Online learning experience helps one Excelsior grad work at a distance

Chris Berry discovered Excelsior College while being stationed off the coast of Japan.

“In 2006 I had deployed with the US Navy on the USS Curtis Wilbur and was stationed in Japan,” said Berry. “I became aware of, and intrigued by, the program… Excelsior would give me credit for many of the instructional courses I took through the Navy such as engineering.”

Chris Berry is the plant manager at Hydrotex Partners, a national manufacturer and distributor of high-performance lubrication and fuel improver solutions.

“I started taking classes on a regular schedule. Since we frequently went out on missions that kept us out in the middle of the ocean for weeks at a time…I did my homework using various programs and applications on my computer and participated in class projects through chat rooms. I never set foot on an Excelsior campus, yet I regularly interacted with students, instructors and counselors thousands of miles away and around the world.”

Berry had found success in the Navy, promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer in under nine years. By the end of the year, Berry was eager to start his civilian life and get back to his family in Oklahoma. He currently lives with his wife and two children in Skiatook, Oklahoma. When not working Chris enjoys spending time with family and friends, hunting, and fishing.

In early 2007, Berry started working with a medical device repair company which was a great fit except for one element. “I was lacking just a few credits to complete my degree,” said Berry. “My employer was candid with me and let me know that in order to move up I would need to complete it. Fortunately, I was able to do so over a few months through Excelsior’s distance learning program.”

Berry was able to aggregate his prior learning from military training and other college courses to Excelsior College. “Majority of jobs in the Navy, Army, or Marines consist of skill-based training and with that training, we can translate that into college credit for us.”

In 2010, Berry was hired by his current company, Hydrotex Partners, as a facilities manager. Just as in the Navy he quickly rose through the ranks with promotions to director of operations, then plant manager, his current title which he’s held for three years.

“Our company culture is heavily collaborative,” he said. “Our company’s manufacturing Plant and National Distribution center are in Tulsa; our corporate headquarters and learning center are in Dallas, and our Division Partners, who serve as area CEOs are spread out across the nation. The skills I developed studying through Excelsior’s virtual classroom are being used daily as I work in a virtual organization of entrepreneurs.”

Berry relies on his verbal and writing skills for effective communications in this environment.

“I’m not able to be in the same room with many of my co-workers and customers so I rely on my verbal and writing skills, and the latest in technology, to make sure we all understand one another,” he said. “It’s similar to my experience while on the ship and communicating with my classmates and instructors through the computer with chat rooms and other applications.

Berry supervises 11 employees and marvels at the differences between leading in the military and leading in the private sector.

“In the military I could ask someone to jump and they’d ask ‘how high?’ In the private sector it’s completely different. I have learned to look at things from the employee’s perspective in order to get the job done and I’m much more patient.”

Berry also cites self-worth as a challenge between military and civilian life. “I left at the top of my game in the military then had to start near the bottom of the private sector ladder. It took me a couple of years – and a lot of perseverance – to adjust and to find the right environment that allows me to use and expand my skills.”

Editor’s Note: A portion of this story was submitted by Linda Beheler, director of public relations at Hydrotex.