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Featured Grad: Rita Haussler ’18L ’20A

Featured Grad: Rita Haussler ’18L ’20A

Rita Haussler

Program: Master of Arts in Management

Childhood hometown: Adams, NE

 

Congratulations on graduating, Rita! Without having a traditional Commencement ceremony as originally scheduled to put a bow on everything, is it kind of a surreal feeling to be done? 

Thank you for the congratulations, I was blessed with the opportunity to get to know truly inspiring and good hearted people in my classes. 

The initial feeling surrounding the banning of public gatherings such as graduation ceremonies was surreal, as if I ran a race and never got to cross the finish line. Then I realized this was a societal norm and needed to kick my learning in gear to reframe it. After graduation ceremonies were delayed or cancelled, I took some time to look back, putting some different perspectives to it. I chuckle when I see how easy it was to fall back into old habits, realizing this exact experience was one example we as MAM students worked hard to develop skills for maneuvering the uncertainties in life. Then I was able to put a different meaning to the situation as I navigated this unknown territory. I realized I may be done with the classes, but the becoming experienced in each class or activity continues with life and that is the gift. 

You are now a double Doane graduate, earning your master’s in May after earning your bachelor’s in 2018. You’ve spent a lot of time at the Fred Brown building on the Lincoln campus the past few years. What does it mean to you to now have two degrees and how would you summarize your experience as a nontraditional student at Doane? 

 

I am grateful for the undergraduate and graduate professors on the Lincoln campus, because they are a big part of my success. I started this journey in the fall of 2013 with zero credits, worked diligently and showed up to class, as uncomfortable as it was, I graduated in December of 2018 from Doane with a degree in Organizational Communications. I finished my undergrad classes in October of 2018 and seamlessly transitioned to the MAM program before graduation, giving me 7 years in the Fred Brown building on the Lincoln campus. 

Having double Doane degrees has led me to understand I am intentional about my learning and choices of life, as well as owning and growing a passion for learning more. Ultimately, it reminds me I can do hard things, knowing challenges have not stopped me in the past, it gave me the confidence to know I built this foundation to carry my learning with me wherever I go.

 

To summarize my experience is very personal but really can be useful and beneficial to anyone. Having two degrees from Doane is a result of the sense of belonging the Lincoln campus professors and mentors express there. It was here I found the difference from fitting in to belonging. Here is where I learned what it meant to belong, as being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you for who you are, and it shows. Fitting in is being somewhere you really want to be, but they don't care one way or the other. This experience of belonging for a nontraditional student, like myself, on the Lincoln campus has been a seed in growing my leadership philosophy: Braving it everyday and craving the goal, enjoying the process on the way to making the best better. This is a result from knowing the difference from belonging to fitting in.

 

In the MAM program, you completed the Developing Leader Coaches (DLC) capstone, which consists of three terms (one course in each term) that serves as the conclusion of the program. What was the DLC experience like for you? 

I have to admit I underestimated the impact and experience of the MAM program and all its layers, as I think many do. As I grew in the DLC program I found the importance of developing the leader within myself. It is those skills, tools, and knowledge I take with me wherever I go, finding the value in the small things and personal stories. The DLC experience was taxing and hard, relentless at times, but worth the risk and time put into it because I walked away with the unique knowledge of myself with increased skills and more tools to navigate gray areas, have hard conversations, change meaning to experiences, and build the “it” factor we see emerge from the needed soft skills that have been overlooked for years in a variety of organizations.

Another powerful experience in the DLC program that has changed the concept of communication for me comes from being in the seat of a life coach as well as a coachee. It has created a change in the way I listen. A person cannot go through this training and communicate the same. Instead of listening to respond a true leader listens to understand. The experience is difficult to label, but also invaluable to own.

Overall, what did you take away the most from your learning in the MAM program? 

My overall take away has been to know yourself, build that foundation, then give it away. Metaphorically, if you work hard to climb a steep mountain with all of its rocky and thorny areas you find the strengths and talents in yourself necessary to get to the top, when you get over the mountain, you reach over to pull the next person over their mountain with their strengths and talents, it's a process that just keeps giving. The points I come back to everyday lands with the weight in knowing a personal mission statement or vision and letting the WHY be my compass, admitting the power in the small things of life are also the acts that cost us nothing, the fact action is key, intentionality feeds success, and there is never only one perspective. A MAM graduate will use every part of learning in every area of life.

Is it safe to say that Doane’s MAM program could be beneficial for anyone, in any industry, to complete?

It is not only safe to say the MAM program would be beneficial, but to say it is a must for anyone who “manages” or leads. The MAM program comes down to one thing, it is always about people. My perfect job would be to redefine management with that concept of understanding. It does not matter if you manage in retail, banking, warehouse, food, non-profits, or any business, the best or most successful organizations’ focus are the ones who consider their employees as assets rather than liabilities. A transitional leader does not manage things, but sees people, the whole person and brings out the best in them. My experiences from the MAM program has started a new journey to help me understand why it may be important to someone else, no matter the industry.

For you personally, what was the driving motivation to earn a master’s degree?

The driving motivation for me to earn my master’s degree was to understand myself better. It is easy to do things for the sake of doing it or to say you did it. When I started these classes it was easy to think only about getting that piece of paper and how good that moment will be.  However, the truth is the most value comes from the action taken and what is learned in the process or the middle, like the filling in an Oreo, if you like them, or the chocolate chips in the cookie.  

Toward the last part of my undergrad I was approached to consider the MAM program. After researching the details and decided I was in, I narrowed my selection down between the MBA and the MAM program. My interest had been sparked because I recognized the state of organizational management, as a whole, was losing overall focus and I wanted to make a difference. I found the MAM program encased the skill sets I needed to grow in what my vision of making a difference looked like. The fact Doane offered the wide variety of classes to teach what typically is not taught in the classroom, such as navigating the dark side of ethics, generational differences, people mapping, or intercultural development, just to name a few, was part of what motivated me to earn this degree. The other came from a simple personal desire and responsibility to know more about how I can improve the quality of life. 

After recently making the move to Arizona, how has the adjustment been for you? What lies ahead for you? 

Making the move of residence across the country has been challenging. I tediously planned every part, only to find I never considered to incorporate a pandemic. The opportunity in that is we never can plan or control every part perfectly, which is why my MAM degree has been beneficial to me in the process. I relied on controlling the things I can, knowing myself, remembering what I wanted the outcome to be, determining what was the next best step,  finding it was about negotiating the uncertainty life throws at you. In these times I have used the same skills with myself as I would use in business when I experience anything different or a change. In this time I have focused on the values, beliefs, and norms of Nebraska and am taking some time to learn the values, beliefs, and norms of Arizona to compare and contrast. In this way I learn to appreciate what each is and isn’t.  The same concept applies personally or professionally, finding there is no wrong or right, just differences. 

I am not sure what lies ahead, after 24 years in banking my strengths land there, but now I am equipped to expand on my vision and redefine management in any realm, by making a difference in any position at any organization or community. I am sure of one thing, change will happen (along with growing pains), and walking across a stage does not change the fact I earned the skills with new tools to make a difference, it's all in the way we look at it.