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Photo of Nichole Berney '11L '16A cooking dog treats

Masterfully Different: Doane's Masters of Arts in Management program empowers students with an edge

Talk about two completely different career paths.

Nichole Berney ’11L, ’16A began in retail, switched to dental assisting, became a college instructor, started her own business and now works in consulting.

Meanwhile, Kate Engel ’11A started out as an actress, moved into education, spent time in college admissions and became a communications director.

And yet both Lincolnites have found Doane’s Master of Arts in Management to be the key in furthering their respective careers.

“I was kind of clueless about how to be an effective and efficient manager until I took several of the classes through Doane,” says Kate, now the director of communication and culture at Nebraska Innovation Campus.

Doane’s adult learning programs are popular for more than undergraduates in Nebraska’s three biggest metro areas. Doane offers one doctorate and four different masters’ degree programs with campuses in Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha. The MAM program is designed to help business professionals learn how to become effective leaders and decision-makers through interpersonal skills.

“Organizations who’re hiring are not looking for narrowly trained technocrats who just know processes and systems,” says Dr. Dana Miller, the director of the MAM program’s Leading Edge capstone and an instructor for each of its graduating classes, beginning with the class of 1994. “I think that’s what’s unique not just about the Leading Edge but about the whole MAM program coming from a liberal arts perspective.”

While a traditional master’s in business administration is seen as the standard for professionals at the graduate level, it’s focused specifically on financials and procedures. Doane’s MAM program, though, teaches management through a wider range of topics tied to one common denominator: people.

“Coming at this degree program from a blend of not only developing management tools and skills but also values-based people skills where individuals can face change, be resilient and can effectively communicate and relate to others, is really critical,” Dr. Miller says.

It’s how prospective students and professionals like Kate and Nichole, no matter their previous industries, find a path forward.

Kate began her career as an actress with the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Louisville before working as an artistic associate in the state’s education system, helping students prepare for the arts portion of Kentucky’s K-12 standardized testing.

She switched to the nonprofit sector when the Omaha Children’s Museum hired her as its new special events coordinator and assistant to the director of marketing in 2007. After a year in the industry, she chose Doane for her master’s because of the MAM coursework: grant writing, consumer negotiation and strategic management, all infused with interpersonal communication.

Kate found Doane’s classrooms—predicated on learning together as a cohort and from faculty who were working professionals in their field—enhanced the education.

“I could read the text book, be a part of the class discussion, hear a variety of people share about their experiences from a world of different backgrounds and then I could take that into my organization and use those skills immediately,” Kate says. “That was what was missing for me in a traditional MBA program. (The MBA) didn’t connect to the work that I was doing at that time of my life.”

Nichole found the same advantages at Doane.

After starting her career in retail, she graduated from Southeast Community College’s dental assisting program, and became a chair-side dental assistant and eventually the office manager of a private practice in Lincoln. She even returned to SCC as an instructor in the dental assisting program.

During that time, Nichole completed her undergraduate degree through Doane’s adult education program in Lincoln.

“It’s geared toward nontraditional students,” says Nichole, who graduated with a bachelor’s in business.

“It’s a great atmosphere for learning and wanting to take your career to the next level.”

In 2012, she started her own business, Beyond the Dish bakery, which makes gluten- and wheat-free dog treats, and has been running it on the side ever since. She currently works full-time as an optometry consultant for Williams Group.

When she was ready to advance her career, she went back to Doane because of the recommendations of several recent MAM graduates.

Photo of Nichole's dogs Bindi and OllieNichole's test subjects for her dog treat recipes are her two puggles (a crossbreed between a pug and beagle), Bindi (left) and Ollie (right).

“Every one of them that I spoke to said that Doane’s grad program changed their life,” Nichole says. “They were all at a point in their careers where they had jobs that they were successful in, but they were looking for more of the nontraditional grad program where they were going to learn more about themselves and not just policies and procedures.”

Kate and Nichole both fell in love with Doane because of the people. The connections they made with MAM faculty like Kerry Fina and Ted Hill and Director of Career Development Susan Rocker gave them a comfort zone to learn in.

“The instructors work in the field right now,” says Nichole, who started the Leading Edge in March. “They too have gone to class at night working a full day like I have. They also have real-world applications, not just case studies in a book. We’re really discussing what happened in today’s world or marketplace.”

Kate was so impacted by her MAM experience that when Dr. Miller reached out to her in 2013 to become an adjunct instructor in the Leading Edge, she couldn’t say no.

“Doane, the MAM Program and the Leading Edge component of it had been so impactful for me I felt like it was a way to give back.” Kate says. “I almost had an obligation and a responsibility to share this great thing with other people.”

Both Nichole and Kate can tell that the MAM program—with emphases in human relations, leadership and project management—hasn’t just taken them to new heights in their careers, but also impacted them on a personal level.

“It’s changed me as a person,” Nichole says. “It’s not just given me the knowledge and skills from the textbook or real-world examples. It’s really made me examine myself.”