Student Testimonial: Online Leadership Excellence Certificate Program

Meet Som Seng, a full-time marketer, and mother who shares her experience as an online student in UMass Donahue Institute's online Leadership Excellence certificate program.

Som Seng, UMass Donahue Institute Online Leadership Excellence Certificate Student

UMass Online: Why did you decide to enroll in the Leadership Excellence (LEx) Certificate Program at the UMass Donahue Institute?

Som: I’m a lifelong learner so I’ve always been passionate about refreshing and learning new skills to help make me a better leader.

Over the years I've taken different leadership courses and training. One of the most impactful leadership training programs I’ve ever completed was through the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) close to ten years ago. The timing of the program was perfect as I was about to take on a leadership role within the marketing department where I worked. Due to what I learned in that course and from the UMDI instructor, I was able to successfully transition into the leadership position. Looking back, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have leadership training as it helped me during a critical junction in my career.

Because of the positive impact the first leadership program had on my career ten years ago, I was excited to enroll in the new online Leadership Excellence certificate program at UMDI. It’s important to find ways to refresh and build upon the skills and experiences I’ve learned throughout my career so that I can grow to become a better leader within my company.

UMass Online: What was your experience taking a 100% online certificate program?

Som: I’m very comfortable with taking online courses. Over the years, I earned my MBA online from UMass Lowell as well as completed the first UMDI leadership program online, so I have experience with learning online.

Unlike some of the other online courses I’ve taken, this new leadership program was special as the director and faculty took the online experience to the next level. The courses were held over zoom but were incredibly engaging. Three hours would fly by because of the level of engagement from the instructor and classmates. I loved the “learning partner” concept as I felt I got to have a free work therapy session every week throughout the certificate program!

I also valued the connections I was able to build with my peers and during the coaching sessions. I strongly feel I'm a better leader now because I have a deeper understanding of my strengths and weaknesses as well as knowing how to leverage my strengths and how to improve some of my weaknesses.  

UMass Online: Did you find the faculty, staff, and online resources to be helpful as an online student?

Som: I felt the director, faculty, and online resources were fantastic. The director, Dana Henry, and faculty were all experts in their respective fields with decades of experience in leadership and organizational development training. Each of the leadership modules taught in this course including Leadership Profiles, Drive Innovation, Lead Change, Gain Commitment, and Overcome Barriers, were specifically designed from decades of experience from the director and faculty.

Their knowledge and support were instrumental in helping me learn how to become a better leader. And from talking with my class about their experience, the instructors helped my peers become better and more effective leaders as well. The online resources, especially the leadership tool kit and journal were extremely valuable resources. These are tools and resources I will continue to reference throughout the rest of my career. 

UMass Online: How did you juggle being an online student while working and trying to balance family life?

Som: The key is time management. During the week I made sure to wake up before the kids to review the upcoming coursework. I'm a morning person so this schedule worked well for me. I'm not recommending this for everyone (waking up early can be tough for some) but figuring out what works best for you is important to being successful. 

One of the great perks of taking online classes is that you can study and do homework based on what works best for you. Having the flexibility to make my own schedule each week was really beneficial. Since the Zoom webinars took place during working hours, having employer flexibility is also important. I recommend keeping your employer in the loop about taking an online course or program and why you’re doing it. Having their support and encouragement can make all the difference. Not to mention they will most likely appreciate your drive to expand your knowledge and expertise.

UMass Online: As a working mom and full-time employee, how did you keep yourself motivated throughout the program?

Som: There are a few things that helped me stay motivated. Each week the instructor did a great job keeping the class engaged with extremely interesting and relevant course work, discussions, and exercises. Learning something new each week helped keep me interested in the content. Another big help was having a learning partner throughout the certificate program. It encouraged us to keep each other motivated and helped me build a strong relationship with my peers in the class. Each week I really looked forward to connecting with my learning partner to see how they were doing.  

UMass Online: What advice do you have to prospective students looking to take online classes at UMass? 

Som: Taking online classes made a big difference in my career and can change your life as it did for me...Online classes helped me feel empowered – providing the flexibility and autonomy to make the most of this opportunity in order to make a difference and positive change in my life. 

UMass Online: Can you talk a bit about the specific knowledge you gained as a student in the online Leadership Excellence program?

Som: For me the concepts were valuable and relevant, but it was the director, Dana Henry, faculty, and my peers that made the experience so unique, impactful and meaningful. 

The leadership toolkit and journal are phenomenal resources that I now have forever. I loved the Hogan Assessment and coaching sessions as learning about your personalized leadership profile is important. The Hogan Assessment gives you a 360 view of your leadership style. Initially the results from the assessment can be a bit surprising because you only want to see the good stuff, but it shows the good and not so good sides of your leadership style so that you know what to work on.

Next the coaching sessions help you better understand your leadership profile and how to leverage your strengths as well as improve areas of weakness. For me, the combination of both the hogan assessment and coaching sessions were instrumental in my professional growth throughout this program.


Interested in learning more? Click here to request more information about the Leadership Excellence Certificate. The next session will begin September 16, 2021. Non-profit and government employees will receive a 20% tuition discount.