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Dec. 20, 2017
David Girvan knew that if he wanted to advance in his career, he needed to continue his education, and he fulfilled those goals with the completion of his bachelor’s degree in business technology at Northwest Missouri State University last week.
Girvan, 40, is chief operating officer at United Electric Cooperative’s subsidiary United Services in Maryville. He began work there seven years ago as a technology manager and attributes his promotion to COO last year to his continued education at Northwest.
“That was one of my key reasons for getting my degree. It was the general answer to becoming an officer or senior management in the company,” Girvan said. “Two, it was a personal thing. I always wanted to have a degree.”
Girvan grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and began his career at IBM without attending college. He moved to the United States 11 years ago and continued to work in the technology field. He soon met his wife, a native of northwest Missouri, and they settled outside Savannah, Missouri, to begin raising their family.
Girvan joined United Electric to assist with its fiber project and buildout.
“There’s a sense of pride when you finish a degree,” Girvan said. “If you don’t have a degree, you kind of feel naked in the workforce without it. Some of the fundamentals that I learned, the processes I learned and through the coursework, I really think you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t have it.”
Girvan had begun work toward his bachelor’s degree at another institution when a conversation with Gene Dorrel, who was then United Electric Cooperative’s general manager and continues to serve on Northwest’s Board of Regents, turned his attention toward the University.
“He talked a lot of good things about the school, and pretty much everyone here referred to Northwest as a great school,” Girvan said.
So, a couple semesters into his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, Girvan transferred to Northwest and completed his degree during the next four and a half years.
Girvan admits he was skeptical at first and wondered if his work was worth the investment, but he says he gained a deeper understanding of management processes as well as the soft skills he needed to advance in his career.
“I was pleasantly surprised with some of the dialogue and real-world people using the coursework to help us in our jobs,” he said. “The school really formalized those things and helped me understand the process of how to get from A to B.”
Girvan said one of the toughest challenges he had to overcome was meeting course deadlines and balancing his school work with his career and family.
“That’s part and parcel in real life and once you’re in the real world, you have to be self-driven,” he said, noting he completed a majority of his coursework online. “That medium lends well for people in my environment. It was a perfect fit.”
He also credits the faculty for their guidance and the care they took in helping him complete his degree.
“Probably why I’m such a cheerleader for Northwest is because of my professors,” Girvan said. “I think of a lot of them understood the uniqueness of being a non-traditional. I was a 30-something with two children, and so there’s always that life balance you have to try and strike when you go back to school. Having the understanding of professors who understand you’re in the workforce and tailoring things to where I could actually get my degree done, my professors were fantastic in helping me with my lifestyle and complete my degree at the same time.”
Girvan intends to continue his career at United Electric, and he’s forming plans to continue his education further. He wants to pursue his Master of Business Administration at Northwest.
“I know I can do it. I know I can manage my time,” he said. “Financially it’s paying dividends. It put me in a better position all around in life. The degree was one of the key components for me to move forward in my career for sure.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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