We recently caught up with two of UNT’s May 2022 graduates, Venessa Ricketts and Adan Salinas. Hear why they chose to enroll in the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences program at UNT, what aspects of the program they found most valuable, and their advice for anyone who wants to finish their college degree online.
Back in 2020, Venessa, a Logistics Scheduler for an e-commerce leader, and Adan, a Senior Team Lead in Sales at a telecom giant, weren’t thinking about a career change. They were focused on preparing for their daughter to leave home in a few years, and thinking about life as empty nesters. Then the pandemic struck.
Suddenly, like so many, they were facing a world of unknowns. How would the future impact their careers? What could they do to feel more secure? They wanted to become better qualified for advanced, higher-demand roles, but neither of them had a four-year degree. “We needed a ticket into the interviews and jobs we wanted,” says Adan. They knew earning their degrees could be an important step forward, but as full-time employees with a daughter still in school, their options for pursuing higher education felt limited. That’s when they discovered Coursera.
A customizable degree, a high-support online program
Adan had heard of Coursera and searched the site for a degree program. UNT’s Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (B.A.A.S.) program stood out and looked like it might be a fit for both aspiring grads. They’d be able to customize their programs with one or two concentrations—like data analytics or information technology. They’d also receive hands-on support from advisors and coaches.
Adan was eager to start his learning journey. “I could see the B.A.A.S. degree program was a future-proof track at UNT, letting you acquire valuable skills you’ll keep using and building on,” he says. He hoped to show loved ones he could finish his degree, and he focused on data analytics and administration. “Big Data is the new Industrial Revolution. So, why not prepare and put myself at the forefront?”
“If you can spend an hour on Facebook or watching TV…”
Despite an interest in UNT’s program and dreams of being her family’s first college graduate, Venessa initially had fears about going back to school. Could she really do it? Then a friend told her it was time to invest in herself: “If you can spend an hour on Facebook or watching a TV show, why not invest that time in your education and future? You deserve it.”
Venessa became convinced she could do it and was inspired by the idea of being a role model for her daughter.
Develop the student mindset that works for you
As they began the B.A.A.S. degree program in August 2020, Venessa was proactive with her time management. She says it’s the key to your success as a student. Adan admits he can procrastinate a bit, yet with the eight-week courses and some self-pep talks, he kept the momentum. Both say that the eight-week asynchronous course structure was very motivating. “If I had to take 16-week courses like my daughter does, it would be too demanding,” said Venessa. “Eight weeks is manageable.”
Both Adan and Vanessa found the Coursera learner platform quite user-friendly, letting them easily keep track of their personalized learning plans, assignments, grading, and degree progress. Course expectations were always clear, so they could plan ahead with homework and family occasions.
Venessa’s doubts about returning to school were allayed early on when she saw how inspiring and accessible her professors were. “I love, love Dr. Watson,” she says of her favorite instructor. Adan also felt “the professors were fantastic. I loved Dr. Nasco, Dr. Watson, Dr. Lee Ann Boyce, and several others.” While they weren’t always in the same courses, they shared advice on classes and professors.
Their daughter was proud of them, and together, they were able to actively discuss college, courses, and career goals.
First in the family to graduate from college
In May 2022, Venessa realized her lifelong dream of earning her bachelor’s degree and becoming a first-generation college graduate. Not only a graduate but summa cum laude.
“It was a very personal, important goal for me,” she says.
Finally having a “ticket” to opportunities
Adan graduated cum laude in May of this year. The courses have helped him with leading and supporting his team, having an impact on morale, and improving communication. He’s gained the specific skills needed for future opportunities.
“Your bachelor’s degree is the ticket that gets you inside that interview room, that career VIP rope,” he says.”Once you’re inside it, you think, ‘Hey, I could do that cool job.’”
Some tips for anyone wanting to complete their bachelor’s degree online:
Venessa: “Do it. It’s time to invest in yourself. Don’t stop your dreams. You’re worth it. Becoming an online student is an investment in your future and your family. The knowledge and skills you’ll gain are priceless.”
Adan: “If you have to fake it till you make it, tell yourself you can do it. We all have impostor syndrome to some extent. Don’t set your mind and expectations low. Challenge yourself to learn something new.”
Learn more about UNT’s online degrees and non-credit courses.