Shaun Cole, BBA ’25, is somewhat of an anomaly amongst their peers at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. At the age of 42, Cole is returning to academia to continue an education that they walked away from almost two decades ago. Cole attended Delta State University in the late 90s, pursuing a degree in computers and information systems. At the same time, Cole worked at the university’s IT department but chose to drop out of the program and fast track their career.
“When I was at Delta State University, there was this atmosphere of cooperation, training, learning and growing. I wasn’t receptive to it at the time. I just wanted to get into my career, fine tune my specialty and hone my skills,” Cole says.
This sentiment persisted for years. In the time that followed their departure from higher education, Cole started working for Comcast where they rose the ranks, eventually earning a role managing teams. The Comcast job ultimately brought Cole to Philadelphia four years ago, where they are now a senior manager.
It’s at this point that the sentiment of a singular, career-oriented trajectory shifted.
“My original plan was to come to Philly, work a couple years, build up my resume, then head out west. Now that I’m here, I fell in love with Philly… I want to stay.”
While working as a senior manager, Cole noticed something lacking in their expertise. Cole reflected on their undergraduate experience in a new light while working amongst their peers, many of whom had received graduate degrees.
“Most of the people that worked on the floor where I was at had master’s [degrees], and so for me to say, ‘Oh I don’t even have a degree,’ it just blew them away,” Cole says. “A little part of me was proud of that fact, because I had been saying for years, ‘You don’t really need college.’”
Once a point of pride, this absence from academia revealed itself in a certain disconnect from their fellow managers. The knowledge gap presented itself in mentoring sessions with their coworkers, where people would routinely draw upon research and management concepts unfamiliar to Cole.
“In every mentor session, college came up as a discussion, and it was a total shock. When we talked about career progression, there were just so many things that I was missing. We would talk about different concepts, management principles, stuff like that and it would just go right over my head,” Cole recalls.
The shift from handling systems of information to handling social dynamics in the workplace reignited a drive toward completing the undergraduate degree that they had walked away from years prior.
“All of the computer stuff that I’ve done most of my life has just been ‘Ah, let me figure it out.’ I figured it out, problem solved. But this [management] has an impact on the future of people’s careers, and that was something that hits my heart more. I want to do more of that. Ever since then, I’ve been growing more in that space.”
This search for a space to grow led them to the Fox School of Business.
“When I went to Temple to tour the college and see if this was right for me, I got that spirit back. When I was doing that first tour, it just felt like ‘This is a place that I can grow.’”
Returning to college after a long absence can be a challenge, but Cole found themself doing so during the COVID pandemic, which presents considerable challenges for students and faculty alike. Despite social distancing, Cole is passionate about their decision that this is the right time to get back into the classroom.
Cole has especially enjoyed the course Leadership and Organizational Management taught by Jameel Rush, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Human Resource Management.
“Professor Rush made it fun, relaxed and very educational. Really great concepts, and he would talk them through and have us try things out. That really inspired me to continue into the program.”
Though some credits transferred over from their first time as an undergraduate student, the road ahead for Cole is still a long one. Balancing classes and full-time employment is no easy feat, but Cole says they are committed to completing their undergraduate degree and to pursuing further opportunities in higher education.
“I don’t see returning back to college as having an ‘end’ state. It’s about the journey along the way,” Cole says. “I want to improve on leadership, I want to improve on coaching. Once I have the degree, I’m going to continue going, that’s already a decision that I’ve made.”