Each fall and spring semester, one exceptional student is chosen to lead the processional in the college convocation and university commencement ceremonies. This year, Leland Dye served as the banner carrier for the Spring 2016 ceremonies. Leland was chosen because his time at CLS exemplifies what perseverance and dedication can accomplish academically.
Leland began his studies in 2012 through CLS’s self-paced program. The program had been designed to allow students to progress at their own speed, but many students found the informal structure challenging to complete. Leland’s perseverance throughout the program and his commitment to earning his degree in such a short span of time are major accomplishments.
Was there a specific event or person that made you decide to apply for admission to CLS?
It has been a lifetime goal of mine to finish my degree. I completed my associate’s degree with Central Texas College in early 1986 while stationed in Berlin, Germany, with the U.S. Army. I was halfway into my third year of college when my wife and I had two sons. My focus shifted to my family, and it was during this time that finishing my degree became a lower priority. At the start of 2012, the timing was perfect to restart and achieve my goal of completing my degree. I found OU’s Administrative Leadership program a perfect match for my profession as a certified project management professional (PMP). Many of the Administrative Leadership classes are directly related to the project management knowledge areas.
Is there anyone who was instrumental in your success?
First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge my Christian faith that provided me with strength and perseverance the past four years when I did not think I could go any further. Second, I have to thank my wife and best friend of 35 years, Michelle, for her understanding and support at the expense our time together.
There are two instructors that I would like to thank. Julie Davis was the instructor for my first class in composition, and that set the tone for the writing style I would need throughout my studies in Oklahoma. Jim Martin played a significant role in my goal to complete my degree. His instruction and mentorship in the disciplines of leadership were immeasurable.
What surprised you most about your time with CLS?
I found that taking classes online was much easier than I had first anticipated. The classes were all well developed, and it was easy to understand what was needed to complete the unit assignments. Additionally, throughout my studies I often asked myself why I would waste a nice weekend. In hindsight, the time went by quickly and was well spent.
What did you find most interesting during your studies?
The most interesting aspect of my studies was a modern humanities class that gave me a new insight and appreciation of art, literature and philosophy. For example, a few of the art pieces that were included in the assigned text book were those I had actually seen while stationed in Europe. I had not fully appreciated the art when I initially viewed it in person, but when I took this class I developed deeper insight.
Did you have a favorite instructor?
Jim Martin was the most influential instructor I had during my studies at the University of Oklahoma. He was the assigned instructor for several of my classes, and I found him to be extremely helpful and interested in my overall success. His instruction, guidance and mentorship were particularly accommodating to my needs as a student. He definitely provided the motivation I needed and was instrumental in my successfully completing the degree.
How has what you learned benefitted you so far?
There are so many benefits, I don’t even know where to begin! First of all, I am much more well-versed in current events, historical facts and so many other subjects than I was before college. I have also learned that I can accomplish anything if I want it enough. Now I look at things from a different perspective than before. Instead of putting a goal aside because it seems impossible, I figure out how to make it work. I feel like I can learn to do anything now.
How do you see finishing your degree benefitting you in the near future?
The completion of my degree will enhance my professional competence as a certified project management professional. It will enable me to use that knowledge for future complex project assignments.
If you could offer some advice to your younger self, what would you tell him?
Never give up on your goals or be discouraged and always challenge yourself to achieve what seems to be impossible.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I am not confident at times about how well I did, but balancing work, family and my studies is what I consider a huge achievement. During my studies at Oklahoma, I was assigned as the lead project manager for a major wireless carrier’s network coverage for the Super Bowl. This frequently required extended hours to work through the complexities of the project. My studies at OU were primarily done after work, on weekends and during some holidays. Unfortunately, this was at the expense of time with my family, and I found this to be the greatest challenge to maintaining a healthy balance of work, family and study time.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you have any specific goals or aspirations?
It is my professional responsibility as a certified PMP to continue the pursuit of professional excellence and competence in the profession of project management. I am also considering enrolling in my employer’s mini-MBA program within the next year and possibly completing a full MBA.
Note: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.