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Ten years ago Monica Peralta was in college classes working toward a bachelor’s degree but struggling with managing going to class, working full time and raising two children. The birth of a third child convinced her to step out of her degree program and focus her limited time on work and family. Today Monica has a bachelor’s degree the first in her family to do so and is working on her master’s degree.
Monica lives in El Paso where she works for Del Sol Medical Center. Without a bachelor’s degree she had expanded her professional reach as far as possible and was not going to be able to move up into new opportunities beyond the nursing administration department. Like many hospitals seeking magnet status, Del Sol had specific interest in promotion of employees with a bachelor’s degree or better.
“After my youngest turned 10 my husband encouraged me to go back,” explains Monica. “He knew how much I wanted the degree and fresh opportunities for advancement with my employer. He suggested I try again. I found WGU Texas and it worked! Being able to go to work full-time, come home and have dinner with my family, then study two to three hours a night, and a full eight hours on Sunday made it a possibility. Having a great support system at home really helped. ”
Like many WGU Texas students, Monica was actually attending college at the same time as her oldest child. “He was attending another university while I was attending WGU Texas,” she explained. “And we helped each other. Math has always come very naturally to him so he tutored me to build my skills and confidence. I had great study habits and had set up a strong routine for getting my work done, so he learned from that.”
Earning the bachelor’s degree gave her the opportunity to apply for, and get, a new promotion as a Safety Officer at Del Sol Medical Center. Inspired by that success, she decided to start work on her master’s degree. “I did stop for six months to rest, but didn’t want to lose momentum. I’m back in the MBA and my mentor thinks I can have it finished this fall.” She credits her mentor with making the difference in her success or failure despite her conviction.
“There was a lot going on last term. I had a family member get ill and the hospital I work for was undergoing a joint commission accreditation it was a lot of pressure. Maureen (her mentor) kept encouraging me to just try and see how far I could get, one step at a time. She always finds the bright side and leaves me feeling upbeat. Plus, when tough things are happening at work and I’m talking about those challenges, she thinks of ways to carry that over to a project for a capstone or research. It’s great to be able to use your work experiences in your projects, or vice versa.”
Monica is going to leverage the MBA in her application for the Chief Operating Officer internship. “I never would have imagined having a master’s degree ten years ago,” she smiles. “My dad had an associate’s. It’s interesting how many of my relatives are saying ‘if you can do it, I can do it’ and are going back for their degrees. I told my children if I can earn a master’s degree now they’ll have to too!”
Monica recently had a chance to meet other students at a meet-up in El Paso. The Tour of Texas BBQ takes WGU staff and faculty across the state to unite graduates and students in an evening of fun and food. Monica was surprised to find several people she knew from work or town at the event. “I met a new coworker at the dinner,” she said.
Her favorite thing about the WGU Texas model aside from the mentor support and online flexibility is the flat rate tuition. “I was telling new students at the BBQ to add more courses and assessments to their term if things are going great and they’re moving quickly. You can add more and it doesn’t cost you any extra and you can finish early. I hear what other people are paying at other universities and colleges and I just ask, ‘Are you kidding?’ This is such a great value.”
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