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Former Twin Cities Bartender Turns Second Shot into Business Management Degree

Kathryn SchmolkeFailure was not an option this go-around for Brooklyn Park, Minn., graduate Kathryn Schmolke. She had all the motivation she needed when she made the decision to enroll at Rasmussen College and earn a business management bachelor’s degree—she had previously spent four years at a state university with little to show for her efforts. 

“I felt at the time that I had wasted four years and I knew that getting my degree is something that I needed and wanted to do,” Schmolke says. “I was so determined that it was kind of a ‘nothing’s going to stop me’ situation.”

Past provides motivation

Schmolke graduated high school and enrolled at the University of Minnesota-Duluth with plans to earn a degree in chemistry. Her plans unraveled and she left school after four years of shifting degree focus and little progress.

“I feel like I just kind of got lost in the system,” Schmolke says. “I took some business courses there and found myself kind of up in the air without a whole lot of guidance on what to do next.”

Schmolke then spent more than a year working as a bartender after leaving school but knew that her long term career prospects were slim in that role. She looked into returning to school at Rasmussen College after speaking with a friend who worked as a recruiter.

“I didn’t want to be a bartender forever,” Schmolke says. “It wasn’t for me and I expected to make more of myself.”

A better experience

Schmolke’s initial interest came from the conversations she had with her friend, but the smaller class sizes and close-knit feel at Rasmussen College are what sealed the deal.

She now had a new major in business management to go along with a new school and was fortunate to be able to transfer credits from her previous college coursework. Schmolke says the change in major is thanks to her mother’s success as a credit manager and the flexibility the degree provides.

Schmolke says Rasmussen College business instructor Soma Jurgensen provided the right mix of challenge and support to get the most out of her.

“She had high expectations of her students and pushed me to do better,” Schmolke says.

Making a late push

Schmolke was given an even stronger motivator to finish her degree - the upcoming birth of her first child. The news of her pregnancy led her to take more classes than recommended for her final two quarters

“I wanted to make sure I had everything done before [my son] could start crawling around and getting into things. It definitely gave me a push to finish up,” Schmolke says.

Schmolke was also working 30 hours per week as a bartender while handling the challenges of her first pregnancy and a heavy course load. She says that her organizational skills were vital in helping her manage the volume of work she had to do, especially when working late hours as a bartender.

“I’ve always been good at time management and I’m the type of person to mark the calendar and make lists,” Schmolke says. “It was definitely tough though, especially when you’re working from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. and have class in the morning.” 

Early career success

Schmolke found a job as a customer service representative for Select Comfort after graduating in 2010. From there she has risen steadily in the company and now is in charge of supervising a team of 17 customer service representatives. Schmolke says she enjoys the mentorship aspect of working in a managerial role.

“I’ve had several people that reported to me that have moved up into other roles. It feels good being able to help guide their careers and see them develop,”Schmolke says.

Schmolke says in the future she hopes to work her way into a human resources role at Select Comfort and with her determination, there’s reason to believe she’ll get there.

Are you looking for a second chance?

Sometimes things just don’t work out on your first attempt at earning a degree, but that’s OK. Rasmussen College’s Support+ team will guide you and help get your educational plans back on track. If you think you’re ready to take another shot, check out Rasmussen College’s degree pages to find out more.

Will Erstad

Will is a Sr. Content Specialist at Collegis Education. He researches and writes student-focused articles on a variety of topics for Rasmussen College. He is passionate about learning and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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