Each May, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown Providence hosts the Johnson & Wales University commencement ceremonies. The graduates are the focus of the celebration; however, for Kara Morissette ’18, who earned her BS – Liberal Studies from the Johnson & Wales College of Online Education, this day was just as much for her friends and family, especially her two young children, who were in the crowd watching her walk. “After all the hours they saw me studying and doing schoolwork, it was important to me that they saw it all pay off at commencement,” Kara said.
Unlike many of her fellow graduates that day who took a more traditional path to graduation, Kara finished her degree more than a dozen years after she started. When she enrolled at JWU Online, she was working a full-time job at Blue Cross Blue Shield and raising a family, which often meant her “study hours” were not held in the campus library but in the stands of her son’s hockey practice or after she tucked her kids into bed. “It’s all about time management,” she said about learning online. “Once you figure that out, you’re golden.”
Here’s what Kara shared about her inspiring story of perseverance and how she finished her degree.
Why did you decide to pursue your degree?
I attended the University of Rhode Island (URI) for three-and-a-half years and left school during my senior year due to some family issues at home. I always felt that not completing my degree was constantly hanging over my head. I had reached a ceiling in my company as I noticed that the positions in my career path required a college degree. My kids were in school and were becoming more independent, and I felt that it was time to complete my degree. My company also provided tuition reimbursement towards obtaining an undergraduate degree, so my out of pocket costs would be minimal.
Why did you choose JWU?
I have several friends that work for JWU, as well several that have graduated from JWU, and they provided me with information about the online program and then helped give me the push I needed to take the step to speak with an advisor. I thought the process of transferring the URI credits would be difficult; however, the process was unbelievably smooth, and I was able to transfer the majority of the credits.
Was this your first time learning online? What was the experience like?
This experience was my first experience learning online, as all of my previous courses at URI were in a classroom or lecture hall. Honestly, I was terrified and felt that the systems would be difficult to navigate and overwhelming, as I am not very tech savvy. I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of using the online program. It took a few weeks to adjust to the formats of the discussion posts and assignments, but once I established a routine, it became easy to manage. I loved being able to complete the work on my own schedule and not having to attend a structured class on weeknights. I also was comforted that the professors were easy to contact and were very helpful and understanding.
What were your strategies to balance work (and everything else!) with your studies?
My life is certainly on the hectic side. I work full time for a health insurance company, and I have two children in elementary school that are heavily involved in youth sports. Many weeks, we have somewhere to be in the evening, which makes studying and taking classes difficult. At the beginning I said, “How am I going to have time to do this with no free time?” My main strategy was to set aside certain times per week to get certain things done. Often I sat in a coffee shop across from our local hockey rink or baseball field while my son was at practices and completed the reading assignments. I set aside some time most nights after my children were in bed to complete discussion posts and replies. When things were especially hectic, I would duck into a conference room at work on my lunch break to catch up. For me, it was always about planning the week in advance and setting specific blocks of time for schoolwork in my calendar on my phone.
What stood out to you as instrumental in your college experience?
My business courses and instructors were instrumental in my experience because what I learned in these courses I use every day in my new position in my company. My marketing professors, especially for MRKT 1001, were encouraging and engaged throughout the term. Statistics was a course that I thought would be incredibly difficult in an online setting; however, the course materials and video lectures were very helpful and the professor was always willing to have Skype sessions weekly to go over any material with people who were struggling. The course ended up being a great experience.
Have you applied what you’ve learned to your current career?
Prior to obtaining my degree in May, I applied for a position in the marketing area in my company and was offered the position contingent upon graduating in May with my business minor. The degree that I have completed has allowed me to enter the field that I have wanted to pursue in my company since I started working there.
What would you tell someone who is interested in pursuing their degree about JWU Online?
I would say not to hesitate and jump right in. I was hesitant for so many years because I always thought “I don’t have time.” JWU has an amazing support system for their online students. My advisor was wonderful and was always in communication with me and helped me with any issues that arose. The professors were very responsive, and I truly felt that they cared about their students’ success. There were also resources that were readily available if I needed assistance with the library resources or tutoring, etc.
To learn more about the Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education and how one of our degree programs can help further your career, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881 or email [email protected].