Unlocking Potential with Excelsior College


Sara Phinney of Los Angeles, California, hadn’t attended college in more than 15 years and was 30 credits away from earning her bachelor’s degree. The Seattle, Washington, native was thrilled to learn that her employer Pizza Hut, the world’s largest pizza company, and Excelsior College, the #1 ranked college for working adults, partnered up to create the Life Unboxed EDU program to provide employees with discounted tuition rates—over 50 percent discount for undergraduate students and 15 percent discount for graduate students. Phinney thought it was the right time to restart her academic career by enrolling in Excelsior’s Bachelor of Science in Business and Management program: the shortest degree path for Pizza Hut employees enrolling with the College.

“I began thinking about starting a family and I want to hold education at the highest regard with my own kids, so I needed to make sure that I was going to be setting a good example for them,” said Phinney. “Having a degree will give me that extra bit of confidence that I had been lacking when the topic of education ever came up in conversation and an overall sense of pride.” She has been with Pizza Hut for 15 years and is currently working as the HR Manager for a 105 Pizza Hut Restaurant Franchise. This past August, Phinney moved from Seattle to Los Angeles to wed her long-distance partner of 5 years.

Now that Phinney resides in Los Angeles, she can work from home more often. “I am taking one class per semester and I am able to manage quite well. I don’t think I would have the time to take two [classes],” explained Phinney. “At first, it was tough balancing my time. Now that I’m currently into the fourth course of my program, I finally feel like I’ve got a handle on managing my coursework online. My school homework schedule varies based on the days of the week, differentiated by each type of assignment that I may have. One day I’ll do my reading and studying for the course. The next day I’ll take the test. Another day I’ll work on my discussion board post, then on the weekend I’ll write my papers.” It’s all about work-school balance and with the help of Pizza Hut, Phinney has acquired the skills to effectively manage her time.

Pizza Hut requires all employees to go through a series of professional development sessions through their learning management system called “Learning Zone.” These sessions provide team members with a set of skills to best prepare them for their roles within the organization. Phinney credits the time commitment and structure provided by the Learning Zone courses, programs, and modules with giving her firsthand experience of how to recreate that success within Excelsior’s online learning environment. In addition, employees can earn up to 63 credit hours from their Pizza Hut on-the-job and/or Learning Zone training to apply toward their degree programs.

Much like Excelsior College’s student population, Pizza Hut encourages its employees to take charge of their future, change the status quo, follow their dreams, and unlock their potential by earning the college degree that will help them (and their “dough”) rise to the top. “I think that having a degree opens up options for a better career path…for me this was a personal goal and now I will be able to have that option.” Phinney finds value in all the different perspectives afforded by her interactions with her colleagues and Excelsior students across the country.

For more information on the Life Unboxed EDU program, visit lifeunboxed.excelsior.edu.

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