When Bethany Royer decided it was finally time after almost two decades to enroll in college, she knew what she didn’t want: a diploma mill.

So she sought the advice of two well-educated acquaintances, one a lawyer and one a doctor. Both recommended Florida Institute of Technology, a regionally accredited and top-ranked university founded nearly 60 years ago on the Sunshine State’s famed Space Coast.

“I knew from that moment I could not go wrong by choosing Florida Tech,” Royer said.

It had been a time of upheaval for the Greenville, Ohio, resident, who has deep roots in the farm country of the Buckeye State. Nearing 40, a divorce had left her raising two young daughters, and she would soon find herself making a return to a newspaper career.

Years before, life’s whims had intruded on her plans for a college education and she knew stepping back into a classroom environment would present obstacles.

“I had to find something flexible and online schooling seemed to be the best choice,” Royer said.

In 2011, she enrolled in Florida Tech’s 100% online Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Organizational Psychology program. Over the next few years she would complete courses ranging from Personal and Professional Development to Psychology of Leadership and Professional and Ethical Issues

“All of my professors were fantastic,” said Royer, who graduated cum laude in December 2014 and also earned a minor in Human Resources Administration.

In a letter written a few weeks before receiving her diploma, Royer said that “this is a huge moment for me. I have [wanted] to accomplish this for over 20 years and that moment has finally arrived.”

Royer, who in late 2014 began a new career with the City of Piqua (Ohio) Utility Business Office, spoke with us about her educational journey and how her experiences might give encouragement to others seeking a new direction in life.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your background.

As Hunter Thompson once said, ‘I learned a long time ago that reality was much weirder than anyone’s imagination.’ For me, reality was more than I could ever imagine, even if the road less traveled was all in my own backyard. I am a 40-plus, lifelong resident of a small farming community in Ohio where I was born, [and just] finished a near-decade in the newspaper business. I have two daughters, ages 13 and 11, and I’m dating their father, my ex-husband.

I said it was the road less traveled.

Q. Why did you decide to advance your education through a degree program offered online?

After my divorce in 2010, I knew I had to make big changes in my life – this included going back to school. I had meant to get my bachelor’s nearly 20 years ago. However, life took me in that aforementioned other direction. So it almost seemed made-to-be that I would be provided with an opportunity to return to school four years ago. Ironically, my ex-husband also returned to school, pursuing his lifelong dream of going to the police academy. He is now a sheriff’s deputy and we are nearly two years into our reconciliation.

Q. What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?

As the desire to go back to school grew over the summer of 2010, I knew I had to make some very careful decisions. A suddenly single parent of two looking for work at the time, I knew returning to school would be a challenge. I had to find something flexible and online schooling seemed to be the best choice. Yet, I was worried; I did not want a paper mill. So, after inquiring about my options with a lawyer and a doctor, Florida Tech came recommended by both. I knew from that moment I could not go wrong by choosing Florida Tech with those acknowledgments from two well-educated individuals.

Q. What was your favorite class and why?

It is really hard for me to pinpoint a favorite class. I would have loved for many of them to last longer than eight weeks. Minus math. (Inside joke, but I’m terrible with numbers.) All of my professors were fantastic. However, I would have to say my ethics classes really caught my interest. In fact, they came at a pivotal time in my life and helped me to make a difficult decision – to end my reporting career.

Q. What surprised you most about taking an online program?

What surprised me about the online program was the classroom experience. I’ve taken a variety of classes here and there throughout the years, but all in brick-and-mortar establishments. I can certainly say that if anyone is worried whether or not an online program does not have the same feel, quality or experience, they needn’t worry with Florida Tech.

Q. What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?

There are so many valuable things thanks to the Florida Tech online program, from my professors to the material, my classmates and my Florida Tech representative. I really have to thank my rep, Cornelius Mays, for keeping me on track all these years. 

Q. How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?

If anything, my degree gives me an unbelievable sense of accomplishment. Just knowing what I’ve accomplished over four years really gives me a sense of pride. It also gives me something to share with others who may have lost their footing in life or direction, so to speak. If they want to take another direction, if they want to learn something new, why not school? Florida Tech makes it so easy via its online program that no one has any excuse.

Q. What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?

For starters, do not let age be a factor. I went back to school in my late 30s, when most individuals in my life felt their lives had ended when they turned 30. Ridiculous! One of my favorite teachers as a child, both she and her husband continued to attend college courses well after retirement. If they can attend school as great-grandparents, no one has an excuse due to age. Also, if you have any desire to go back to school but keep putting it off for a better time, take it from someone who kept thinking a better time would transpire for nearly two decades:  Don’t wait!

Q. Who or what inspires you to succeed?

There are a lot of people who have directly inspired me to succeed, including my daughters, Brianne and Emma, my ex- and future husband, Michael, my mother, Darlene, and my brother, Adam. There are also indirect inspirations, such as coworkers and those I’ve worked with during my reporting days. I am also inspired by American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. They have contributed to my success and now I work to inspire others by setting an example.

Q. What is one fun fact about you?

People always make the wrong assumptions about me and I think this is true for most of us. We make assumptions about others according to outward appearances and first impressions. I really believe if we give everyone the benefit of the doubt – a second chance or look – we may just be surprised! It is much like the old saying about not judging a book by its cover. Well, you can’t judge a book only a few pages in or by the blurb on the back cover, right?

Are you a graduate of Florida Tech’s 100% online degree programs? We would love to share your success story in our Student Spotlight series. Contact us at StudentSpotlight@universityalliance.com for additional details.

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