Champlain College Online Student Stories: Mike
I've been working full-time with my associate degree for 30 years. It was always something that was a disadvantage, having experience but no 4-year degree, especially as times get tighter and with age, so I always wanted a B.S.
I work for AT&T in Texas, and a few years ago they gave us a heads up about their Workforce 2020 initiative and the skills they needed us to have for the future, things like cyber, AI, big data, software and network visualization. They said, in the year 2020, "we would like to be employing you - here's the skills you'll need."
Then they told us about the badge program with Champlain College, so I started out on that around three years ago. I found I really liked cybersecurity, so I stayed on and finished my cybersecurity certificate. And then, because I was in a groove and liked the program, I worked with my advisor, Janet, to figure out the right path to finally get my bachelor's.
It was a routine: get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, hit the books. Classical music got me through. It was hard to get in that groove and stay in it for three years, especially when I was taking two classes at a time, which was more intensive. I learned I had to start the week right, and work on getting things done earlier in the week to give me enough time on the weekends. You can easily find yourself in a panic at the end of the week, so it's important to establish that pace and get ahead, and have the encouragement to keep it up.
I had tried going back to school before, to community college, and it didn't work. The time commitment was hard, especially with driving. Online, you can make it work in the hours you have. It's a format that's pretty amazing. Everyone was supportive, and instructors were always quick to respond to a question. You really get to know the people in your classes. Some of us getting to the end were talking about having reunions. From class to class, you remember people, so there's a sense of, "it's good to see you again." There were those connections, and personalities show up. You find yourself talking about people in your classes.
I was impressed with the quality of the coursework, the quality of the instructors. And I was impressed with the online virtualization labs and tools we had. You could do hands-on work, not just read about it. Canvas worked well as a tool - I liked that you can have a record of your assignments between classes. It gives us toolsets that help out a lot. Champlain has a commitment to the online way of learning. The faculty understand that and have adapted to that.
Since completing my degree, I have a new sense of urgency and a new pace in my work. I have less tolerance for wasting time, because you have to be so efficient with everything, and you're taking that into your job and stepping up your game. You learn to problem-solve and realize you can do things you didn't think you could do. It's a new approach. It helps with confidence, too. Companies are reducing everywhere, so you have a confidence that you have a base to be competitive in the job market.
To someone considering going back to school at Champlain, I'd say to pick something that will drive you, that you're passionate about. It's going to be hard work so you need to be motivated, then put the time into it. Take the 15-hour commitment seriously, and then get into the groove and discipline.
It feels good to finally have finished it. It's good to be an example for my kids. They have friends who haven't finished their degrees, so I feel like a good example for them to show you can do this at any age.
"I had tried going back to school before, to community college, and it didn't work. The time commitment was hard, especially with driving. Online, you can make work in the hours you have. It's a format that's pretty amazing. "