Luther Hall is accustomed to success. The Nebraska native graduated with a communications degree from Bellevue University, where he also was a standout guard on the school’s basketball team. Upon graduation, he continued his basketball career overseas, playing professionally in a collection of far-flung locales, including Germany, Russia and Mexico.
In 2009, Luther joined the army, serving in Iraq and Kuwait as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. A dual-government employee, he now works for the air force at Edwards Air Force Base in support of classified missions. He has continued to rise in rank in the army, as well, serving in the reserve as a sergeant specializing in transportation and logistics.
It’s clear that Luther is a driven, goal-oriented achiever; he has packed a remarkable number of accomplishments into a still-young professional career. So it should come as no surprise to learn that, despite his extraordinarily busy schedule, he decided to pursue an advanced degree, enrolling in CalSouthern’s Master of Business Administration program.
What may come as a surprise is that, unlike many other challenges that Luther has undertaken, this one didn’t come easy to him. Like many new CalSouthern learners, he found himself struggling with the work—specifically, writing papers. He was frustrated and discouraged.
But he didn’t give up.
We sat down with Luther to learn more about his story—and how he turned his academic career around.
CalSouthern: What was your motivation for returning to school and enrolling in CalSouthern’s MBA program?
Luther Hall: My motivations were both personal and professional. Education has always been very important to me, and getting a graduate degree has been a long-term goal. In fact, the military’s education benefits were a big part of why I joined the army in the first place. Also, I am a single parent; it’s just my daughter (a junior in high school) and me. This was an opportunity to set a good example and hopefully instill in her the same love for education that I have.
Professionally, I have an interest in human resources. It’s a great field and, being a people person, it’s one that’s a good fit for me. I started looking closely at CalSouthern when I learned that they offered a concentration in human resources as part of the MBA program. I contacted the school and was able to talk to everyone who would eventually become part of my support team. From the first call I felt at ease and at home. Picking CalSouthern was a pretty easy decision for me.
CalSouthern: Early on in your program, you experienced some challenges. Could you describe them?
Hall: I really struggled with writing papers. I just didn’t have a feel for what the faculty mentors were looking for and I definitely had a hard time adjusting to writing according to the APA [American Psychological Association—publishers of a formatting and style guide commonly used in higher education] formatting. I tried to work through it on my own, but I just kept hitting roadblocks; it felt like I was beating my head against a wall.
CalSouthern: What finally clicked for you?
Hall: I remembered that my academic advisor Frances Simmons had told me that if I ever ran into any problems, to just give her a call. I did, and she walked me step-by-step through the entire process and basically drew me a blueprint of how to write a properly formatted, graduate-level paper.
That’s really all it took for me. I’m a quick learner and once I understood the formatting process and what the mentors were looking for, I was able to apply that to future projects. Also, I got a feel for the time commitment required, which helped me better manage my schedule going forward so that I always had plenty of time to complete my assignments and do the best job possible.
I owe it all to Frances, though. She was my godsend—I tell her all the time!
CalSouthern: Some new students might have been tempted to give up, having encountered difficulties and challenges right out of the gate. You didn’t. Were you ever tempted to throw in the towel?
Hall: Never. First of all, I was focused on my goal. I am on the verge of becoming an officer in the army and there are opportunities waiting for me if I can complete my master’s degree. I’m going to make sure I have that box checked so that I can rise in rank and earn promotions as I continue to serve my country.
Also, I thought about my daughter. How could I preach to her about hanging in there during difficult times and never quitting when things get tough, then turn around and do just that?
CalSouthern: Today, you are just a few credits away from earning your degree—and you have a perfect four-point average. For those who want to follow in your footsteps, what advice do you have?
Hall: Use your resources. CalSouthern provides you with an abundance of resources. I had enrollment advisor Amber Artiaga who helped me make sure the program was the right fit for me, my academic advisor Frances and Brett O’Rourke, who helped me make sure I fully utilized my military education benefits. The faculty has been great, too. For example, I remember calling Dr. Ervin when I ran into some difficulty with an accounting assignment. She was patient with me and stayed on the phone to help me work step-by-step through a series of math-intensive managerial accounting problems until I understood the concepts.
The resources are there; you’re never alone. You just need to ask for help.
CalSouthern: You’re on the verge of graduating. As you look back, what have been some of the most enjoyable or rewarding moments?
Hall: For me, it’s been the interaction with faculty and staff. My advisors check in on me regularly and I even get emails from faculty I had in earlier courses—they just want to see how I’m doing. Dr. Belt does that quite a bit. He’s army, too, so he likes to look out for me.
Before I started, I never would have imagined that to be the case. I was a little worried that, since CalSouthern is an online university, it was going to be just me and my computer and I’d be left to fend for myself. But for me, it’s felt like a family atmosphere. It makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger.