Friday, December 8, 2017

Nothing Could Stop Melissa Jackson from Earning Her Dream Degree

No employee wants to hear their boss tell them, “You cannot move up any further without another degree.” But more often than not, companies are requiring higher degrees in order for their employees to move up the ladder.

Melissa Jackson, a 14-year employee for YouthBuild, felt this pressure when she was approached and told she had the potential and ability to move up to a director position but needed to earn her master’s degree first.

As a lifelong learner, Melissa found no issues in this new challenge, but where would she go?

She started researching and realized Peirce College had a program that seemed to fit her interests: Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management. But Melissa wanted to learn a little more before she signed up. That’s when she got the call.

Melissa had a previous relationship with Peirce College as she sent many of her students from YouthBuild to Peirce for the Year Up Program. This connection inspired a phone call from Uva Coles, Peirce College’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Strategic Partnerships, who worked closely with Peirce's internship and mentoring program at the time.

On the phone call with Melissa, Uva invited her to mentor and host an intern in the computer science and technology program Melissa ran with YouthBuild. Melissa, of course, accepted, and the relationship began to bloom.

As the two continued to stay in touch, Uva soon learned of Melissa’s desire to return to school.

“I made a connection with Uva, and this connection immediately pulled me in. She invited me to Peirce for an impromptu conversation about the master’s program,” says Melissa. “She told me about the Peirce Fit model, the flexibility.”

After learning of all the opportunities available to her, Melissa found herself applying to Peirce! As she now puts it, “Uva was the icing on the cake.”

Melissa joined Peirce College officially in January 2016 ready to start her new journey. She began taking classes and found herself finding a family with Peirce.

“Out of all the schools I went to, Peirce is the most family-oriented. I know a lot of people say that, but I really mean it. I appreciate the small classroom sizes, the fact that the professors care about you and the accessibility to opportunity,” Melissa explains.

But, as life would have it, in the middle of her graduate studies experience, Melissa got some tough news. She was diagnosed with cancer during one of the toughest sessions in the program. She was enrolled in two courses and knew things were going to be busy. Melissa immediately connected with her professors. They not only supported her academically, but also personally.

“My professors cared, really cared. They kept on me about my studies while still checking in. They allowed me to do work ahead of time, so I wouldn’t fall behind,” explains Melissa. “I had two surgeries during the 8-week session, and I was still able to do it. The professors were flexible and helped me make it work.”

After focusing on her health and getting back to a more normal schedule, Melissa returned to her usual self, attending all her classes and getting the most out of her educational journey.

“I never missed a class unless it was absolutely necessary,” says Melissa. “I learned a lot more from the experiences in class with my classmates and professors than I would have gained online. When you read the textbooks, case studies, etc. they are very high level, but when you’re in class and the professor talks about that topic in their real life and maybe a student has a similar experience then you think about how it comes together with your life. It makes it more enjoyable.”

Now that Melissa is approaching the end of the program, she wants to give one more final shout-out to her fellow Graduate Studies Association (GSA) board members after serving as a student senator while enrolled at Peirce. “I am extremely proud of my GSA board members. We are all graduating and walking in June together!” says an excited Melissa. “I think the past two years we have done and made a lot of changes within the student body.”

After conquering her classes and life’s challenges, Melissa is officially graduating with her Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management this month! She has overcome so much in her time with Peirce, and we are extremely proud to watch her go from a student to an alumna.

Congratulations, Melissa!