Categorized | Life

Life Learning: Back-to-school success stories.

Posted on 19 September 2008

Many working adults return to school to advance their skills and knowledge in their career field. But this is only part of the reason why so many consider hitting the books again.

Beyond career development, working adults are looking to take control of an unfinished area in their life, according to Don St. Clair, vice president for enrollment at Woodbury University in Burbank, CA.

“While career advancement really holds the intrinsic value for most adults to return to school, the more powerful motivator is a commitment to themselves,” says St. Clair, who has worked 15 years in adult education. In fact, he recently returned to school as a doctoral student at Pepperdine University. “I’m always so impressed by what learning adults are able to do to finish their education, whether they need to juggle jobs, their schedules, or take on extra projects to prove themselves.”

Balancing Class and Career
Scheduling is the greatest challenge that adult students face. They must balance career and lifestyle with class time, homework, special projects, and preparation for exams.

Siamak Afshar knows the challenge and stress of balancing career and school. “It’s pretty hard,” says the substance abuse program director. “I still owe papers from last semester, and I’m always asking for an extension to complete the course.” He is currently studying for his bachelor’s degree in psychology at The Union Institute in Los Angeles. Although he is already working in his field of study, the incentive to earn his credentials is both personal and professional.

“I don’t consider myself a professional,” Afshar says. “When I have earned my degree and they call me a professional, it will then hit home. I will have more than the experience of working with addicts; I will be more insightful and effective in my job. Yes, the degree will increase my income. But more importantly, it will increase my self-esteem and allow me more respect on a professional level.”

Afshar is committed to becoming a professional counselor in an area of treatment that gave him back his own life. “I’m a recovering heroin addict,” he says, “and I don’t just talk a good talk, I walk my own walk. [I can] show them how much a person can turn his life around.” ” Afshar will graduate during the summer of 2001, but hopes to continue studying for his graduate degree and his PhD in psychology. And he will continue to work full-time and host a local radio and satellite TV show about the recovery process for the Iranian community.

Homework and Social Perils
Rene Neriz, an advertising account executive at the Los Angeles Daily News, believes his greatest challenge in going back to school is making time for his family and social life. “The most important thing is to make sure your family and friends understand what you are doing and why you are doing it,” says Neriz, 27. “It’s the only way to be focused on getting that higher degree.”

Neriz received his Master’s in business at the University of Phoenix after two and a half years. His utmost concern was balancing university work and his Daily News projects–without sacrificing the quality of either. “It was very rewarding overall,” Neriz says. “Managers now look to me for more solutions, and I work more cohesively with the higher-ups. The experience has really helped me to understand the bigger picture and bring more to the table.”

Lifelong Learners
Getting their medical degrees together was only the beginning for one California couple. William Matzner and Penny Chong started their own laboratory, Reproductive Immunology Associates in Van Nuys, where they diagnose and treat women who experience pregnancy problems. When someone offered to purchase their laboratory, both realized the need to go back to school.

“Business school fulfilled the need to evaluate our company,” says Matzner, 42. Along with his wife, he went on to earn an MBA at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. “We learned how to market our company [and] integrate new laboratory tests. It gave us a better perspective of the business environment.”

Matzner believes the work was not intellectually difficult to understand, but its quick completion was a priority. “Most of all, we learned not to procrastinate on anything. We worked on our assignments immediately,” he says.

Although they hardly had enough time for activities outside of school and running the laboratory, it was still important for them to give time to a worthy cause. “We’re also involved in animal rescue work,” says Matzner. The couple devotes their weekend time to help with the adoption and treatment of more than 200 dogs, cats, and horses.

Despite the challenges, Matzner plans to continue his schooling. “Going back to school opens up a lot of opportunities for you,” he says. “For me personally, it rekindled an interest in economics. I’ve decided to pursue my PhD in health care economics.”

The Final Bell
Returning to school is not an after-hours activity to be taken lightly. Balancing your career and school work is challenging and must be accompanied by a sincere motivation to complete, and even continue, your field of study.

The rewards can last a lifetime.

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