Friday, May 13, 2016

Featured Learner: Wanda Amaro '16

According to her mom, Wanda Amaro ‘16 has always done things her own way.

“She’s always called me her backward girl,” remembers Amaro. This adage has rung especially true for her over the last few years as she returned to college nearly three decades after graduating from high school.

Wanda Amaro pictured here with her husband, Rick. 
Raised by a single mother from Puerto Rico, when Amaro started Catholic school as a child, she couldn’t speak any English. She and her sister, born a year a part, ended up in the same grade throughout their k-12 experience. When they both graduated, there was only enough money to send her sister to nursing school, so Amaro entered the workforce.

After marrying her high school sweetheart – they’ve been together for 37 years! – and having two sons, Amaro found a position in the human resources department at Episcopal Hospital. Over the next 28 years, her career continued to thrive as she also balanced raising a family. Earning her degree was always something she wanted to do but with such a busy life, there was never enough time.

However, in 2012, she decided it was now or never and started looking into schools.

“I took an online class at Drexel but I knew I needed more flexibility with my job,” said Amaro. “I knew this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to finish my degree. But I needed my degree program to work for me.”

Ultimately, it came down to Drexel and Peirce. “Peirce won. It was the best decision,” said Amaro.
As a longtime human resources professional, Amaro could have received a significant amount of credit for work experience when she started at Peirce, shortening her time to completion. But Amaro wanted to learn everything from the beginning. “I wanted to learn what was new,” she said.

The courses in Peirce’s Human Resource Management (HRM) program aligned well with the areas where Amaro currently works, especially topics like labor laws and cultural communications.
At first, she took one course per session to make sure she could handle everything. But after meeting her new Academic Advisor, Meryl Silver, and becoming comfortable with online classes, she decided to speed things up by taking two classes at a time. 

“What helped me get through was my organizational skills and communicating honestly with my boss,” she said. “I need to have a schedule. At 5 o’clock, I leave work, go home, change, clear my mind, and open my books. And because of the flexibility [at Peirce], you’re not obligated to log on at a certain time. Your participation is what matters.”

As an exclusively online student, Amaro didn’t set foot on Peirce’s campus until March 2016. “It was never like I was missing anything online because I had connections with all of my professors and Meryl.”

Taking courses online also allowed Amaro to fit studying in whenever she had a moment. When her daughter-in-law was giving birth to her first grandchild three years ago, Amaro brought her laptop and did her homework in the hospital waiting room.  And when she and her husband would attend Saturday events with their car club, she would finish her homework while he walked around the show.

“It’s all about how you organize your classes. With the flexibility Peirce gave me, I didn’t feel stressed because I could open my laptop when it worked for me,” she said.

With all the support from her family and employers, Amaro is ready to walk across the stage at the Kimmel Center on June 13 with her bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management.

“Professionally, having this degree will open more opportunities for me,” said Amaro. “Being able to go back with my experience and with a bachelor’s degree in HRM, I can say to folks that I’m a competitive force in HR. I’ve updated myself and I’ve got a lot to offer.”

Congratulations, Wanda! Peirce is proud to have you as a member of the Class of 2016.

Wanda was also interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer and featured in a story in April about Baby Boomers returning to college. Click here to read the article.

For more information on how you can earn a bachelor’s in Human Resources Management from Peirce College, click here.