and Hull College made that possible.”
During his sophomore year at Augusta University, Jackson took the Introduction to Business and Professional Skills class with Furman, and he quickly gravitated toward a business degree from Hull College.
“I immediately noticed the community in the Hull College of Business was so close, and the professors were truly interested in their students,” Jackson said. “It was as if my dreams for the future were also their dreams. They adopted my dreams and helped show me the path to get there.
“They did that for a lot of students. They are very in tune with what you want to do in life, and they customize your learning experience for you.”
As a future dentist and possible owner of a private practice, Jackson said Hull College helped him develop the skills necessary to make that dream a reality one day.
“I knew I needed leadership skills and the know-how to manage and market my practice to get the word out about the work that I do,” he said. “Being at Augusta University, I already knew the science classes that I had to take to get into dental school. But I thought, ‘It wouldn’t hurt for me to become a business major to get that professional and leadership side, too.’ So, that’s what I did and it was a perfect fit for me.”
No matter the major, Jackson said business courses at Hull College can help guide a student’s future.
“When you take business classes in Hull College, you’re going for an experience,” Jackson said, adding that the courses aren’t necessarily about tests, quizzes or papers, but providing you the knowledge to prepare for the future. “The experience you get from doing presentations or watching other students do presentations or learning about the connections that the business school has with the Augusta area and throughout Georgia are invaluable.
“At Hull College, you get that experience and gain those connections that can have a positive impact on your career moving forward.”
Dr. Steven Holsten, a trauma and acute care surgeon and vice chair of clinical operations for the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia, has one final class to complete before receiving his MBA from Hull College.
Holsten said he can’t begin to explain how much the business courses have helped in his current job as program director of general surgery at MCG.
“When I first started here at MCG, I was the program director for the general surgery residency. Halfway through working on my MBA, I became the interim chair for the Department of Surgery. In those positions, there’s a lot you need to know about managing people,” Holsten said. “The truth is, you can be really good at what you do, but if you don’t have any control over people who are your subordinates and other people that you work with, then you can only accomplish what you can accomplish as an individual. You can’t really do a lot more. You need that force multiplier.”
In particular, Holsten said he found Furman’s course on organizational behavior extremely enlightening.
“That course was a lot about understanding yourself, understanding your own limitations, and then expanding on that as you’re trying to approach management,” Holsten said. “For me, that class put into perspective a lot of the decisions that you have to make and how the decisions of middle management impact others.
“I would definitely say, the teacher of the year for me was Dr. Furman, because she really stood out as somebody who helped me understand my career better, understand myself better and make me a better leader.”
In fact, Holsten was so pleased with the courses at Hull College, he has convinced five of his residents at MCG to take advantage of the business classes.
“I thought so much of the MBA program and how much it had done for me that I have helped promote it within our department,” Holsten said. “Because I think having all of your players on the chess board know how to use those tools and even just participate when other people are using those tools is important for culture change and important for improvements in the medical field.”
While Holsten looks forward to graduating with his MBA soon, he said he’ll never forget the lessons he learned at Hull College.
“It was an excellent experience. I would 100% do it again,” Holsten said. “All of the courses I took have really helped catapult me from a good, solid, hardworking middle management-type guy to actually a leader within my department.”
After hearing the praise given by the current and former students at Augusta University, Franza said he is proud of the fact that Hull College is providing professionals from all walks of life the tools they need to succeed in their careers.
“That’s why we’re here,” Franza said. “We’re here for the institution. We will always try and continue to grow ourselves, but, more importantly, we want to grow the university as a whole and build strong leaders.”