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It seems fitting that in January 2020 the Beacom School of Business launched its first virtual Executive Education program and within months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that modality became the only way education could be delivered. 

The inaugural program for the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO) Nurse Leadership Program was originally designed to be 70% virtual to allow for nurse leaders throughout the state of South Dakota to be involved in the new leadership development program. Through a series of webinars, nurses would learn tangible skills to help them become stronger leaders within  their organizations.

“There is a tendency in health care to promote the best nurses into leadership roles but fails to provide the training and support on how to navigate the non-nursing side of the job,” said Carole South-Winter, Ed.D., associate professor of health services administration at Beacom. “Through this program we are teaching nurse leaders how to be successful on the administration side of their positions.”

The program was designed to cover a broad range of leadership topics, including creative thinking and problem solving, building successful teams, finance for health care managers and data-driven decision making. 

Michella Sybesma
Michella Sybesma, vice president education and communications at SDAHO

“At SDAHO, we heard from our member organizations that there was a great need to continue building the nurse leaders across South Dakota. This was not a challenge of just a few small organizations, it was relevant to all of our members,” said Michella Sybesma, vice president education and communications at SDAHO. “We decided to partner with the USD Beacom School of Business because we knew they had experience delivering on these topics and using their health services administration faculty made it very relevant to our members.”

Together the teams worked through the best way to deliver the material in a virtual setting to allow for active learning and engagement between the participants and the faculty members. While live attendance was strongly encouraged, the flexibility of the format became incredibly important when COVID-19 struck and participants could not always break away for the scheduled session.

“When COVID-19 hit, all of our plans changed, but we knew the most important thing was for us to support our nurses so the flexibility of the webinar format allowed them to catch up later if needed,” Sybesma explained. 

The scheduled in-person sessions that were part of the program were either postponed or transitioned to virtual. “It was unfortunate that we couldn’t meet in person, as networking is a key part of this program; however, we are adjusting plans for 2021 to allow for participants from the previous year to have thatexperience and opportunity to network with their peers,” said Sybesma.

The initial success of the SDAHO program allowed the Beacom School of Business to quickly adjust additional Executive  Education programs.

“It would be easy for businesses to cancel professional development programs when faced with a global pandemic, but that is arguably one of the best times to continue with that type of program,” said Venky Venkatachalam, dean of the University of South Dakota Beacom School of Business.

“When employees are all separated, working from home and dealing with a variety of changes to their routine, bringing teams together to focus on something other than their day-to-day priorities can be valuable,” Dean Venkatachalam said. “Not only does it show their development and growth is valuable to the company, it also allows them to connect with their colleagues on another level.”

Sonja Theisen
 Sonja Theisen, SVP chief accounting officer at Metabank

MetaBank, a regular Executive Education partner, found a lot of value in their addition of a virtual program. While all of their employees were working remotely, Beacom’s new Executive Education program allowed detailed training to continue.

“There were a number of important pronouncements and changes that impacted MetaBank, so it was important for us to get our accounting and finance team fully trained on these rules,” said Sonja Theisen, SVP – chief accounting officer at Metabank. “We appreciated the flexibility that the virtual training offered our employees and the feedback from the training was very positive.”

“Our faculty truly have embraced the virtual modality for instruction and it allows us to diversify our offerings for the Executive Education program,” said Venkatachalam. “While there have been many unfortunate aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am energized by the innovation and growth opportunities for the future.”

 Looking forward to a post-pandemic world, the Beacom School of Business will continue to utilize both virtual and in-person modalities to offer customized Executive Education programs that meet the needs of businesses throughout the region.