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Q& A with Jennie Pless: Saturday Scholars Grad Applies Classroom Learning to Launching Her Own Business

November 13, 2013

Jennie PlessJennie Pless is a 2013 graduate of the Health Services Administration Program. During the program, she launched her business, Work-4-All, an employment specialists agency that provides services to individuals with disabilities.


Chartings: Why did you choose Drexel’s Saturday Scholars Program? What about the format attracted you?

Jennie Pless: I was attracted to Drexel because of the name; it's a highly respected school. Also, I worked full-time and was so tired of going to work and community college at the same time during the week. It can get overwhelming! Coming to school once per week seemed like a great thing.

Chartings: What surprised you about the HSAD Saturday Scholars Program?

JP: Honestly, I didn't really know what I was getting into at first. The program wasn't easy and there were definite challenges, but I loved every second of it. If the program had been too easy, then I would have felt that I received a watered-down diploma. I didn't want that, so the challenges that came along with a rigorous school schedule were just what I needed.  I accomplished obtaining my degree from Drexel University but, most importantly, I received a top-notch education. I now have knowledge and skills that I can take with me throughout my entire life. 

Chartings: What did you think about your professors?

JP: The professors in the HSAD Program were wonderful. Each came with a plethora of knowledge and experience. Class on Saturdays felt more like business meetings than a traditional classroom experience. My professors expected professionalism from us, and this was something that I had never seen in a traditional classroom setting before. Dr. Michelle Sahl was available for whatever I needed and it was very obvious that her goal wasn't just to get a paycheck. She really had a vested interest in every student that she taught. Likewise, Dr. Ward came with a tremendous amount of experience. He knew that I was starting my own business, so in the marketing class, Dr. Ward helped me to learn how to market my own business.

I had top-notch people teaching me as I got my business off the ground. I was able to take the skills, such as developing a business plan, and apply them directly to founding my business. Instruction in ethical standards, legal aspects, leadership and management skills all contributed to my success as a first-time business owner.

Chartings: What was your life like during the Saturday Scholars Program?

JP: During the program, I worked full time. I also have a family. My schedule changed at work weekly, but I had off every Saturday morning. The Saturday Scholars Program afforded me the opportunity to finish my degree in a format that worked for my lifestyle. I'm not sure if I could have done so following a more traditional school schedule. 

I went to Drexel on Saturdays, sometimes staying after class for study groups. On Sundays, I would review my notes and attempt to organize all my school activities for the following week. Because the courses were so condensed, there was a great deal of material to cover in a short period of time. We were expected to cover the same amount of information that the longer HSAD Program covers. That's important, because I needed to know that I achieved the same education as the full-time HSAD students.

Focus and determination were a must! I was determined and I read all the material the first few days and studied the material during the last half of each week. The professors gave us Power Point Presentations and study guides to help us focus on major points of interest. There were usually online videos to watch as well. I would often meet up with several students during the week for a study group.

I am also a writer, and during my time in the Saturday Scholars Program I was also working on my first novel, which I am still writing. This was also a priority, but I was able to do both, due to the convenient schedule that Saturday Scholars can bring to the table. I would recommend this program to anyone. In fact my daughter was suppose to start HSAD Saturday Scholar in September, but pushed it to January.

Chartings: How do you think the HSAD Program prepared you for the work that you’re doing now?

JP: If it hadn't been for the HSAD Program, I don't think I would have been able to get my company up and running. I learned the importance of budgets, management, quality improvement and all of the essentials for starting and managing a company. I would have been intimidated to talk to the many people that have been instrumental in my success. I have been able to take the presentation skills I learned in the program and utilize them during Work-4-All presentations I give to large groups of people. I've also learned a great deal about the changes to our current healthcare system. The Affordable Care Act will definitely affect my business.

Initially, I had no idea exactly how much of my education would spill into my life’s work. My company has a huge future, and the first year is always the rockiest. However, I believe that I have the skills and knowledge to achieve success. My success will ricochet, resulting in the success of the many people with developmental disabilities that Work-4-All serves.

Chartings: What’s next for you?

My professors’ excitement for education was contagious and I am now entering St. Joseph's University’s Masters Program in Health Services Administration.

As healthcare changes, and as new technologies become available and millions of uninsured people finally receive healthcare coverage, an HSAD degree will continue to be in high demand. My advice to prospective students is that, if you are willing to work diligently, have the desire to help people and want to be financially secure, then the HSAD Saturday Scholars Program is ideal for you. It was for me.