One-of-a-kind course sets EWU students apart

April 24, 2017 By eastern247
Aerial shot of Spokane Campus

What began as an experimental course for business and marketing education students, has transformed into one of the hottest courses on campus. It has also given EWU students a leg-up in the job market.

BUED 376 is a five-credit, online elective, open to all EWU students with junior standing. There are no books, three instructors and is now state-supported thanks to the efforts of CBPA Dean Martine Duchatelet, Taryn Fletcher, director/lecturer business and marketing education, and course instructor/MOS certification coordinator Leah Silvieus.

Eastern is one of the only universities in the country that offers an electronic communication course that gives students skills to attempt Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification.

It’s not a point-and-click class, but rather, the course, developed by Fletcher and Silvieus, is comprised of specially developed curriculum to cultivate critical thinking and real-world problem-solving skills through workplace scenarios while teaching Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and more.

“It’s unconventional, so in that respect, it could be frowned upon,” said Duchatelet. “Instruction is not supposed to lead to a certificate, but as long as we don’t teach to the test, but we teach in a very thoughtful manner and critical thinking is part of the process than the certification is a bonus. Our students are in a very good position to do this.”

Currently, 137 EWU students are MOS certified, including four who are “master” certified. This quarter 50 students are enrolled, including business education students, accounting students, management students and other majors.

Five times as many high-growth/high-salary positions require experience with Microsoft Office. Eighty-six percent of hiring managers indicate that IT certifications are a high or medium priority during the candidate evaluation process.

Two EWU students have seen firsthand how having an MOS certification has put them in a position to succeed in their chosen fields.

Luke Kemper is a senior completing his finance degree this quarter. He is currently working as a marketing specialist for TNG retail services. Kemper has enhanced his résumé by earning Microsoft Office Specialist certificates in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  He has multiple interviews scheduled with Fortune 500 companies after graduation.

“I can say with complete confidence that having these MOS certifications has helped me land these interviews,” said Kemper. “Nearly all, if not all, of the positions I applied for had ‘experience to advanced knowledge with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Excel’ as absolute requirements for the positions. The more advanced you are with Microsoft Excel for finance positions, the more likely you would be to land the position over an equally qualified candidate.”

Senior Anthony Brommer, an accounting major, agrees.  “In many accounting jobs they require a certain knowledge of Microsoft programs. They have found that it is hard to judge how well someone knows the programs when they state that they are proficient on their résumé. Taking this class actually helped me get a summer internship at UTC Aerospace Systems since they are mostly looking for an in-depth knowledge of Excel. My manager has told me that this class was one of the reasons he hired me.”

Arsen Djatej, professor of accounting, meets with accounting firm hiring managers from across the Northwest. “We have one of the largest accounting programs in this area,” Djatej said. “We recently had a fall recruiting season for accounting majors – about 20 firms from all over and they were fighting for our graduates. Every firm I heard from said that having a professional certification is becoming a must-have now. They made it very clear that they wouldn’t give consideration to any candidate who doesn’t have a professional certification from Microsoft.”

Eastern goes beyond just offering the course – the university is licensed to administer the MOS exams on all EWU campuses: Cheney, Spokane, Bellevue and Longview. The exam fee for EWU students (enrolled in BUED 376) is only $50, well below the educational reduced price of $96.

“The passing rate is high,” said Fletcher. “We’re at a 99 percent pass rate for Word and approximately 88 percent for Excel. I know across the nation, that’s one of the highest pass rates you’ll find.”

Fletcher said the evolution of the MOS certification course has been a group effort. “If Martine (Duchatelet) had not supported the course in the CBPA, it would still be a self-support class and people would have to find the money to take the class. They wouldn’t really understand the certification value until they entered the job marketplace. With Martine’s support, and the support of (accounting department chair) Arsen Djatej and (management department chair) Tricia Nemetz-Mills, this class has grown. We’re also working with Dave Bunting in economics. We’ve noticed a lot of his students in the class and we’re asking what they need to know, because we’re also trying to prep them for their higher level class work.”

“It really reflects the fact that we’re in the 21 century and we’re evolving,” said Duchatelet. “We are an institution of innovation and impact.”