In the late 2000s, the Great Recession redirected Jim Brunson’s career trajectory.

After 30-plus years of general construction experience, including 20-plus years as a construction project manager, Brunson lost two consecutive positions due to workforce reductions.

“The recession took a bitter toll on older workers.”

Q: You were forced to make a career change and began working for Indiana’s community college system, Ivy Tech. That position led to your enrollment in Ball State’s master’s in career and technology education, which is offered 100 percent online.

I knew the applied side of building construction management due to nearly 35 years of work experience. I felt I needed to know more about how to be a post-secondary educator for the sake of my students and my own confidence.

Q: What are your responsibilities as program chair of the building construction management program?

I teach three to four courses per semester, either face to face or online. I advise and counsel students in the building construction management program, hire and supervise program faculty, develop courses, and perform purchasing and budgeting functions for the program.

Q: So what did Ball State’s master of arts in career and technology education do for your career?

I gained insights into the process of post-secondary education for non-traditional students that I needed. It is one thing to know the business side of building construction management, but relating that knowledge to students is another.

I was an older student. I took one course per semester and just kept pecking away at it. I was 59 years-old when I began the program and celebrated my 63rd birthday within a week or so of graduating.

I gained a great deal from my experience with classmates. My classmates were from all over the country. Some were youngsters with little life experience. The points of view and personal philosophies they shared expanded my understanding of how to relate to my non-traditional students.

Q: Had you taken online classes before?

Ironically, I had taught and developed online courses, but I had never been a student in an online class. Online education is great for mature, motivated students who are capable of working independently. Asynchronous [no specific log-in time] courses provide opportunities for thoughtful interaction with classmates and teachers.