By Margaret King
When Haoping “Rock” Ho begins his studies at UC San Diego this fall, he will already have an impressive head start on his planned major in International Business. That’s thanks in part to Futures Business Management classes from UC San Diego Extension.
Rock, 19, started a nine-month series of Futures classes in January and will finish in September. “For a high school student to have this free opportunity to acquire this knowledge rather than spending time and money during college, it’s excellent preparation,” he said.
UCSD Extension created Futures to allow high school students to learn high-demand career skills while earning UCSD Extension credits. Courses are grouped under headings like Program Your Future for coding and Manage Your Future for business management. Two online Manage Your Future course series start in September – one offered free through Library NExT and one where students can apply for scholarships to cover course costs.
Making college connections
Rock was born in Taiwan and traveled back and forth to the US with his family before they moved permanently to Serra Mesa when he was 16.
He graduated in June from Kearny High Educational Complex’s School of College Connections. The school, part of San Diego Unified School District, allows students to enroll in classes at Mesa College starting in 10th grade. Rock took a number of college classes while in high school and racked up more than 40 college units.
He had a longtime interest in business, so taking the three Manage Your Future classes – Organizational Behavior, Elements of Marketing and Business Decision Making – made sense for him. “It was not a sudden impulse to learn about business,” he explained. “I had already taken a few classes at Mesa toward a business major.”
Rock took a particular interest in the first class, Organizational Behavior. “It gives a strong focus on interpersonal relationships and how management works based on people,” he said. He also liked the fact that the instructor, Dr. Marlith Austin, was readily available to answer questions and help with coursework.
Austin described Rock as “one of the top-notch students” in the class. “He attended every class, turned in every weekly assignment and provided excellent presentations for both the group project and his individual project,” she said.
For one project, Rock teamed with another student to design a corporate culture for an imaginary organization and then give a Zoom presentation to the class. Rock and his partner decided to create a culture for a nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income young people cover their educational expenses.
They split the nonprofit’s culture into different “small cultures,” Rock explained. “For example, we value ethics, but under ethics, we would detail how we would act in particular situations. If we see a person in desperate need, we would immediately pause whatever we were doing to reach out to that person.”
Another category in their nonprofit culture was “endurance or tenacity,” he added. “The purpose of that was not just to show how much hard work we can do. We want people in our organization to be role models for others to learn how to get through their hardships instead of getting discouraged.”
The second class in the series, Elements of Marketing, was affected by technical difficulties and student attrition. But Rock did take away useful insights on marketing. “Instead of going door-to-door and telling people to buy my product, I feel like I know more about how to reach out to the right customers and how to make an organization attractive to people,” he said.
For Rock, being in Zoom classes had both advantages and disadvantages. “I do feel like being online made the presentation of our projects not as effective as it would have been in person,” he said. “But having the classes online, I felt less pressure. I had more free time to manage my other classes.”
Managing his time is important for Rock, who balances his studies with a restaurant job. Before the pandemic, he was active in extracurricular activities at school, including serving as president of the Chess Club.
He was also involved in a school club called Blue Tech, a marine variation on robotics. As secretary and acting treasurer, Rock used his business acumen to support club activities. “I offered services so the other members could focus on their building projects,” he said. “I handled the financial side and arranged resources along with negotiating for fund-raisers.”
Rock will start at UC San Diego in September. While his major is International Business, he is still considering what region of the world he wants to focus on. “Every part of the world has its own problems and things that make it interesting,” he said.
Pandemic disruptions have made it difficult for him to narrow down what business career he wants to pursue. “Everything looks very uncertain,” he said. “This career path had a lot of prospects, but the pandemic makes the prospects dimmer in the future.”
He thinks he might like to work in the nonprofit sector, at least at first. Areas of nonprofit work that interest him include addressing the challenges faced by low-income people and promoting tolerance among the nation’s sharply divided ideological factions.
Rock said he would recommend the Futures classes to other high school students considering business-related majors.
“A lot of time when I’m taking a class, I’m concerned about how much I can learn in this timespan,” he said. “The time I invested in the Extension classes to obtain this knowledge is very worthwhile and efficient. These classes set a high bar as far as efficiency.”