Name: Jan Zari
Title: Administrative Specialist
Court: California Central Bankruptcy Court (CACB)
MSU Program: Judicial Administration Non-Credit Certificate
Graduation Date: June 2012, Recognized at 2012 NCBC Conference in San Francisco, CA
How has your participation in the MSU program impacted your career?
I started the MSU program within a year after I began working for my court. Fresh out of undergrad with no background or experience in courts, I knew that this program would be a great way to give me some background and understanding about the judiciary, its many moving parts, and how they all work together. The program did all this, and more, allowing me to learn not only from our instructors, but from my peers from courts across the nation at different levels of the judiciary. I can safely say that the program has positively impacted my career, as I have been promoted into a position that I love in an area that I am passionate about.
What other benefits has the program brought into your life?
Meeting and networking with people has never been my greatest strength, but the program has allowed me the opportunity to be able to do so not only with Dr. Conner, Cathy White, and our instructors, but with court professionals from all over the world. Sharing experiences and stories with others has proven to be invaluable and has allowed us to learn from one another and adopt some best practices that we might never have considered from a court that could be similar or very different from our own. Additionally, I've been able to put on my teacher hat! I've had the opportunity to facilitate a couple of the JA classes in the online interactive format and I've found it to be extremely rewarding.
What was the time commitment for your program? How did you integrate that into your lifestyle?
The time commitment is sizable, but certainly not impossible! When attending the classes at NCBC, you have to attend all of the MSU courses in order to receive credit for completing the 2 classes being offered, which for me, made choosing my sessions at NCBC very easy even though I missed out on some of the other sessions I wanted to attend. With the online courses, you have to be a bit more self-disciplined. Courses are either 2 or 3 weeks long with due dates for assignments throughout the week. I would take time late at night or during lunch breaks to do my reading and complete my assignments. Being able to access the information online also meant I could do my reading on my phone or iPad while out to lunch, on the train, or anywhere at any time. For me it was always about rearranging my priorities and making time to do my work. The capstone experience was the most time-consuming portion of the program, but the guidance offered by Cathy and Dr. Conner was extremely helpful in getting my paper completed.
What format (or formats) did you use to complete your program? What did you like best about each one?
I completed the program using an even split of live classes offered during the NCBC Annual Conferences and the online interactive courses offered by MSU. Taking the classes during the conferences was extremely convenient and I loved being able to interact with the instructor and other students in real time and face-to-face. Discussions were always lively and I loved how people were always willing to share their experiences. The online interactive courses were great too and I loved being able to access the information 24 hours a day to complete my work. I loved that there was still an interactive element with the online courses, and because we were able to write out our responses to one another, comments were well thought out and articulate. Since time was relatively short with these classes, it forced me to be more organized and attentive in order to meet the deadlines for our assignments.
What tips or ideas can you share about finding a work/life balance that is conducive to achieving success in this program?
I will say this--there is never going to be a "perfect" time for anyone to go (or go back) to school! Life is busy and we all have so many things in our lives that compete for our time and attention. Make a commitment to yourself before starting the program and make it a priority. Set goals for yourself that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals!). Map out a plan that you can follow and stick to it as best as you can. Don't afraid to seek out help and guidance either! There is no one perfect approach for success in this program so tailor your plan to meet your needs. Come in with a positive attitude and be ready to learn and you will do just fine.
Are there any last thoughts or maybe a piece of advice you'd like to share with us?
First, a shameless plug: Take my classes! I will be teaching Human Resources Management, Court and Community Communication, Education, Training, and Development in the next cycle of online interactive courses. But seriously: Don't be intimidated at the thought of pursuing this opportunity! Just because you haven't been in school for a long time doesn't mean that you will struggle. There is plenty of support available within this community of learners--and so much to learn for both new and experienced judiciary professionals.
Do you have any ideas for getting the word out about the MSU JA Program?
Positive word of mouth from students goes a long way!