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Mankato Human Resources Graduate Changes Course For The Better

Derek CliftonRecent Mankato Human Resources grad Derek Clifton didn’t have to return to school. In fact, he already had a degree and a steady job. However, after pursuing a career in music education Clifton found he was ready to make a change.

“As I pursued that career I realized it was taking the fun out of music and I even found myself no longer enjoying music because of it,” Clifton said.

The transition back to school

After spending time working for the Taylor Corporation in Mankato as a customer service representative coach, Clifton says he realized a career in the Human Resources field is something that genuinely interests him. To pursue that field, however, would require Clifton to make a leap of faith.

“I was a little afraid at first to go back to school. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maintain working full time and taking a full class load,” said Clifton. “But it was just a matter of me taking that step and holding myself accountable.”

Once Clifton made that first step, the transition back to academic work came fairly easy to him. The structure of Clifton’s online courses allowed him to plan ahead and budget his time away from work. Knowing what to expect on a daily basis even provided some motivation for him, he said.

“By knowing that I had a lot to do, with multiple tasks to focus on between work and school [it] allowed me to prioritize what needs to be done each day,” Clifton said. “Having that daily list of things to do kind of motivated me in a way.”

While his first degree might not have been obviously conducive to a career in HR, it did help pave the way in the long term. By taking advantage of Rasmussen College’s AcceleratED degree program, Clifton was able to start his Human Resources and Organizational Leadership degree with approximately half of the credits he needed already completed.

Leadership opportunity at Rasmussen College

Not only did Clifton make a smooth transition back into his academic career, he excelled. Clifton’s academic achievement eventually helped lead him to being chosen as a representative for the Rasmussen Leadership Academy group at the Mankato campus. The group met weekly to discuss leadership activities, styles and methods. Additionally, the group planned events to raise money for local charities.

“My biggest takeaway from the group was just getting a chance to see how other people lead activities and their method of thinking,” said Clifton. “I was able to see what works well for them and will be able to use those methods in the future.”

An inspiration leads to a degree

Clifton credits his partner of seven years for giving him the extra push needed to improve himself and make the transition to earning his second degree.

“He really wanted me to get back to school last August, and wouldn’t let me be lazy or complacent about things,” said Clifton.

Unfortunately, Clifton’s partner never got the chance to see him graduate after passing away suddenly in January 2013. Clifton knew going into the relationship that his partner was terminally ill and had been prepared for the worst, but the end came quicker than he could have imagined.

“He got sick and just thought he had the flu. By the time he realized it was something more the sickness was much worse than it appeared,” said Clifton. “He was only in the hospital for 24 hours before passing away.”

However, the passing of his partner didn’t break Clifton’s spirit. In fact, the inspiration provided by his partner helped Clifton graduate on time with a 3.9 GPA, a feat that provides a glimmer of hope out of an otherwise heartbreaking experience.

“By that time I was halfway through the program so I decided then that I had to finish what I started, not only for me but for him as well,” said Clifton.

His vision for his career

Now that Clifton has graduated, he hopes to land a position in HR and pass on the knowledge he’s gained through his life experiences.  Clifton says he would like to provide transparency and make sure employees are engaged with what the business is doing

“I think making sure employees understand why a business does what it does is important,” said Clifton. “Obviously there are things that are on a need-to-know basis but I’d want to be as transparent as possible and make sure to clearly communicate with an organization’s employees.”

Though Clifton has a vision for what he would like to do as a human resources professional right now, he still has long term plans to pursue a master’s degree as well.

Share your story

If you have a success story from your tenure at Rasmussen College and would like to share it, please email me at or feel free to leave a comment below.

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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