Channel Surfing

Abu KahnAfter several false starts, Abu Kahn clicked on the right program that he uses as a tool for continued success in business and community leadership.

Telecommunications executive Abu Khan changed colleges like some people change channels. After graduating from high school in Alexandria, Va., he enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design. Realizing he did not want to become an architect, Khan attended Virginia Tech, Northern Virginia Community College, the University of Maryland and Regents University in Denver without earning a degree.

“So many colleges, it’s just crazy,” says Khan, 45, the vice president/general manager of WOW!, a cable television service provider in Augusta, Ga., and several other states. “I never found the school that really fit how I needed to learn, which is where Brenau fit in perfectly in terms of offering the after-hours classes.”

Arriving on Brenau’s Augusta campus when he was in his late 30s, Khan excelled in the traditional classroom environment. He graduated cum laude with a degree in business administration in 2008. When he received the degree, Khan, already a general manager at Comcast, also became vice president. That put him in good stead when he moved over to competitor Knology, Inc., which was competing strongly with the much-bigger Comcast in Augusta and Charleston, S.C. markets. Wide Open West, operating exclusively in the Midwest, saw the management talent pool in the Knology, Inc., and acquired the company to expand its footprint throughout the Southeast.

Khan says he believes completing his education put him in good stead in his company and positioned him as a highly visible well-regarded member of the Augusta business establishment.

“Nowadays, if you don’t have a degree, you’ve already put yourself way behind in the work world,” Khan says. “It put me in a different category.”

Following his stint at Virginia Tech, Khan went to work for Jones Intercable in Alexandria, Va., where he gained fascination with the cable industry. That spurred him to get a technical degree in computer programming in 1989-90, propelling him into a job as customer service manager. Khan was also responsible for technology.

The more he was involved on the business and financial side, the more he realized he should finally get that business degree. At Comcast, where he filled various roles for 15 years, an internal database kept track of employees who had expressed desires to move up. He began taking online classes with the for-profit University of Phoenix, but he was not keen on the way professors taught. “More than anything, I’m a traditional learner,” Khan says.

He learned about Brenau and its after-hours classes from an alumnus.

“It was perfect for how I wanted to study,” says Khan, who had enough credit hours to be classified a junior. “With a full-time job, it’s very difficult to stop that to go to class for an hour or two and come back.”

He also had a busy home life with his wife, Lia, and their young children, Abu and Shaira.

Khan says his Brenau professors recognized that nontraditional students were adults with working lives and families. They were flexible if a student had a conflict and needed extra time to complete an assignment or if a group was having a hard time getting together for a project, Khan says.

Each class usually had 15 to 20 students, mostly in their late 30s or early 40s, and professors encouraged group discussion.

“An 18- to 22-year-old student needs a teacher to lead them more,” Khan says. “The professors understood this was an adult class – give them some food and allow them to prepare the meal. They really got us involved in discussions, not just talking to us, but interacting with us, asking us questions that made us think and react.”