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Tips on Becoming a Virtual Volunteer


Volunteers are an essential part of any community. But what happens when you want to give back, but don’t know where to start? Maybe the organization you are interested in is far away or there aren’t a lot of volunteer opportunities in your town—what happens then?

Thanks to the rise of virtual volunteering, time and place no longer dictate whether or not you can give back. As long as you have access to the Internet and a computer, you can find a way to volunteer.

Finding Virtual Volunteer Opportunities

It wouldn’t be much of a virtual volunteering opportunity if you couldn’t find it online! Thanks to websites like, the Web’s largest volunteer engagement network, you can search for volunteer opportunities anywhere and from wherever you are.

“When we launched VolunteerMatch, we were very interested in using the power of the Internet to not only create brick-and-mortar relationships, but also to unlock the potential of new relationships between good people and good causes that would no longer be dependent on proximity and region,” explains Robert Rosenthal, vice president of communications and marketing at VolunteerMatch.

While the bulk of the 80,000+ volunteer opportunities listed on the site at any given time include an actual brick-and-mortar location, there is a small chunk dedicated solely to virtual volunteer opportunities.

“Virtual volunteering opportunities, or those that can be accomplished from virtually anywhere, typically make up about five percent of the overall number of volunteer listings posted by nonprofits at,” reveals Rosenthal. “They remain a popular way for people to get involved and contribute from anywhere.”

Virtual Volunteering Snapshot

So what do these virtual volunteer opportunities look like?

A search on turned up 4,386 virtual volunteer opportunities. Needs ranged from tutors and peer mentors, to writers and web developers. There are options for people who want to serve as advocates in education, those who can serve as helpline volunteers for at-risk individuals, and those who can jumpstart online fundraisers for a good cause. There are even some options for those of you who can knit or sew!

All that’s required is a computer, a needed skill set, and the desire to serve.

Benefits of Volunteering

You may be wondering why you should consider giving up the little bit of free time that you have to volunteer. For one thing, helping people never gets old. Just ask those who do it on a regular basis! There is simply no substitute for putting a smile on someone’s face or meeting a need.

At the same time, there are practical benefits associated with volunteering. If you are considering switching careers, but need to gain additional experience, volunteering is a great way to do it. It’s also a way to get more involved in your current career field.

For example, Dr. Mary Goggins Selke, core curriculum faculty for Northcentral University’s School of Education and founding chair of the Association of Teacher Educators’ Special Interest Group (SIG) for Educational Leadership, recently had the opportunity to publish an article in the Southern Journal of Educational Administration with other SIG members.

“It started out as a presentation for a national conference that we attended, but then I received an email call for article proposals and suggested to the team that we convert the paper to an article,” she relates. “We met over lunch at the conference and hammered out an article outline and who-needed-to-do-what.  I wrote the intro and closing discussion, submitted the article, and the rest is history.”

Selke also serves as choir director for a nursing home choir in her hometown, the perfect outlet for utilizing her passion (and undergraduate degree) for music.

“I always thought volunteering was just something you did because my family did lots of it and involved me from the time I was very young,” she says. “But the truth is it doesn’t matter if it involves professional service or local or global community service in an area of passion apart from one’s profession. Or, if it’s done in-person or virtually…volunteering always provides a means to augment the quality of life for people touched by the ripple effect of putting your actions where your beliefs are.”

 *Originally published in Higher Degrees Winter 2014.

Trends in K-12 Education: Online Continuing Teacher Education

With each passing year, standards for student achievement in K-12 classrooms across the country continue to rise. Most recently, the wide-spread adoption of Common Core State Standards has forced a new focus on student achievement and application of real world knowledge and skills. In an effort to help students exceed these expectations and succeed in the classroom, proactive educators must seek continuing education that can be immediately translated in to the classroom.

With this goal in mind, online degrees and certificate programs have quickly become the solution. “Choosing between a certificate program and degree program should really be tied to the student’s goals,” says Dr. Karen Ferguson, Assistant Dean for Northcentral University’s School of Education.

Dr. Karen Ferguson -  Assistant Dean, School of Education

Dr. Karen Ferguson – Assistant Dean, School of Education

“A degree program will provide students with both a breadth and a depth of information in their chosen area.  A certificate, on the other hand, tends to be very focused and specific.  Students should choose between the two based on their personal goals and professional requirements.”

In today’s competitive market for online education, fewer requirements, a completion date that is often as short as a few months, and a lower cost for total tuition have given certificate programs the edge – for now.

“Certificate options demonstrate to your school leadership that you are dedicated to continuous improvement and learning,” explains Dr. Ferguson.  “Often, certificates are a nice addition because students can learn focused content that may not have been offered at the time they earned their degree.”

For example, earning an education certificate in early childhood education, e-learning or education leadership would serve almost any educator well. While these specializations are common among online schools, NCU’s School of Education has taken specialized to a higher degree by becoming hyper-focused on the needs of teachers across the country attempting to adapt to the Common Core State Standards requirements.

“NCU offers certificates in a number of areas, all of which will support our students’ goals.  One of our recent additions is the Mathematics Excellence in the Common Core post-baccalaureate certificate.  This unique certification in education is designed specifically to help educators who are currently teaching mathematics to implement the Common Core State Standards,” says Dr. Ferguson.

Whether completing a degree program for advancement or a certificate program for added knowledge, online continuing teacher education is now the go-to solution for educators looking to prepare their students for success. For more information on all of NCU’s Title IV funded certificate and degree programs, visit

Should You Consider a Certificate Program?


Certificate programs are an efficient way to expand your knowledge without committing to the time and cost of an additional degree. They can be completed for fun, or as part of a career development strategy.

David G. Moore Jr. (Ph.D.), curriculum and assessments faculty in NCU’s School of Business and Technology Management is a self-described collector of diplomas and certificates. Moore holds undergraduate certificates in culinary arts and bartending, plus commercial and workplace Spanish. This is in addition to Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) certificates.

Although he has completed certificates for personal knowledge, Moore is a staunch believer that certificate programs allow students to revise their career path without completing a second or third degree.  In fact, according to US News & World Report, “for some… a certificate or just a few courses are enough to get a promotion – and a raise.”

“Let’s say a student has an undergraduate degree in computer science and has been working in software development for several years,” says Moore. “If they decide they want to move into a managerial role, a certificate in project management would be perfect for them.  It augments their existing technical skills with the necessary project management skills to start seeking a more supervisory position.”

While some, like Moore collect certificates for fun, for others they become part of a licensing requirement.

Shannyn Stern, vice president and controller at Northcentral University is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In order to maintain her certification, Stern is required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing professional education each year. Enrolling in a certificate program allows Stern to fulfill her annual professional education hours while at the same time adding a new certificate to her resume.

Although educators are not required to complete professional development courses, it is an expectation that they will do so. Taking coursework to gain endorsements on top of their teaching certificate is a way for teachers to ensure continued professional growth.

NCU’s Assistant Dean of the School of Education, Karen Ferguson (Ph.D.) asserts that “academic certificates demonstrate content mastery, a dedication to lifelong learning and professional development.  Certificates… demonstrate to school leadership that [teachers] are dedicated to continuous improvement and learning.”

With the demand for fast and convenient education solutions rising, countless 100 percent online certificate programs are now available in almost any professional field out there. In fact, Drexel University offers an online graduate certificate in creativity and innovation!

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

How to Procrastinate: Football-Style

The NCAA Football and NFL seasons are now in full swing, giving millions of students across the country yet another excuse to put off their final papers and head to the stadium, bar or couch for a few hours. No judgment here, Northcentral University team members are some of the most die-hard fans around!

We say if you’re going to procrastinate, why not do it right? Gather your family and friends to make some great food and get the most out of your few hours of freedom with these tailgating tips and menu recommendations from NCU’s super fans!

Molly Migliaccio – Creative Services and Production Manager & New York Giants Super Fan

“Make sure the food you have is set-it-and-forget-it style. You don’t want to be in the kitchen cooking and cleaning! You’ll always miss the best play of the game and have to hear about it later!”

Jeff Wegela – Senior Re-Entry Specialist & Detroit Lions Super Fan

“Picture this – pizza, wings, cheesy bread and your favorite beverage on the table in front of you.  You’re kicked back in your favorite chair and watching your team win. Or in my case, watching your team get penalty after penalty! It doesn’t get any better than that!”

Kevin Lustig – Senior Vice President, Marketing and Business Development & Michigan Super Fan

“I eat garlic chicken wings with buffalo sauce and ranch. Yes, they play better when I do – it’s science!”

Krista Heist – Associate Director of Admissions & Arizona Cardinals Super Fan

“If you’re actually going to the game, like my family does every Sunday, bring a rug or something to put on the hot ground. I recommend ours, a replica of a football field. It’s great for keeping away the heat of the asphalt, while adding a touch of ambiance to your tailgate.”

Kegan Bellerby – Graduate School Advisor & Oregon Super Fan

“Watching the blazing speed and astounding pace of the Oregon Duck offense is something that can cause us fans to become dizzy and light-headed at times. I suggest a cold beverage to accompany some delectable Krispy Kreme donuts or a nice Caesar salad in order to center oneself. This should help bring one’s equilibrium back to normal viewing capabilities… shoot, I just missed another TD!!”

4 Tips on Coping with Sibling Rivalry

When we’re young, our siblings are our best friends.  Every free moment is spent together – playing, laughing, bonding through trouble caused throughout the day, and competing for attention. Yes, the seed for sibling competition and rivalry is planted young.  For those that face the task of overcoming it, it’s a lifelong commitment.

Before diving head first into how you can cope with this issue in your own life, let’s focus on a relationship we can all aspire to emulate.

Northcentral University team members and identical twin sisters, Kristen Carter and Kathleen Van Riper, have worked together at NCU for over 3 years and couldn’t be happier.  Both characterize one another as their best friend, express a love for working together, and support each other through all of life’s hurdles.  “No rivalry with us,” Kristen says, “we always want the other to do well or achieve similar success!”

Sufficiently green with envy and longing to mend fences with your brothers and/or sisters yet? The four tips below can help you get started.

Make the Grand Gesture

Swallow your pride, pick up the phone, and make the first call – even if you don’t feel you’re in the wrong.  Nothing can be fixed if you both sit on your hands forever.  Whether you have the occasional argument or your relationship is a rollercoaster that never ends, one of you needs to be the first to break through the wall.  Sure, that first conversation might be awkward, but it’s all downhill from there.

Take a Walk in Your Sibling’s Shoes

We all focus on our own agenda when it comes to conflict, but if you can force yourself to take a step back from the chaos – do it!  Take a moment to actively think about what your sibling must be feeling and thinking.  If you were forced to walk a mile in their shoes, would you feel the same?  A new perspective on an old conflict can help shed some light on solutions you hadn’t thought of in the past.

“Let the Good Times Roll”

Even the most tension-filled relationships have their bright moments.  When your stress reaches a breaking point, try taking a walk down memory lane by looking through old pictures, emails or Facebook posts.  Remembering the “good times” will help you gain perspective on your relationship as a whole, rather than just a few moments in time.

Bite the Bullet – Apologize

For some of us, “I’m sorry” is the hardest sentence we’ll ever say.  It’s tough admitting we were wrong, but we all have to admit that the results are worth the sacrifice, especially when it comes to our siblings.  So, tuck that tail and go for it!

NCU’s Academic Leadership & Roles at a Glance

Have you ever wondered how a university is run? Having a strong leadership team helps to ensure quality, integrity and growth at the university are sustained.

There are several components of university administration. Like other leading higher education institutions, Northcentral University relies on multiple leaders across the university to facilitate operations and make sure that our culture and values are maintained.

Board of Trustees

NCU is governed by a Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees is responsible for the establishment of broad institutional policies for operation of the University, with oversight responsibility for academics and academic policies. There are 14 members on NCU’s Board of Trustees including NCU’s President and Chief Executive Officer, who serves as an Ex Officio Member.

President and Chief Executive Officer

NCU’s President and CEO, George Burnett, is responsible for the overall strategic, financial and tactical leadership of NCU. With the board, his role is to guide and establish NCU as a leader in online higher education.

Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Dr. Scott W.M. Burrus serves as NCU’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer. As Provost, Dr. Burrus oversees academic operations and administration and works closely with NCU’s Deans to provide quality educational opportunities and programs.

Vice President of Academic Affairs

Dr. Heather Frederick, VP of Academic Affairs, works with our Provost to ensure academic operations, curriculum, instruction and technology adhere to NCU’s mission and values.


Northcentral University has a Dean for each school of study. Our Deans help with areas such as academic policy, faculty hiring, programmatic accreditation, and curriculum.

NCU’s Deans are:

For more general information on higher education leadership or student affairs, check out resources on the Bureau of Labor Statistics or NASPA.

Trends in Adult and Workforce Education

“It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class.” – President Obama, 2013

In the President’s 2013 State of the Union address, he called on Congress to reform the Higher Education Act to make education more attainable and affordable. In today’s increasingly competitive economy, adult workers need to differentiate themselves and stay current in their fields. To do this, they need options for continuing their education and gaining additional experience.

Here are some current trends for continued learning for working adults:

Employer-Sponsored Training & Tuition Reimbursement Programs

Many companies are offering their employees specialized training and are even paying for them to go back to school. Some employers offer tuition assistance vouchers or have partnerships with colleges and universities to provide discounted tuition rates. In a recent article for, Northcentral University‘s Dr. Lee Smith, dean of the School of Business and Technology Management details the importance of providing employees with professional development opportunities.

“Supporting professional development initiatives during tough economic times makes more sense for most companies than not doing so,” says Lee. “To stay ahead of the game, it is incumbent on these organizations to ensure that their key employees are trained in areas that will advance company performance.”

Certification Programs

Certification programs are increasing in popularity among workers who’ve earned a college degree but want more specialized training in a given occupation. Skills can be developed at both the occupational and industry level. Individuals seeking certifications can look to traditional post-secondary education at colleges and universities or find certification opportunities through industry and professional associations.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a hot topic in education today. Individuals with Internet access can take courses online for free at some of the nation’s top universities. While most MOOCS do not offer credit for course completion, there are circumstances that allow for a certificate of completion. If you want to enroll in a MOOC, be sure to check whether or not a certificate option exists, and whether or not they charge a fee.

Adult Internships & Volunteering

Adult internships and volunteering are on the rise. Short-term work and volunteer assignments can help adults gain experience and skills in areas they may be lacking or to get their foot in the door at a certain company or industry. Often, internships are unpaid, but they are a great way to determine whether or not you’ll enjoy a particular occupation or industry and can be great resume boosters as well.

Webinars and Conferences

Other options for continuing workforce education are webinars and conferences. Webinars are seminars or lecture presentations conducted over the Internet, often sponsored by one or more companies looking to gain visibility and demonstrate thought leadership in an industry or occupation. They are a convenient way to keep up with industry trends since all you need to do is register, and you can listen from anywhere you have Internet access. On the other hand, conferences are carried out in person and can also be more costly (webinars are generally free), especially if travel and overnight accommodations are required.

Northcentral University to Attend NAFSA 2013 Annual Conference

I'm Exhibiting at NAFSA!

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during our 17 years in higher education, it’s that the education field is incredibly diverse. That’s why we’re so excited to join the NAFSA: Association of International Educators community at the NAFSA 2013 Annual Conference & Expo in St. Louis, Missouri, May 26-31.

As a graduate-focused online university serving students and working professionals around the world, Northcentral University shares the goal of providing diverse students with increased access to higher education opportunities. Not only is Northcentral University regionally accredited, but by not requiring physical residencies or in-person sessions, students have the opportunity to earn an advanced degree while working with highly credentialed faculty from all over the world.

“Online education can garner the best of professional minds who cannot gather in one place (Arizona), but can be reached easily through the Internet,” explains NCU Dissertation Chair Dr. Daphne Halkias.  “Most of last year, [my husband and I] lived in a remote location in the desert. Were it not for technology, I wouldn’t be teaching nor doing research.”

Alina O’Connor, senior director of business development at Northcentral University, will be on hand during the conference in booth #301 to share more information about building an alliance with NCU and the benefits of online learning from a global perspective.

“I’m really looking forward to presenting NCU to a global audience,” says O’Connor. “Every institution is so unique, and I enjoy learning what it is that each college or university needs from an alliance, and work with them to help fill those needs, whether it’s educating faculty members who want to earn a doctorate, professional training and development opportunities, and student and alumni benefits.”

Honoring the Silent Ranks on Military Spouse Appreciation Day

We know there has been a lot of appreciation floating around the nation lately (teachers, nurses), but today is just as important: Military Spouse Appreciation Day!

This day holds special meaning because military spouses play such a huge role in supporting our dedicated men and women in the Armed Forces. They often have little control over things like their location and/or must take on additional responsibilities within the household, which could mean putting their own education and career dreams on hold. They do it willingly, supporting their spouses wherever their military life takes them. It’s an admirable quality, and one we here at Northcentral University admire so much.

Today, we thank YOU for your service.

If you’ve never read the poem The Silent Ranks (some people say the author is unknown, some say it was written by Shiela Gault), we’ve posted it below. It’s a great testament to military spouses and the role they play in the armed forces. Please substitute husband/wife, he/she, his/her, and man/woman as appropriate for your spouse (be advised it won’t rhyme quite the same)!

The Silent Ranks

I wear no uniforms, no blues or army greens.
But, I am in the military, in the ranks rarely seen.
I have no rank upon my shoulders. Salutes I do not give.
But the military world is the place where I live.
I’m not in the chain of command, orders I do not get.
But my husband is the one who does, this I can not forget.
I’m not the one who fires the weapon, who puts my life on the line.
But my job is just as tough. I’m the one that’s left behind.
My husband is a patriot, a brave and prideful man.
And the call to serve his country not all can understand.
Behind the lines I see the things needed to keep this country free.
My husband makes the sacrifice, but so do our kids and me.
I love the man I married. Soldiering is his life.
But I stand among the silent ranks known as the Military Wife.

A Thank You to All NCU Teachers on National Teacher Day

Today we celebrate National Teacher Day. While many of us can recall that one favorite teacher from grade school or college, we’ve also heard countless stories about teachers who have gone the extra mile to make a real difference in their students’ lives and inspire them to achieve more than they ever dreamed possible.

At Northcentral University, we are proud to have a fantastic group of faculty, both adjuncts teaching from around the world, and our ever-growing number of full-time faculty who serve as curriculum developers, foundations faculty, research specialists and dissertation chairs. Our faculty come from all corners of academia and professional practice, and are united by two simple things: a sincere passion for student success and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Today, we honor our faculty and say thank you for all of your hard work. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with such an incredible team of educators and administrators, and each of you plays an invaluable role in helping us fulfill our mission of educating professionals throughout the world, and mentoring students one-to-one to help them achieve academically and become valuable contributors to their communities and within their professions.

And to all of our students and alumni, if you haven’t already, we encourage you to take this opportunity to thank those faculty members who have made a positive difference in your NCU journey. Perhaps he/she was your dissertation chair and never wavered in his or her support, perhaps he/she encouraged you when you really needed it, or maybe he/she gave you some tough love on your writing with the goal of making you a better writer. Whatever it is, today is the perfect opportunity to #ThankATeacher, and we hope you’ll join us in saying thank you to all of the NCU faculty.

Finally, to those of our students and alumni who are teachers as well, we thank you for your service. As poet William Butler Yeats once wrote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Thank you for being torchbearers for your students in their pursuit of knowledge.


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