If Wausau, Wis., human resources student Ellen Volhard ever needs a new hobby, she may want to consider juggling. Between raising her kids, working full-time, attending school and dealing with everyday life she certainly developed a skill for rapidly shifting her focus.
Volhard’s story proves that even those with the busiest of schedules can earn a college degree as long as they’re willing to work hard and manage their time wisely.
Arriving at Rasmussen College
Volhard graduated high school in 1996 and enrolled at Winona State University the following fall. Volhard says her time there was a struggle, and ended up leaving school after three quarters.
“I just didn’t really like the environment there,” Volhard says. “It wasn’t a good fit for me.”
Volhard landed a sales position at Wausau Financial Systems in 2001 despite not finishing her degree. The job provided enough financial stability to start a family and be comfortable but a divorce in 2008 shook up a decade of stability and triggered her to make the jump back to school. This time, she would earn the degree she always wanted to complete.
Volhard was facing the prospect of being a single mother so her motivation to earn a degree was two-pronged.
“I wanted to show to my kids that education is important,” Volhard says. “Not only would it provide some security for me but I wanted to prove that I can do it.”
Volhard was fortunate to still have a good job, but it also required her to have flexibility in her schedule. She found a good fit at Rasmussen College where she could take the majority of her classes online, so she enrolled in the business management associate degree program.
Managing a juggling act
Returning to school was admittedly a little intimidating for Volhard—the time spent working and raising her family had left her a little rusty academically. The last time Volhard wrote a paper before Rasmussen College was in 1997, so her concerns about formatting and how to submit it electronically weren’t unfounded. Volhard fortunately could rely on the Support+ staff to walk her through the unfamiliar format of online classes as well as answer any other questions she’d have. The support paid off—despite the initial intimidation of returning to school Volhard made her way onto the Dean’s list and honor roll multiple times.
“That was a huge help—if it weren’t for them I don’t know how I would have managed that first paper,” Volhard says. “Every instructor was really invested in me and really made it easy to jump into a new environment.”
Her ability to do well academically is impressive when you take into account the balancing act it required—the needs of her children and work didn’t stop when she enrolled.
Volhard was so adept at balancing her schedule that she managed to finish the final quarter of her associate degree while pregnant with her third child. If that wasn’t challenging enough she also was in the process of buying a new home, which is practically a full time job on its own.
The hectic nature of her schedule did give her pause—she admits she thought about taking a break before her final quarter, but after meeting with her advisor and receiving a little encouragement she decided to finish on time. Volhard says the experience was difficult, but the help she received from instructors and other classmates when she’d fall behind was instrumental to her success.
“Looking back, I don’t really know how I did it,” Volhard says. “I’m a pretty motivated person and having the support of the faculty and my classmates was great, although I’m not sure if I’d do something like that again.”
Volhard took a well-deserved break from school after completing her associate degree in business management in 2011. However, it wasn’t long before Volhard started to miss the routine of schoolwork, the camaraderie of her classmates and the sense of accomplishment it gave her. Volhard, after inquiring about bachelor’s degree programs, found a new challenge—the accelerated human resources and organizational leadership program. The program’s condensed class format hasn’t caused Volhard to falter though; she’s still maintaining a high GPA and is scheduled to graduate in early 2014.
A promising future
Volhard says her bosses are starting to take notice of her work ethic and academic achievements and have asked her to consider a higher-level position within her organization. She says the prospect of a promotion is a little intimidating, but the confidence of her managers is reassuring. Volhard hopes her skilled balancing of responsibilities will reflect well upon her when it comes time to apply for another position.
“I wanted to show that I’ve got the drive, dedication and time management skills to balance a busy schedule so when the time comes to apply for another position I’ve got this to show for it,” Volhard says.
The prospect of working full time and attending school can seem intimidating, but students like Volhard show that with hard work and good time management skills you too can succeed. So what’s stopping you? Check out the business degree page now if you’re interested in taking on the challenge and earning your degree.