Richard Handzo shoots high for an advanced degree

Lindsey Handzo, Trystan Handzo, Rich Handzo
Lindsey Handzo, Trystan Handzo, and Rick Handzo

Richard Handzo joined the Navy in 2000 soon after graduating from high school in Roseville, IL. As the ads say, he definitely saw the world: France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Sicily, Italy, Malta, Spain, and time in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

He received a great education in the Navy as an electronics technician—thorough enough education that he was able to earn his undergraduate degree online from American Intercontinental University in just 13 months.

The accelerated program was intense, however, sometimes allowing only five weeks for an entire college course. As a consequence, when he graduated with his bachelor’s in 2005, he delayed any plans for further schooling for six years.

This May, he earned his master’s degree from UIS in Management Information Systems, and his only regret is that he didn’t start sooner!

His work for OSF Healthcare

After transitioning out of the Navy, Rick took a job in information technology at the Community Medical Center of Western Illinois, a company that was soon sold to OSF Healthcare. Rick now works with a group of five other men providing support for three OSF Healthcare.

“When OSF acquires a new facility,” he says, “we are part of a team that evaluates the facility’s hardware, moves it to our network and works toward replacing equipment to standardize everything. Eventually, depending on what information systems they are using, we change them over to the one we use through the OSF organization.”

In 2012, Rick enrolled for his first course at UIS, an accounting class that would fulfill a prerequisite for a master’s degree in Management Information Systems.

“I really like the fact that the courses at UIS are 16 weeks for a semester class and 8 weeks during the summer,” he says. “Because of that, it has been so much easier than my accelerated undergraduate program to balance work, life and school. I also learned the material a lot better.”

Three courses that really resonated for Rick

A degree in Management Information Systems prepares people to use information and technology to improve company operations, and it’s a program that fit smoothly into the work Rick had been doing at OSF Healthcare. He especially appreciated three courses:

  1. Organizational Change Management, taught by Dr. James Hall

For this class, Rick had to write a business proposal which he found useful in his job. “When we work with a new facility,” he says, “I often have to write up a recommendation and reasoning for a specific problem and a rationale for a solution, and then provide financial information.” Rick also benefited from doing technology reviews and evaluations.

  1. Project Management Class, taught by Dr. Dave Larson

Rick does a lot of project work at OSF, coordinating activities for aspects of a project that apply to his department. “Information from the class has helped me understand why the project managers do what they do.”

  1. Capstone, taught by Dr. Rassule Hadidi

In this class, Rick worked on a research survey about online education and student engagement. “In healthcare,” he says, “we do a lot of surveys. Understanding how to design a survey, analyze the data and then present it to the administrative staff was extremely interesting to me.”

What he learned about UIS online

You may be interested in the results of the Capstone project Wes worked on.

Through the survey, students offered many recommendations for improving online programs at UIS, especially related to the discussion questions many students have to answer each week. It turns out that the most interesting discussions arise from questions that allow students to offer a personal perspective and opinion.

“Of course, students have to support their opinions with some research,” he admits, “but being able to share a personal take on an issue makes the discussion a lot better.”

Rick’s own personal recommendation involved the lectures teachers offer online. Instead of a set of slides, he recommends giving a more personalized lecture—more like a live format—if teachers want to improve student engagement.

“One professor recorded his in-class lecture,” he says. “I liked that better because I could hear other students asking questions that I probably would have asked myself—more like a real classroom.”

For the most part, according to Rick, students expressed a high level of satisfaction with the level of engagement they found in UIS online classes and with the amount of time they spent on classes and what they learned.

What’s ahead for Rick

Rick is extremely satisfied with the MIS program. “It was very well put together—not too daunting and just challenging enough. The fact that I can remember stuff from courses I took two years ago shows that the information has stuck with me, and I’ve been able to turn around and use that information in my professional life.”

He has already recommended UIS online to his brother who wants to finish his bachelor’s degree: “A lot of programs at UIS would work for him.”

Future plans for Rick include a possible MBA, though he’s quick to add, “Only time will tell!”

Rick often tells his son, Trystan, “You can’t shoot high enough,” and if a person wants something enough and is willing to do the work, that person can succeed at almost everything.

You can be sure, given his past experiences, that if Rick does decide on an MBA, he will certainly achieve it!