Belhaven University will hold an event for prospective students on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at the school’s Atlanta campus (4151 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Suite 130, Atlanta, GA 30339). For information, call 404-425-5590 or go to www.atlanta.belhaven.edu.
When Belhaven University opened its Atlanta campus in 2011, a direct mail postcard promoted adult programs for busy adults who need to earn a living while they complete a degree, get a new degree to expand their career options or earn a master’s degree.
LaTasha Hall, 39, of Marietta, remembers tucking one of the postcards into her work bag for future reference. It struck a chord with the working mother, who had worked her way up through hospital ranks without a degree.
Hall was 21 when she got her first hospital job as a housekeeper in Covert, Mich.
“I knew that was not where I wanted to be, but I worked in housekeeping for two years,” Hall said. “Every week, I’d visit the Human Resources Department to see what else was available and finally I was accepted for on-the-job training to become an operating room assistant.”
Over the next few years, Hall migrated to a large teaching hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. She earned certification as a sterile processing technician. Later, she was recruited to work at Gwinnett Medical Center and moved to Lawrenceville. Hall’s knowledge and responsibilities expanded with each move.
Then, Hall’s career hit a snag when she applied for a manager’s position at WellStar Health System. She knew the hiring manager, she had excellent experience and references, but she didn’t have the required college degree.
“I had already taken some classes at Chattahoochee Tech, but that’s when I started thinking about Belhaven again. The postcard was pretty tattered and worn, but the seed had been planted,” Hall said. “I’d pull it out of my work bag and say, 'Lord, is this the school where you want me to go?’ One particular time I pulled it out of my bag and I just knew it was the place I was supposed to be.”
Hall has since been hired by WellStar, running sterile processing departments for its Paulding and Douglas hospitals, and the Windy Hill hospital in Cobb County.
Her classes at Belhaven meet once per week for four weeks, plus periodic project team meetings. Hall is on target to earn a bachelor’s degree in health care administration by early 2015.
Hall’s timing for the degree is good. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for medical and health services managers is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2010 to 2020, an increase of 68,000 jobs during that period.
Jobs are likely to grow at medical offices and in medical group practice management, and there should be opportunities in nursing homes administration, clinical manager jobs in specific departments, and work as health information managers or assistant administrators. Most entry-level positions in those settings require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
Mike Davis, director of admissions and student services at Belhaven’s Atlanta campus, says the school launched adult education programs about 25 years ago.
“The world around us was changing. The traditional set up of 16-week classes during the day didn’t work for the professional adult, so we started the adult campuses so an adult could get an accelerated degree that didn’t compromise academic rigor or quality,” he said.
Belhaven’s bachelor’s degree in health administration is offered both online and on campus. The curriculum is the same, but online classes accommodate students who may not be able to attend classes on campus. Belhaven also offers a master’s of business administration degree with a concentration in health administration.
Undergraduate tuition at Belhaven is about $10,800 a year, based on completion of 27 credit hours, Davis said. Classes are small, usually no more than 10 to 12 students. Books are provided free and first-year students get a Bible to use as a sourcebook throughout their studies at Belhaven.
“A biblical world view helps us build a strong foundation for all aspects of our lives, not just our professional life. It impacts how we interact with medical professionals or the patients with whom we work, how we market the business we supervise, and how we promote ourselves,” Davis said.
Belhaven is affiliated with the Presbyterian USA denomination, but the church has no controlling interest in the school, Davis said.
“We don’t require a faith statement from students, nor do we require anyone to adhere to a denomination,” Davis said.
Belhaven faculty member Lynn Dunlap teaches classes about health care organizations, financial administration of health care, performance improvements in health care and health care ethics. She said adult students approach learning much differently than recent high school grads.
“Adults want to get things right and they want to know how they can utilize what they learn,” Dunlap said. “To them, health care ethics are not pie-in-the-sky. They want to know real-world applications for what they are learning in class, so I don’t give them busywork. I try to give them meaningful work that they can really sink their teeth into.”
Transfer credits from core classes taken at other colleges may be accepted by Belhaven if the student maintained at least a 2.0 grade point average, which is lower than some universities require.
“I’ve thought a lot about that, actually,” Dunlap said. “Sometimes, when Mom and Dad have paid for college, students don’t do their best work the first time in college. But, by the time we get them, they have maturity.”
Hall says her educational experience at Belhaven has been demanding and rewarding.
“I have never pushed myself as hard in my life as I have now,” she said. “I have learned to be a critical thinker and problem solver in the workplace, and it has given me a different way of looking at things. God is growing me up, and Belhaven plays a big part in that.”