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Donald Thomas, MAOL Student

Donald Thomas developed an interest in leadership early in his career. After earning his undergraduate degree, he realized that he needed to continue his educational journey to continue developing his leadership skills.

Thomas, currently a student earning a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership at Florida Tech, said that leadership isn’t just a personal passion — it’s closely linked to his long-term goals.

“Since moving to Florida for work, I have had many different roles with the same organization, all with increasing scope and responsibility. Each role has taught me something different regarding leadership and fostered my desire to learn more in an academic setting. Today, I lead an area with ten professional managers and over 200 frontline workers as we make memories for literally thousands of people per day. I hope to use my degree to reach the senior executive level.”

Here’s what drives Thomas to learn more about leadership:

Tell Us a Little Bit About Yourself

I am originally from Dallas and moved to Florida for work. I’ve been in Florida for more than 15 years now and have become something of a student of leadership. I decided to go with Florida Tech after completing my undergrad degree in the same field of study and wanting to continue with a school that had a true dedication to foster a stronger understanding of what it means to lead.

What Made You Decide to Go Back to School?

My mom always told me to “always want better and more.” When I discovered that my company offered reimbursement, the “more” was definitely in reach. Realizing that I had a real passion for leadership development, I knew that I wanted to invest more time in learning as much as I could about organizational leadership. My undergrad studies made this even more clear.

What Made You Choose Florida Tech?

Simply put, it’s the best! Being the STEM school for Florida with a dedicated curriculum in leadership studies, I knew that if I was serious about being a true student of leadership, I needed to go to a school that wasn’t just about the conjecture, but the evidence and science around the study as well. Florida Tech has allowed me to go deeper into my passion and develop skills and background knowledge that have only cemented my love for the field.

Tell Us What It’s Like to Learn in a 100% Online Environment

Challenging! While convenient and flexible, online learning takes discipline and desire. A student learning in this format must have the drive not only to complete their studies, but to learn along the way, digging deeper than required.

How Have You Been Able to Balance School, Work and Life?

Well, it wasn’t easy! But the key is discipline. As my studies went further, so did my career, so my work has been difficult to balance, but I did it by realizing what I had to gain in my work through my lessons. This has helped to validate the “why” of me going to school to begin with. As for life, my friends and family have been my biggest cheerleaders. They have been a jolt of energy as I’ve continued through my studies.

What Courses Are Your Favorites, and Why?

Talent Management, Ethics, and Conflict Resolution have been my favorite courses so far. Each of these courses have given me skills that I could apply immediately to my career. I’ve also learned skills that I can share with my peers, colleagues and direct reports in the moment for both development and relevance within the field.

Tell Us What It’s Like to Collaborate With Fellow Students and Faculty

Amazing! We teach each other so much through meaningful discussions and conversations. It’s such a thrill to see some of the same names in class as well as some new names from time to time to gain more interesting perspectives and contacts. It’s a great benefit of the program.

Who Is in Your Support Network, and What Have They Done for You?

My best friends, co-workers, and even my boss are all great supports through my studies. They have read books with me, had discussions around related topics with me, and even read numerous papers, articles and essays for me to ensure that what I turned it was quality. They have been my rock through this entire program.

How Has Florida Tech (and Bisk) Supported You?

My professors and advisors have been amazing! Encouraging and attentive every step of the way. Whether I’ve needed advice on upcoming classes or clarity in my assignments, they have been ever-present and available whenever I’ve needed them, which helped me understand that although it’s self-study, I am not alone.

What Do You Hope to Do With Your Degree?

I hope to influence a whole new generation of leaders to develop those in their charge as well. To follow their passions, and to leave this world just a bit better than they found it through a legacy of strong and dedicated leaders.

What Are Your Long-Term Goals?

Long term, I hope to become an executive with my current organization and help create processes that will help us reach our goals. Short term, I hope to complete my studies and maintain the high standards of excellence I have set for myself through my academic career.

What Advice Would You Give to Someone Considering Going Back to School?

Do it! It’s never too late to better yourself. The life of the mind should always be cultivated and nurtured. Investing in you is never a bad idea.

What’s Your Favorite Thing About Being a Florida Panther?

Being a Panther means never giving up and aiming my gaze to the sky. Understanding this has given me the courage to always reach the stars!

What’s One Thing Other People Might Be Interested to Learn About You?

I love BBQ! I also sit on the board of an LGBT nonprofit health organization that I’ve used my skills gained through study to help better and grow.

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