David J. Thein
“Decidedly motivated, lifelong learner who thrives on solving problems of all types to create value.”
Hometown: Leawood, KS (a suburb of Kansas City)
Fun fact about yourself: In Boy Scouts at the time (1967), I was the then youngest person to have earned their Eagle Scout award and was required to wait for almost a year, until I turned 15, to actually receive it. That probably explains a lot of things about me!
Undergraduate School and Degree: I graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a degree in psychology (BA), moved on to professional school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry (DDS). Following a residency and certificate from Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, I completed my specialty training and master’s degree at Baylor College of Dentistry also in Dallas (MSD).
Where are you currently working? UMKC School of Dentistry as an Associate Clinical Professor, the course director of the Practice Management curriculum, and Somers Clinic Director.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Envisioning and developing a comprehensive four-year practice management curriculum for dental students. This material allows new grads to jumpstart their professional careers by being exposed to essential business concepts that all entrepreneurs put to use in managing their futures.
Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I was attracted by three things in particular. My youngest son, Travis, earned his MBA degree at UNC and convinced me of the importance of program rankings. UW Consortium was consistently ranked among the top online programs in the nation. It also offered multiple healthcare electives that fit my needs working in a health sciences environment. And lastly, compared to most schools, the tuition cost was reasonable with no differences between in-state and out-of-state applicants.
What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? It’s difficult to limit it to just one thing as I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. But if pressed for an answer, it would be the meaningful interactions with faculty and fellow classmates that I will miss the most. UW has an incredible wealth of faculty expertise and engagement. Plus, the character and quality of the other students I interacted with never ceased to amaze me.
What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? What I found the most surprising and refreshing was my own attitude about learning. The talks I had with my son about his MBA experience largely influenced me to consider enrolling in a program on my own. His degree allowed him to secure a giant step forward in career advancement and compensation. But if one’s aspiration, like mine, was to simply attain the knowledge afforded by such a program, the learning becomes rather effortless and something I looked forward to each week. I will miss that, but my wife won’t!
How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Although the self-discipline required in online programs is not everyone’s strength, it was an ideal fit for me. To be successful in an online curriculum, a student must be more engaged in the materials and content in order to understand and master the information presented. I would suggest not approaching the assignments as work to do, but rather knowledge to put to future use.
What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? My strongest recommendation would be to manage one’s time efficiently. Staying on track time-wise, or working slightly ahead of schedule, helps to factor in the inevitable interruptions or unexpected circumstances that might prevent meeting deadlines or creating work overloads.
What would you change about an online MBA Program? One component of the program that the Consortium emphasized repeatedly was the small group interaction format found in most of the modules and electives. The online posting sites where we interacted in groups, while functional, did not allow for the feel of real face-to-face communication. Perhaps a Zoom-type technological add-on could be provided to make the group sessions more meaningful and engaging.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Absolutely! The Consortium has exceeded my expectations, which were high to begin with. With an abundance of time freed up after finishing the program, I’m looking forward to finally having the opportunity to implement what I’ve learned over the past three years (one in Foundations and two to complete the MBA program). The bittersweet part is I’m also closing the chapter of engaging with classmates and faculty on a weekly basis in the online format.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am one of those fortunate few who feels they are already in their ideal career position (don’t tell my dean!). I have many plans, however, relating to further innovating my dental curriculum and moving it online, re-engineering the clinic organization I oversee, expanding my teaching opportunities, and giving back to the community that has been so generous to me over the years.
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