Online Learning

Commencement 2016: Center For Online Learning Student Success Stories

Online Learning

Posted by Saint Leo University Online on Apr 25, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Meet a few of Saint Leo's newest alumni who completed an online degree program to achieve their college dreams.

Saint_Leo_University_OnlineTerm after term, they worked on discussion posts and research papers at kitchen tables and on airplane seat back tables.

They studied for exams at 12 a.m. when the house was quiet and 12 p.m. between bites of lunch at work.

They took care of children and parents. Worked full-time jobs. Chaperoned field trips and served on church ministries.

This month, as college graduates, they’ll walk across the stage at Saint Leo’s commencement ceremony for Center for Online Learning students and receive their diplomas.

Every day, countless adults with careers and families think, “Someday, I’ll get back to school and earn that college degree.”

For COL students in Saint Leo’s Class of 2016, “someday” has arrived.

Here are a few of their stories. Congratulations to all!

 

Brickhouse150LaTasha Brickhouse-Frazier is a full-time mom and wife who volunteers with disadvantaged and victimized individuals. She also offers her time at her daughter’s elementary school, assisting with the class’s accelerated reading program. Having completed her bachelor’s degree in sociology, she hopes to continue her academic journey at Saint Leo as she aspires to a master’s degree in social work.
Click here to read an interview with LaTasha.

Saint_Leo_University_OnlineAmanda Forrester works at Saint Leo University in the School of Arts and Sciences as a program analyst. With two sons – one who also attends Saint Leo – the single mom wanted to complete the degree she started 20 years ago to be a good role model for her children and set an example of what perseverance and commitment can accomplish.
Scroll down or click here to read an interview with Amanda.

Saint_Leo_University_OnlineDonna Fraser is a criminal investigator in the Fulton County District Attorney Office in Georgia who examines public integrity complaints for possible indictment in Superior Court. With five children at home, she always put her family or her career ahead of earning a college degree. When her oldest child registered for college, she decided the time had come to do the same.
Scroll down or click here to read an interview with Donna.

Saint_Leo_University_OnlineLloyd James, a U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, grew up in Brooklyn, New York and began his military service right after graduation. He completed a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems as a first step toward transitioning to a position as a federal agent. Lloyd has been deployed six times, including three tours in Iraq and received multiple awards and decorations for his service.
Scroll down or click here to read an interview with Lloyd.

Saint_Leo_University_OnlineJason Lalk started at a community college right out of high school and transferred to Saint Leo’s Center for Online Learning to complete his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Since he spends 40 to 60 hours a week working the night shift as patient sitter at a local hospital, Jason needed the flexibility and convenience of an online program.
Scroll down or click here to read an interview with Jason.

Saint_Leo_University_OnlineAshly Mills decided that it was finally time to complete the college education she had started years ago. Saint Leo’s 100 percent online psychology program program – in addition to a strong network of family support and a willingness to make temporary sacrifices -- enabled her to successfully complete her degree without jeopardizing a job she enjoys.
Scroll down or click here to read an interview with Ashly.

Carlos75
Carlos Perez Ardilla
, born in Mexico and raised in Haines City, Florida, has always wanted to serve his country. Drawn to the U.S. Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment, he enlisted at 21. While stationed in Japan, he earned an online business degree in logistics – the perfect fit for an aviation supply specialist who aspires to senior leadership as a commanding officer.
Scroll down or click here to read an interview with Carlos.

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LaTasha Brickhouse-Frazier
Pensacola, Florida
B.A. Sociology
Mother, wife, student and community volunteer

Why did you choose to study sociology?
I have a passion and innate inquisitiveness in the social sciences. I’ve always been a people person and have an incredible amount of compassion and a thirst for understanding cultural differences.

Why was getting a degree important to you?
I want generations after me to look to me for inspiration. I want to be that beacon that they could emulate and even surpass.

How did you know that now was the time to do it?
I was spinning my wheels in a trade that no longer felt gratifying. I made college a career, starting and stopping twice, getting close but not obtaining a legitimate degree. It was time.

Why was an online program the right fit for you?
We are a busy family and travel a lot. With an online program, my studies could travel with me. I was not limited to being in a classroom setting, nor was my time frigidly delegated by the course plan. The flexibility and convenience mixed with my discipline was a cocktail for success.

Why did you choose Saint Leo University?
I decided to attend Saint Leo because of its core values and military friendliness. We are a military family that is always at the needs of the Navy. We have transferred three times in the last six years, so change of duty stations has made it difficult to effectively finish my degree, raise four children, and remain financially stable. Saint Leo University won me over because the school has accommodated the needs of my college journey, as well as provided my family with unparalleled spiritual and personal growth.  

What was the learning experience like?
I am honored to have attained my bachelor degree here at Saint Leo, which has given me a different outlook on life.

The professors were a joy. They truly invest in their students’ success.

The school has taught me Responsible Stewardship; I dedicate time to the Children’s Home Society of North Florida, and that has also helped me grow in my major while helping heal families in my community. Service learning projects make this possible because they enable students to connect and form meaningful bonds within their communities.

The newfound knowledge attained from Saint Leo has afforded me the ability to go far beyond my norm, attitude, and culture. The exposure to the diversity and multicultural atmosphere fosters much respect and appreciation for global diversity, and I humbly embrace the differences.

Who supported and inspired you to reach your goal?
My husband has been a blessing and a rock for me at my weakest points as well as my biggest inspiration. He would always encourage me with a verse from the Bible, reminding me to “Walk in faith and not by sight.” All that I needed to be renewed and to overcome any challenges that plagued me during my aim for success (my degree) was the encouragement of family and the Word.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
Even though I will be finishing my degree at the age of 43, my drive for self-betterment and excellence has never wavered. Saint Leo has taught me to step out of my individualism as I sought excellence alongside a student body and faculty with the same sentiments. I learned that I am resilient, and I’m a woman with a whole lot of fortitude. I’ve maintained an impressive 4.0 GPA and was placed on the Dean’s List while managing domestic life. Finally, I learned that I am committed to being trustworthy, determined, enriching, and spiritually driven to show respect, love, and compassion to all who encounter me.

What are your career aspirations?
I would like to continue my academic journey with Saint Leo in a quest for my master’s in social work. My goal is to pull the best out of people who may not know their true potential.

What advice do you have for other adults considering completing a degree?
Life is too short to sit and pine about what-ifs and should-haves. Make a life goal to be inspired and to inspire those who look to you as a source of wisdom or for healing.

No one is ever too old to learn something new – whether a different language or the challenges of an immigrant – or to obtain that sought-after degree. We only live once and it’s not always about hold old you live to be; what counts is how you lived and your impact on others.
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Saint_Leo_University_OnlineAmanda Forrester
Dade City, Florida
B.A. Liberal Studies
Program analyst for Saint Leo’s School of Arts and Sciences

Why did you choose liberal studies as your major?
The program offers a broad educational experience across multiple disciplines. From social sciences to the humanities, liberal studies enhances my real-world experiences by building my skills in writing and critical thinking. Learning how to apply these skills in various disciplines strengthens my employability.

Why was getting a degree important to you?
I want to be a good role model for my sons. My oldest son is also a student at Saint Leo, and I want both of them to have a head start in the job market with their own degrees.

How did you know that now was the time to do it?
Time does not stand still, and the time to do something is always now. It has taken me 20 years to finish this degree. I was tired of waiting for my turn, so I jumped in.

Why was an online program the right fit for you?
I work full time and am a single mother and a full-time student. An online program was perfect for me because it has enabled me to attend school full time during my free time – nights and weekends.

Why did you choose Saint Leo University?
Saint Leo University’s core values connect students, faculty, and staff under an umbrella of unity. Faculty members are caring and easily accessible; that is important for rich online learning experiences.

What was the learning experience like?
I found all of my courses engaging. The instructors connected course content with real-world experiences. My course mates and I were encouraged to share personal experiences, so we were able to get to know each other and relate material with other experiences for a productive learning environment.

Was there something about the overall experience that surprised you?
I was surprised at how fast the program went. I still can’t believe that I am finally graduating!

Who supported and inspired you to reach your goal?
My oldest son is my biggest fan. We encourage each other if either of us has a bad day and a deadline.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
I have learned that I am goal-oriented. No matter what it takes, I can make it happen.

What are your career aspirations?
I have been accepted into master of fine arts program in creative writing and begin in June. Who knows where this journey will take me.

What advice do you have for other adults considering completing a degree?
Do it today. My advice, from personal experience, is to not wait another day. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely worth it.
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Saint_Leo_University_OnlineDonna Fraser
McDonough, Georgia
B.A. Criminal Justice
Criminal investigator, Fulton County District Attorney’s Office

Why did you choose to study criminal justice?
My current profession is in law enforcement. I decided to further my education to assist in job promotions.

Why was getting a degree important to you?
I was disappointed in myself for putting everything else in my life ahead of an education and not realizing how this created many obstacles and struggles in my life. I needed to accomplish getting my degree before my adult children. I didn't feel comfortable advising my children to attend college when I never completed college.

How did you know that now was the time to do it?
I've always put my family and career before myself. Not having a degree haunted me spiritually and financially all of my adult life. I struggled financially in my career not having a degree and felt like a hypocrite when I preached to my children about attending college. I finally got angry with myself and set a goal to graduate before my eldest child when we registered for college at the same time.

Why was an online program the right fit for you
My job is very demanding. I’m also a wife and a mother of five.

Why did you choose Saint Leo University?
Saint Leo’s course curriculum was a perfect fit for my hectic schedule. Thursday and Sunday deadlines provided me enough time after work and on weekends to complete required assignments. I really appreciated the eight-week terms to complete my degree much sooner than other universities. Within three years, I achieved my associate and bachelor’s degrees with Saint Leo.

What was the learning experience like?
I enjoy learning at my own pace. I’m shy learning in front of others in a school setting due to my age and being out of school for so long. Learning online also provided me the opportunity to advance my computer skills. The instructors were friendly and provided plenty of feedback when I needed assistance. The online librarian was awesome when I needed resources for research papers. Online tutoring was a life-saver when I was a new student and having trouble with papers and citations. I also had the opportunity to meet students online who are police officers in neighboring jurisdictions.

Was there something about the overall experience that surprised you?
I didn’t think online learning would be as challenging as a class room setting. I also feared my degrees would not be taken seriously. I was wrong on both accounts. My degrees assisted me in achieving my current position as an investigator with the district attorney’s office.

Who supported and inspired you to reach your goal?
My husband and children consistently pushed and cheered me on. Two of my children are in college and my husband is completing his master’s degree; so that kept me inspired as well. We turned it into a competition regarding GPAs.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
I learned that I can accomplish any career goal with hard work and dedication. I also learned that I’m never too old to go back to school.

What are your career aspirations?
My career goal is to retire from law enforcement within three years and go into the private sector. I would like to work with law enforcement officers with fit-for-duty issues and employment evaluations for potential police officers and evaluate defendants for competency to stand trial in homicide cases. 

What advice do you have for other adults considering completing a degree?
Always push yourself to achieve your goals in life. When you don't succeed the first time, always try again until you succeed. It’s never too late to achieve your educational goals and don’t be afraid.

I can’t begin to explain the feelings I had once my degrees were in my hands. Tears of joy! The sleepless nights, late nights and three years spending weekends in the books and laptop was well worth the tears.

Don’t cheat yourself, just do it! Find a motivator, support system, and sponsor. Never lose focus on your goal, set a plan and don’t make excuses. My work life is very busy and I switched jobs in between to a more hectic and demanding career. I finished in three years. If I can do it, you can do it!
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Saint_Leo_University_OnlineLloyd James
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
B.S. Computer Information Systems
Gunnery sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, radio chief and spectrum manager for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Why was getting a degree important to you?
Both of my parents attended college. My father has a master’s degree and my mother and associate degree. So, secondary education has always been important in our family.

How did you know that now was the time to do it?
It was the smart move to make. I would like to start a second career as a federal agent when I retire from the military and the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree.

Why was an online program the right fit for you
When I started with Saint Leo, I was at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa so I took classes at the center there. When I changed duty stations, I wanted to stay with Saint Leo, so I started taking online courses. I have been deployed six times: three times to Iraq, once to the Horn of Africa and once to Jordan. With my work schedule, I had to have flexibility to study on my own time. It’s much more convenient.

Why did you choose Saint Leo University?
Saint Leo offers a great educational experience especially for military personnel. The fact that the university is pro-military speaks volumes.

What was the learning experience like?
I have nothing but praise for the online learning experience. The flexibility was great, and faculty were accommodating and understanding One instructor, in particular, who was the instructor for my last project management course, I had had for a course before. The workload increased at the office and I thought that even with an extension, I would have to take the course at another time. He remembered my work ethic and worked with me so that I could complete the class and stay on track.

Was there something about the overall experience that surprised you?
I was surprised that I preferred the flexibility of online classes to going to classroom, especially after a long day or week at work. You need discipline, but as long as you adhere to timelines, stay in touch with your professors and maintain professionalism, you can be successful.

Who supported and inspired you to reach your goal?
My advisor, Angela McKoy, was instrumental in my success. We had a terrific bond. Since both of us are originally from New York, we talked a lot about that and also about my plans for law school. Even though she was busy, she kept me inspired and motivated. I owe her a lot and thank her for always being there for me.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
I learned that once I got into a rhythm, online learning became second nature to me. I know that some people think that online courses are a whole lot more difficult than a traditional classroom, but you just need to stay on top of the syllabus and know what is expected.

What are your career aspirations?
I would like to retire from the Marine Corps in a few years and attend law school. My ultimate goal is to become a federal agent.

What advice do you have for other adults considering completing a degree?
For servicemembers like myself, I would say that it is imperative to take advantage of your military tuition assistance. Every servicemember, at some point, will need to take that uniform off, so get the degree while you are on active duty, or at least get closer to that goal.
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Saint_Leo_University_OnlineJason Lalk
Apollo Beach, Florida
B.A. Criminal Justice
Patient sitter Brandon Hospital

Why did you choose to study criminal justice?
I have always found an interest in law enforcement type work and wanted to do something where I can give back to my community.

Why was getting a degree important to you?
I found it important to get my degree because I feel without a degree it really limits life and job opportunities. Having a degree to me will open up a lot of doors and career opportunities.

How did you know that now was the time to do it?
I started college right when I finished high school. I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to go. I knew if I waited I might not get the chance again.

Why was an online program the right fit for you?
I've pretty much always done online school since high school. I found it to be a lot better with my schedule for work and being able to still have social time. Right now, I work anywhere from 40-60 hours per week. I work the night shift from 7p.m.-7a.m., so attending regular classes would be very difficult.

Why did you choose Saint Leo University?
I transferred to Saint Leo from community college to obtain my bachelor’s degree because Saint Leo is known for having great online programs. In addition, I have met people who previously completed the criminal justice program and were happy with the university and the program.

What was the learning experience like?
My online experience was great at Saint Leo. I found the classes to be very informative and even though they were online I still had good interaction with other students and teachers for each and every class.

Was there something about the overall experience that surprised you?
My overall experience was wonderful and what really surprised is how fast time went by. I really can't believe I am so close to graduation

Who supported and inspired you to reach your goal?
Both of my parents were my main inspiration. Without their support, I really don't think I would have completed the program. They inspired me to persevere.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
The whole adventure through college has been a learning experience for me. It has really showed me how capable I am at achieving my goals.

What are your career aspirations?
I hope to get into some type of law enforcement work. I really am not sure exactly what I want to do because there are so many jobs, but I'm sure I will find something I love to do.

What advice do you have for other adults considering completing a degree?
My advice to anyone is not to give up. Push yourself until you are done. It is such a rewarding experience getting through college and getting into the career you love.
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Saint_Leo_University_OnlineAshly Mills
Swainsboro, Georgia
B.A. Psychology
Distribution analyst, Nordson Corp.

Why did you choose to study psychology?
I chose psychology because I believe I think like a psychologist. I ask questions and want to know why humans behave and think the way that they do. 

I participate in collecting data, analyzing data, and studying our processes. My job allows me to implement changes that will improve our processes and employee morale. I also serve as a back-up for the department supervisor.

Why was getting a degree important to you?
Not many people in my family had the opportunity to continue their educations. I wanted to continue my mine so that I could ensure that my children, spouse, and I would have financial stability and security. Getting a degree increases my chances of achieving my career

How did you know that now was the time to do it?
I started school a few years ago and stopped because of some life changes. I grew very tired of telling potential employers that I started my education and did not finish it. I wanted to finish what I started and I knew that I could do it if I made my mind up to do it.

Why was an online program the right fit for you?
My job is the primary reason why I went to school online. I work full time and my schedule is not very flexible. I love my job and I did not want to jeopardize it. I did not want to start going to a traditional school and eventually have to make a choice in regard to quitting my job in order to take a course that was not offered at night.

Why did you choose Saint Leo University?
I chose Saint Leo University because it offered a psychology degree completely online. While researching schools, I did not find many that offered the psychology completely online.

Saint Leo was clear about the program requirements, and I knew that I could meet those requirements and my responsibilities at work and home.

Once I contacted Saint Leo, I was very pleased. The advisor wanted to make sure that I was prepared for the sacrifices that school would require. She wasn't just trying to get me to sign up; she was trying to understand what I wanted and make sure that I had realistic expectations.

I will never forget that she told me how important it was that I had a strong support system. I conveyed that information to my spouse, and he vowed to be that support system. I would not have made it if my husband and I had not had that conversation and went into this with realistic expectations.

What was the learning experience like?
I enjoyed learning online. The instructors work very hard to make the online classroom as much like a traditional classroom as possible. Some of my favorite courses were given by instructors who posted links and videos that students could view outside of the learning studio. These links and videos helped me understand what I was learning and experience it in more depth.

Was there something about the overall experience that surprised you?
The most surprising thing about the overall experience was how easy it was. I definitely had some difficult courses and assignments, but as long as I followed instructions, I passed with flying colors.

Who supported and inspired you to reach your goal?
My husband and mother both supported me greatly during this experience. Both of them picked up the slack in regard to housework and taking care of the kids. I could not have made it without both of them. For nearly an entire year, my mother cooked dinner for my family and me. My husband encouraged me when I was stressed about an assignment. I am so grateful to both of them for their support.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
I learned that I can handle so much more than I expected. I also realized how much I have developed over the course of this experience. I am so pleased to see that I can improve upon myself through knowledge and discipline. 

What are your career aspirations?
I am not 100 percent sure what my career aspirations are. I currently work in a business that is industry focused. I have opportunities to use my degree within the business and I love the company that I work for. Therefore, I believe I will stay with this company as long as possible. However, if I were to leave the company, I believe I would make a major career shift. I would like to be in counseling and maybe research. 

What advice do you have for other adults considering completing a degree?
If you are willing to make the sacrifices and put forth the work, you can do it! Most importantly, take it one week and one assignment at a time. Don't stress over the big picture, just focus on what is in front of you. Before long, you will be pleased to find that you are graduating.
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Carlos225Carlos Perez Ardilla
Cherry Point, North Carolina
B.A. Business Administration-Logistics
Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, aviation supply specialist

Why did you choose to study logistics?
I chose to focus my degree in business with specialization in logistics because I currently work in the logistics field and it was a great way to reinforce my work experience and job credibility.

Why was getting a degree important to you?
When I set off to enlist in the Marine Corps, one of my main goals was to finish my bachelor’s degree with the help of the tuition assistance program.

How did you know that now was the time to do it?
Three years later, after becoming the subject matter expert in my section, I felt it was a perfect time to supplement my career with higher education from Saint Leo University.

Why was an online program the right fit for you?
I was stationed overseas in Okinawa, Japan, and I wanted to further my education despite the fact that I was so far away from home. I initially took one class and then once I got comfortable continued to take two classes until I finished my degree requirements.

We had a pretty demanding regiment at my unit. We supported air operations that directly affected flight line readiness on a daily basis. It was demanding to have to work 10-12 hour days – and sometimes on weekends, or in the middle of the night – to keep our aircraft mission capable. Along with those responsibilities, we were constantly engaged in mentoring our junior Marines, volunteering with the local community, and participating in camaraderie-building events, not to forget our yearly training requirements.

So an online degree program fit my schedule.

Why did you choose Saint Leo University?
Being a Florida native, I had previously heard of Saint Leo University. Once I did some research and came to found out how military-friendly and how great their online program was, it was a very clear choice that I wanted to attend Saint Leo.

What was the learning experience like?
The online learning experience taught me that we are definitely in a new age of learning. I never knew I could learn this effectively online. This experience came into fruition when we were engaged in group-themed assignments and interacted with other students hundreds of miles away.

Was there something about the overall experience that surprised you?
I was surprised to discover that you really can achieve anything you put your mind to. Finishing my degree always seemed like a far-away feat. It felt supernatural when I finally received my diploma in the mail.

Who supported and inspired you to reach your goal?
My mentor and good friend Chris Rossetti believed in me and pushed me to stop putting off something that he believed I could achieve. He would always cheer me on and was interested in hearing how I was doing each semester. I felt that I owed it to him to keep persevering and finish.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
I learned that through any adversity and challenge that I might face if I simply commit and persevere, it is surprising at what I can achieve.

What are your career aspirations?
I love being a Marine. I see myself progressing and advancing through the ranks and eventually earning my commission as an unrestricted officer. Eventually, I hope to one day serve in senior leadership of an entire unit of Marines as a commanding officer.

What advice do you have for other adults considering completing a degree?
I would simply urge anyone who is considering an online degree program to speak to an advisor and apply. Take a class. You’ll be truly surprised at how the online learning experience will resonate to you.

Congratulations to all Center for Online Learning students who are graduating this spring!
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Image credits:    Saint Leo University Communications and courtesy Saint Leo University students

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Topics: Academic Success