Name: Marcella R. Lockert
Title: Courtroom Deputy
Court: Indiana Southern Bankruptcy Court
MSU Program: Judicial Administration Non‐Credit Certificate
Graduation Date: August 2016, Recognized at the 2016 Joint NCBC/FCCA Conference in Washington, D.C.
How has your participation in the MSU program impacted your career?
I would periodically search for graduate programs. While reading the NCBC Impact newsletter, I read the article about the judicial administration program offered through Michigan State. With reading the course study of required classes, I knew the program would give a broad understanding of the judiciary and a better view of how the different departments operate on a daily basis in the courts. The program did that and more. The program took me out of my comfort zone. I believe, as we get older, we should find ways to challenge ourselves. Often times we are on autopilot and do not have to put much thought in how we maneuver throughout the day. This program was a rewarding change.
After graduating from the program, I received an employee recognition award ‘Sustained Superior Performance’ for positive attitude, quality customer service and leadership. I believe receiving this award was due to my participation in the MSU program. In addition, I find myself having a boost of confidence of pursuing avenues that will expand my knowledge of the entire judiciary.
What other benefits has the program brought into your life?
The program allowed the opportunity to meet and network with fellow court employees across the country. With the assignments from each course, it opened a dialogue that allowed each of us to share personal experiences. Attending school with other working adults will give you the opportunity to learn from each other. We had District and Bankruptcy courts in attendance from across the nation. I recall one class with an individual from a state court in Michigan. The different backgrounds in this type of learning environment brought forth a better understanding of perspectives and challenges of the different agencies.
What was the time commitment for your program?
I made a personal commitment to complete the 5-year program in 2 years. I spoke with the clerk of the court and explained the goal I had in mind. I had to obtain permission to attend the NCBC conference in back to back years. I mentally prepared myself to approach this aggressive schedule. After attending the first session with Barry Landers at the 2014 NCBC conference in St. Louis, I knew I made the best decision to join the program. I left that class with a renewed enthusiasm of being in back in school. I completed the remaining classes online and graduated the summer 2016 in Washington DC.
The online courses are in 2 or 3-week time frames. I made a personal commitment to give up social media and turned that focus to the MSU program. The time spent online I used to complete course work. The instructions for each assignment are clear and given throughout the week. I would read my course work in the evenings. Do not hesitate with contacting members in your office for research. You will find this extremely helpful. Some of course material will be in areas outside of your daily duties. I recall meetings with my clerk to discuss our courts approach on certain topics. I used Tuesdays / Thursdays and a few Saturdays as my days to turn in assignments. NOTE TO SELF: taking online courses, you have to be disciplined. I found my fellow classmates provided motivation. The required interaction not only kept you involved in the process, but it also gave a strong sense of responsibility.
What format (or formats) did you use to complete your program? What did you like best about each one?
I completed the MSU program by attending live classes at the NCBC conference and the online courses. I enjoyed the live classes. It was like homecoming each year with seeing familiar faces from across the country. The live classes had many interactive discussions. The small break out groups allowed time to chat. Not only to discuss the subject material, but also get to know each other and our home courts. Being in the live classroom helped break up the monotony of our daily tasks when back in the office. Learning something new is a beautiful thing. The online courses would on occasion have different students. It was nice when I would recognize a familiar name. Seeing a fellow classmate on the same schedule felt that we were travelling down the same road together. The interactive discussion with the online classes required each student to ask questions of their peers and respond accordingly. This would create lively chatter. I LOVED it!
What tips or ideas can you share about finding a work/life balance that is conducive to achieving success in this program?
If you have thought more than once about going back to school, think no more. The opportunity that Michigan State offers to federal employees will be worth your time. You can go at your own pace. You have five years to complete. Dr. Maureen Conner / Cathy White the Academic Specialist at MSU and the instructors will provide the necessary tools to help you succeed.
My advice is look at your schedule and see where can make some adjustments. If the fall months are busy, take courses in spring or vice versa. You will need time to read the course material. I found reading in the evening after dinner a great time. Create an attainable goal and try not to veer off the path. Stay focused and you will get there.
Are there any last thoughts or maybe a piece of advice you'd like to share with us?
The idea of going back to school as an adult can be overwhelming. The balance of work / home / classes can appear unmanageable. Once the decision is made to go back to school, it is important in inform friends and family of our new journey. That will put everyone on alert as to your new schedule. You may on occasion have to say ‘rain check’ on dinner or movie.
I had long been a fan of Michigan State University. Go Spartans! When I discovered this program was available, it was a win-win for me. The investment in my future was worth the time, energy and money. I have learned with perseverance and strong desire a person can accomplished anything.