BTAS Instructor Larry Tumblin (center) facilitates discussion with students (left to right) Melinda Hurlow, Bryan Baker, James Ritterbeck and Robert Campbell.

Photographer: Christine Shaw


BTAS Instructor Larry Tumblin (left) reviews a course project with student Robert Campbell.

Photographer: Christine Shaw


Instructor Larry Tumblin explains "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Leicioni to his BTAS students.

Photographer: Christine Shaw

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Vision in Action

Zanesville program helps technical degree holders advance their careers

James Michael Howiler's story is common in today’s economic environment. He lost his job as a tool and die engineer when his company moved its operations to China and Mexico.  Faced with tough choices, Howiler decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree for personal fulfillment and to become more competitive in the market place.
Howiler chose the Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies (BTAS) program at Ohio University Zanesville. Launched six years ago by Regional Higher Education at Ohio University, the BTAS program was designed to help students transform technical associate’s degrees into bachelor’s degrees, preparing graduates to enter management.
The BTAS program has historically served working adults seeking to advance with their current employers. However, with the job market in its current state, the program is seeing an increase in unemployed students who are striving to become more marketable, according to Larry Tumblin, program coordinator at the Zanesville Campus.

Howiler is a classic example of this phenomenon, turning to higher education after failed attempts to find employment. Howiler said the minimum requirements in his field have changed, and a degree is needed to be able to advance in the workforce.
"I watched others around me transition to management and feel it’s time I do the same," Howiler said.

According to Tumblin, who has been a part of Ohio University Zanesville and the Zanesville community for more than twenty years, education and students need to adapt to the changing economic times.  

"Our students must realize the importance of critical thinking skills to be adaptable, to remain competitive in the workforce," Tumblin explained.

"America is suffering from global competition beyond what we have ever seen. The time is coming where we have to reshape what degrees look like, and go beyond skill sets to employing true innovative thinking," he said.
Because the BTAS program is designed for adult students who have already completed a two-year technical degree, the core classes focus on leadership, technology, research skills and project planning and implementation – critical skills for innovative workplace contributions. The final core course is a capstone course in which students apply the skills learned by completing an applied project in a business, industry or community organization setting.

To supplement the core curriculum, students choose 10 additional courses. Depending on students’ career choices, they may select courses in social sciences, behavioral sciences, business and leadership and organization.

Howiler explained the importance of having an advisor’s help in getting the most out of the BTAS degree program.
"Larry’s been a real help in guiding me towards classes to help me reach my goals," he said.

The core courses encourage high-level student participation and offer opportunities for dynamic student-instructor interaction. With Tumblin as the facilitator, students have the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations.

Carol Humphreys, director of Muskingum County Business Incubator (MCBI), collaborates with Tumblin and the BTAS program in preparing students for real-world experiences.
"The MCBI is pleased to participate with the students in Mr. Tumblin’s class who research and prepare brief business plans for their chosen projects," Humphreys said. "It is apparent they take the business idea seriously and spend time in research and development just as MCBI would encourage any entrepreneur to do prior to investing money in a business."

According to Tumblin, class discussions and group projects are dynamic based on the variety of fields represented in the classroom – from engineering to environmental sciences to human service programs. By pairing technical knowledge with the program's liberal arts coursework, research and applied projects, "graduates are prepared to enter the workforce in management careers in a variety of fields with a diverse breadth of knowledge,” he said.

"I am amazed at how the courses go hand in hand with my career development," said Ruby Kosco, a junior BTAS student. "My managers and supervisors see my effort of going back to school and are also assisting in mentoring me for success."  

"The courses I have taken have practical application to the job, but also round out your character," added Howiler. "The way Larry presents ideas related to management and leadership makes me think and gives me a base of knowledge to add to other coursework."

With jobs displaced overseas and a struggling economy, Tumblin hopes BTAS graduates return to their communities and make an impact.
"Long term what I really hope, and what I tell every class, is that one of them is going to go out and invent something or create a business and bring jobs to the community,"  Tumblin said.