How a Career Change at 50 Led Scott Hébert to Rider University

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Professor Scott Hébert of Rider University’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program.

With more than 25 years of experience as a director, producer and writer for major media and entertainment companies, Scott Hébert left behind a successful career to earn a master’s degree in strategic communications and leadership. So began an academic journey that led to a doctoral program in educational leadership, management and policy — and a newfound passion for lifelong learning and teaching he shares with Rider University students today.

Hébert tells students in Rider’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program — the ones returning to the classroom after considerable time in the workplace — that he knows just how they feel. “I know what it’s like to sit at a desk again and take notes, something you haven’t done for maybe a quarter of a century.”

“The nontraditional student is becoming more traditional,” Hébert says. “The days of making a career at one company are long gone.”

As professionals of all ages become more mobile — whether by choice or necessity — an understanding of different types of organizations and leadership styles becomes increasingly important to long, successful careers. Younger workers, particularly millennials, are job-hoppers, increasing the likelihood they’ll be exposed to many different corporate cultures over the course of their working lives. Established professionals can also prepare to advance or change careers by boosting their business expertise and communication skills.

Hébert’s own journey — from the corporate world to graduate school to a second career in higher education — is a case in point.

Changing Course

After graduating from New York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television Studies, Hébert went to work for NBC as a researcher. From there, he moved to cable television giant HBO, where he spent the 1980s as a writer and producer. Hébert’s lengthy resume also includes stints on staff and as a freelancer at entertainment (Showtime, Lifetime, VH1 and Nickelodeon), media (CBS News and NBC News), and broadcast advertising and promotion companies all over Manhattan.

Firsthand experience with different corporate cultures piqued Hébert’s interest in organizations and leadership. He learned, for example, that a creative idea that would fly at Nickelodeon might die somewhere else. “I wanted to explore what makes you succeed in one and fail in another.” His curiosity extended to corporate leadership, where he observed that what some in management said wasn’t what they did and that a surplus of meetings often didn’t translate to a plan.

Hébert’s time in the corporate world and interest in organizational leadership led him to a master’s program at Seton Hall University, where, at age 50, he became the epitome of the nontraditional student. He found his mostly younger classmates would often come to him for advice and, noting his experience in business, say, “You ought to be a teacher because you really know a lot.”

A seed was planted. When he finished his master’s degree, Hébert approached one of his professors about teaching. To his surprise, he was given a shot, which led to a four-year period of teaching the university’s Equal Opportunity Program (EOP), a summer bridge program designed to help high school students successfully transition to college. In addition to teaching EOP students, Hébert taught graduate courses in linguistics and rhetoric, among other subjects.

Hooked on teaching and a career in higher education, he pursued a doctorate in educational leadership, management and policy from Seton Hall before joining the Rider faculty in 2008.

A Second Act in Higher Education

Hébert has taught a variety of in-person, online and hybrid courses in his 12 years at Rider, including Organizations: Design and Dynamics, Conflict and Crisis Resolution in Organizations and, a favorite, History of Higher Education, in addition to directing student independent study and research projects.

Of particular relevance in 2020 is the study of crisis communication. In the corporate world, Hébert observed that many companies “don’t have a plan until a crisis happens,” although he says the unprecedented urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be changing that. In contrast, Hébert was impressed by how quickly and seamlessly his students adapted to 100% online classes when the university canceled all in-person instruction to slow the spread of the virus. “We shifted gears as we were riding our bikes in the middle of March.”

Rider has long catered to working professionals with flexible schedules and 100% remote learning options, so the university was well prepared to respond to the crisis. Beyond quickly adapting to wholly online instruction, some of Hébert’s students used the pandemic as an opportunity to shift the focus of their research to crisis communication, putting theory into practice, an action Hébert encourages. While Hébert strongly believes that the hybrid education model — combining face-to-face instruction with online learning — is the best of all possible worlds, he’s optimistic about the future of online higher education.

Prepare to Make an Impact at Work

Rider University’s online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) helps students develop the communication, decision-making and leadership skills needed to enhance an organization’s operational efficiency. Students can choose from on-campus, 100% online and hybrid learning options to meet their needs. To allow students to further customize the degree, Rider’s MAOL program offers three concentrations: Life and Career Coaching, Developing People and Organizations, and Higher Education Leadership. Learn more about how Rider can help you embark on a new chapter today.

Recommended Readings

Understanding the Core Leadership Models in Organizations

Five Key Traits of a Leader

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Organizational Leadership?