The quickest way to explain Dr. Troy Glassman’s background is to start with his motto: “Keep the fire.” This expression explains how Glassman rose through the ranks in his 30+ years of military service, earned his bachelor’s degree online through deployments, and now is an assistant professor and academic chair at the university where he earned his master’s – Florida Tech.
This motto is also the advice Glassman gives to his online students who may be struggling with balancing school, work and family:
“The motto that I’ve lived through with my military career, with my online teaching and my job is ‘Keep the fire.’ Meaning, just continue pushing. Continue always, no matter the obstacle, no matter the struggle, just push through. Because eventually you’re going to work through it.”
Glassman shares his motto and his experience as an active-duty military member balancing school and family in the classroom, online and on-campus. We spoke with him more about teaching online and his military background.
Q. Can you tell us about your military background?
I joined the military at 17. I signed up to be an unassigned airborne ranger. I wrestled at the time in high school, and I wanted to be on a team and be a part of something that was physically demanding. I also just truly wanted to serve.
I served all my enlisted time with the 1st Ranger Battalion or as a Ranger Instructor in the Desert Phase Ranger School. I went through the enlisted ranks and I realized that education was important. Online education was just starting to come about – they had distance learning at the time and it became online education. I started taking distance learning classes, then online classes, and I was able to get enough college credits that I went from a Private joining at 17 up to the rank of Sergeant First Class, which was E7. At that point, I would say, “If I was a Commander, I would do the following.” So I became a Commander.
Then, I used my online opportunities that the Army helped me get, earned my degree and went to the Officer Candidate school and became an Officer. I then went through the ranks from Lieutenant all the way up to a retired Lieutenant Colonel.
Throughout my whole process, I’ve continually pushed online education. The reason I’m sitting here today talking to you is because of online education and the importance of it. I realized, for my soldiers, that was critical. It was the only way for them to really, not only get promoted, but gain those skillsets that they needed to be competitive when they got out of the military to really continue their career.
What do you enjoy about teaching?
I love teaching. I love sharing knowledge. I try to inspire, and I put my heart and soul into my class. I think it’s our job as a faculty member to really engage our students. The discussion thread is one of those means where we can continually prod them to continue the dialogue. We extend it throughout as far as we can. We get their experiences, we share ideas, we push them back into research, we push them back into the textbook. Those are some of the ways I can get at it.
One of the things that brings me the most joy in teaching is when I see my students in the classroom putting things that they’re learning into practice. The tools and techniques that we’re learning in class – they’re using it in their organization and they’re sharing it with their management or with the other members of their organization. It’s an incredible experience because it shows that that education is not just simply them trying to make a grade or get a degree.
We’ve heard a lot of students enjoy the organizational behavior course. What can you tell us about that course?
One of my favorite courses that I teach is the organizational behavior course. It’s one of the courses that I wish I would have had when I was a young leader. The interesting thing about that course is that it really gets to know the student themselves. They’re not only able to understand themselves, they understand how to work on a team and they also understand how to fit in the organization.
The really cool part about that course is that a lot of the folks who take this course are senior in what they do, so we have industry leaders every level from CEO all the way down to a shift manager. In the discussions, every week we highlight some key areas: employee engagement, incentives, culture, assessments, and we kind of get to know who they are, but they also share ideas that they’ve used within their own profession and organization. So those takeaways and those key points that they use, I’m finding when they’re done with the course, they’re continually using those within their organization.
We also found that some of the current topics we’re talking about in the course, they’ll share those dilemmas they are having in their organization and we’ll work through them as a class. So the follow-up discussions are really helping them work through those kinds of projects.
The other good about Florida Tech and the organizational behavior course is it’s really their first introduction to research. We’re getting them into the Evans Library and looking at all the tools available. They’re doing case studies, they’re doing an analysis, they’re doing papers, they’re doing the discussions – they’re doing basically a mini-project. They’re working through all the different databases that we have, we’re teaching them what a peer-reviewed journal article is, we’re teaching them how to write in APA. It’s a great course not only for their learning side of the house, but also for how to write and how to research.
Q. Tell us about a time when a student wanted to give up but didn’t. How did they push through?
I had a student who was pretty senior in her career. She had some class trouble and she had some personal issues come up. So I just reached out to her. I made sure it was okay, I called her on the phone, and we talked through the process. Even though I’m an online professor, I want students to understand that I’m not just behind a computer, they’re not just behind a computer; they’re a person, I’m a person.
So, I helped her find the right student resources. I found the things that would help her through the process. We linked her up with a librarian from Florida Tech that worked one-on-one with her. We pushed her through the student resource center, which has an academic support center that called and reached out to her. We had a whole team behind her – it wasn’t just me.
Then, I followed up with her through the process. Every so often I’d drop an email that just says “Keep the fire,” and that starts that discussion back. I personally found that it’s really cool. This student walked across the stage at the end of commencement. I was there, able to shake her hand, give her a hug and say she made it. That’s really what it’s all about.
What meaningful conversations or experiences have you shared with your online students?
Some of the meaningful conversations that I’ve shared with my students really were my own personal struggles to get through my online education. I’m a military member with a wife and children. I deployed a lot in my time as an online student. I was very senior in what I did, but I continued pushing through and making sure that, at the end of this, my goal was to gain a good degree. But it really wasn’t about me. It was really also my wife and my team pushing me.
At one point, I was almost done with my PhD and I was in a key position with the military. Right before my dissertation phase, the Army decided that I needed to deploy, so I deployed. When I came back after the deployment, I kind of wanted to take a break. My wife looked at me and said, “Continue on, you need to finish your degree.” It was very hard for me to get back into the motion of going for my degree. But if I hadn’t been pushed by her, I might have even stopped.
So, I use that as an example to tell students, “You’re going to hit a phase where you think you can’t do it, you don’t have enough time, but you do. Just continue pushing through that, and once you get through that piece, you’ll do fine. And, make sure you have that support team behind you to help you get through the process.”
Something else I highlight to my students is that it’s really about the process they’re going through. An online student has to have a good work ethic. They’ve had to do things on their own. To me, it’s easy to socially loaf in brick-and-mortar classes. I teach both on campus and online, and it’s easy to sit in a class of 30, 50, 100 people and truly socially loaf. You cannot socially loaf in an online class. The words that you type and the information that you give is critical because that’s the only thing you can show for what you’re doing. So, online students are learning great writing skills, they’re working on a virtual team, they’re working on a cross-cultural team, they’re working on collaborative efforts, they’re researching. Those skillsets that they’re gaining will go into their day-to-day work.
Why should a student choose Florida Tech?
I’m an alum – I graduated with my Master of Science in Logistics Management. Now I teach there and I’m also an academic chair. I truly believe in Florida Tech. We believe in people; we believe that individuals truly are what makes Florida Tech who we are. We have a great reputation for academic rigor, we have a great reputation for quality degrees and we have a great reputation for who we graduate from our courses.
Our online program is incredible. We have outstanding faculty. There may be universities out there that say “we have adjuncts.” I refuse to use the word adjuncts. We have online faculty members. We have people who truly care about our students. We understand that our students are not just somebody behind a computer screen but they truly are students. Our resources are set up for our campus and our online students the same.
Our commencement shows who Florida Tech is. At our commencement, our campus students and online students are in the same audience, and when they walk across the stage, you have no idea who was an online student or an on-campus student. This is the same degree. The online classes have the same rigor as our campus classes. Everybody at Florida Tech understands that online education is critical and we believe in our students.
I truly believe in the university. My eight-year-old right now, she always tells me, “Panther strong.” She believes she’s going to be a Florida Tech Panther one day!