Ron Andro has used his career to make a difference in health care. He started as a registered nurse in the 1980s and has spent most of the last three decades in executive-level leadership, formerly as president and chief executive officer for Allegheny Health Network, West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His most recent accomplishment, however, is a master’s in Human Environmental Sciences (HES) along with a graduate certificate in Conflict Resolution from The University of Alabama, both of which he earned 100% online.
It all started when he met and married an Alabama alum early in his career. “My wife Sheri attended UA in the Bear Bryant days. Although sadly she was in her junior year when the great coach passed away. After she graduated, she worked in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham for five years, living in Alabama for a total of 10 years before moving to Vermont to teach, and that’s when we met,” he said. Eventually, the couple had two daughters, Callie and Amy, both of whom graduated from UA with their undergraduate degrees. “They absolutely grew up drinking the Kool-Aid,” his wife always says.
Ron had earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Winona State University in Minnesota and continued on to graduate school at Rush University in Chicago, earning a master’s in Health Systems Management. When his daughters went to college at UA in 2013 and 2015, he decided it was time to expand his education so he wouldn’t be the only Andro with no official UA affiliation! “It’s become part of our family tradition and legacy,” he said.
In Fall 2016, while both of his daughters were also studying at UA, Ron began the UA graduate certificate online in Conflict Resolution. “These are skills I use every day. Whether at home making decisions with my wife and family, or at work in a professional settings, I use negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution every day – we all do. It’s about working toward win-win situations and negotiations for all of the parties involved,” he said.
Many of the conflict resolution courses are asynchronous, meaning instead of deadlines within the semester, there is simply one deadline when all the coursework for that class is due. “I appreciated the accountability of the deadlines, and even in the courses without deadlines along the way, instructors provided a suggested template of when to complete assignments to help you pace yourself, and that was very helpful.” In just 15 credit hours (five classes), he completed the graduate certificate in 2018.
“Once you get 15 credits in, and you realize it’s just 15 more credits to earn your master’s, you think ‘Why not complete the research work and other classes?’” he said. And that’s what he did. His daughters had both graduated from UA by this point, and in 2019 his daughter Callie (also a UA staff member in Athletics) followed in his footsteps when she completed her Conflict Resolution graduate certificate and then began her HES master’s degree through UA’s online programs as well.
Ron’s favorite classes were the courses focused on leadership, communication and emotional intelligence. He said, “Those classes resonated with me most, and I feel like I got the most utility from them in applying them to my work and life.” He also appreciated how UA has ensured that the online degree programs mirror the quality of their traditional degree programs. “The rigor of the program is the same. You’re not sitting in a classroom every week, but in a sense you’re in a virtual classroom, and the context of the work is very involved. I had to prioritize and allocate my time well to be able to succeed.”
Ron was finishing up his last courses for the master’s when the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S. As a hospital president and CEO, the crisis affected him uniquely. “When COVID hit, I worked diligently with our infectious disease team, and we developed protocol rapidly to adjust our PPE requirements and biocontainment and other protocols to ensure safety for our patients and staff.”
He credits the flexibility of his UA coursework for his ability to maintain progress in his master’s as he adjusted to the rapidly and continually developing situation at work. “It fit well because I was able to prioritize my week, and my Bama By Distance classes were part of that priority, but I could fit them in according to the demands of my job.”
In December 2020, Ron graduated with his master’s, and his whole family was in Tuscaloosa to celebrate commencement with him. “I’m full of both pride and appreciation. I feel glad that I’m part of the UA family as an alumnus. And for our family legacy, it completes our tradition, so I’m extremely proud.” Even the family dog, Cooper Bear Bryant, has joined the fun! Ron added that his BSN and first master’s were from smaller schools, so his UA degree allowed him to graduate into a larger alumni network. “It fulfilled a goal of mine to graduate from an academically strong, highly esteemed major state university, and it adds a geographic diversity to my education as well.”
“It was an incredibly enriching academic process. I gained a lot as an individual and as a professional. I can’t compliment the professors enough for how outstanding my academic journey was.”
Published: March 11th, 2021