Patti Swick, a third-grade teacher for an elementary school in New Jersey.

Alumni Spotlight: Patti Swick, M.A. in Administration & Leadership

Patti Swick graduated from Georgian Court University with an M.A. in administration and leadership and currently works as a third-grade teacher for an elementary school in New Jersey. Boasting nearly a decade in the classroom and several accomplishments outside of it, we asked Patti to share with us her experience pursuing her master’s degree at Georgian Court University.

Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?

I like to think that my passion for education stems from my mom. My mom has been a teacher for over thirty years; as a matter of fact, she was named Teacher of the Year this year for her school building. She has taught in both private and public schools, spending her career in the early elementary setting. She’s an amazing advocate for her students and a vital part of her school’s day-to-day operations. She is PTO president, planning fundraising and events for her school that are inclusive to all students and families. Even when it feels like she is facing an uphill battle, she always has a positive outlook and a smile to greet her students every day. I strive to be half the educator she has always been.

Why did you choose Georgian Court University for your master’s degree in administration and leadership?

I chose Georgian Court University because I loved the idea of a hybrid program. For my bachelor’s degree, I attended a traditional brick and mortar school. For my first master’s degree, I attended an online program. I loved being in the classroom, but having a full-time career, as well as working part-time and finding leadership roles on various boards that I’ve served, showed me that attending a traditional program wasn’t the right choice for me. Attending a strictly online program doesn’t always allow you to get to know your professors or build a rapport with them. The hybrid program of both in-person and online meetings provides the best of both worlds. I was able to get to know my professors and their stories, as well as my classmates! I didn’t have the stress of having to attend a class every week after spending the day in my own classroom.

What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Georgian Court University, and how do you use them today?

Through Georgian Court, I was able to understand what is expected of a school leader and the characteristics that best suit a successful school leader. The assignments throughout the various classes emulated real life situations that school leaders face, such as strategic planning and budgeting. By having the opportunity to complete these assignments under our professors (all of whom are current school leaders throughout New Jersey), I was able to receive feedback and feel prepared to utilize these skills in my future leadership role.

How has your administration and leadership degree impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?

This degree program has allowed me to understand the challenges administrators face on a daily basis. It allowed me to understand the difficult situations that they face and help me understand why decisions are made. I have been able to adopt more of a leadership role in my school, and I am able to lead PLCs and various committee meetings. I have learned how to better advocate for both myself and my students.

What was a challenge you faced during your master’s program, and who or what helped you overcome it?

A major challenge was the internship. It was very demanding, completing the hours and required activities. However, looking back at the internship, I learned so much about not only my school, but about how different “behind the scenes” aspects of school decisions work. My internship advisor, Dr. Huguenin, was a wonderful mentor and helped push me to complete the internship even when it felt like I couldn’t do it. I also had my school mentor, my principal Mrs. Alfaro, guiding me and providing me with valuable feedback.

What was the biggest takeaway from your master’s program?

The biggest takeaway was how much work the actual program was. I took a few years off in between my master’s degrees, so I had forgotten how much work being a student was. However, once I adjusted to it, I felt that the knowledge I gained and the experiences I had because of the program really provided me with an amazing base of knowledge to use in my future roles in administration and leadership.

What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the administration and leadership master’s program at Georgian Court University?

The best advice I could give someone would be to ensure that you are ready for all of the responsibility you will be undertaking wherever you do your internship. While the internship is a glimpse into what our administrators are responsible for on a daily basis, it gives you the opportunity to dive into those responsibilities with both feet. There are no silly questions, so if you don’t understand the rationale behind an assignment or are confused with how to complete it, be sure to ask! The professors were wonderful and are there to help you succeed.