Gestalt Phenomenon

By Jared Scott Tessler 

Medaille College's learning teams are considered a valuable part of its Accelerated Learning Program (ALP). And one learning team in particular could not agree more.

The four-person study group - a tightknit cohort comprised of Lisa Arnet, Aaron Berger, James Martinez, and Gary Williams - is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program in the School of Adult and Graduate Education. These amicable colleagues, who have been together since pursuing their Bachelor of Business Administration degrees, plan to fulfill their requirements in December 2012 and receive their diplomas in May 2013.

To a certain extent, the team's cohesion stems from a work hard, play hard approach to completing necessary schoolwork and enjoying discretionary downtime.

"In the many years we have been together as a group," Berger explains, "we have learned to work efficiently and effectively while maintaining a fun, humorous atmosphere."

Previously a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force, Berger is now employed as senior business analyst - a role that requires him to wear many different hats - for HSBC Bank, USA N.A.

Thanks to the group's synergistic makeup, Williams divulges that its members - upon reviewing the Learning to Fly section of the ALP Guide to Collaborative Learning Teams - decided on the name Gestalt Phenomenon.

"The team really helps me stay on track and keeps me focused and driven to succeed," says Williams, who serves as director of operations for The Evergreen Association of Western New York and is so passionate about his studies that he hopes to one day become an adjunct instructor at the College.

Arnet, vice president of corporate relations for Horizon Health Services, repeatedly named as one of the Best Companies to Work for in New York, also has visions of standing in front of a college classroom.

"Having been taught by such talented people - like Susan Steffan and Kevin Palmer - has given me the goal of teaching at the college level after graduation," she says. "Their teaching abilities inspired me to want to teach adults returning to school."

As a group leader for General Motors, with almost 20 years of experience in manufacturing, Martinez aspires to make his way as an independent consultant. A distinct benefit of learning teams, he feels, is the direct exposure to a wide array of personalities and proficiencies.

"Each one of us brings something different to the table," he says, "and it is nice to have such a diverse learning experience."

Berger recognizes that the world is in need of more leaders and that his graduate program has equipped him with the proper knowledge, skills, and tools to act as one.

"This degree has the ability to put me in a unique position to fill a void that many organizations have: too many managers, not enough leaders," he says.

For Arnet, who believes that holding a master's degree will propel her career to the next level, the feeling is mutual.

"My group has helped me see myself more clearly and has helped develop me into a better leader," she says. "Achieving this degree has given me the confidence to know I can do anything I put my mind to in business and leadership."

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