As a newly single mom, Bethany Schommer knew she had to advance her education to better provide for her family. Earning her BA in Criminal Justice degree online allowed her to do that while balancing a new job and family responsibilities.
“I started from the bottom as a stay-at-home mom and knew I needed to provide better for my children. So, I made the decision to continue my schooling in order to achieve my degree, in order to make a better life for ourselves… The online program allowed me to do that within the flexibility of my schedule, within the flexibility of my children and everything they had going on, everything my work required of me. So, really, flexibility was the key that made me choose the online program.”
The mother of four benefitted from the degree in many ways.
“Florida Tech made a difference in my life by providing me a platform to showcase my skills, both academically and professionally. It made a difference in my life by allowing me to make connections I can possibly use further in my career. It allowed me to build bonds, not just with professors, but with other students as well.”
Read on to learn more about Bethany’s journey including her future plans with her degree and her advice to students.
Q. What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?
Several factors went into my decision to choose Florida Tech. First, Florida Tech was the only college in the Melbourne area that offered a criminal justice degree completely online. Florida Tech was also the only college in the area that offered a master’s degree program in cybersecurity. I knew that cybersecurity was a growing field, so the potential to start a career in a field that would allow for tremendous growth was intriguing. Although I initially believed I would go down the road more towards the criminal justice aspect of the degree, job and financial outlooks have made me lean more toward the cybersecurity aspect.
Second, the location of the campus was an additional factor. Finally, the prestigious environment surrounding the college swayed me into deciding to attend. People from all around the world come to Florida Tech to obtain their education. To be considered among the most elite students was something that I could envision for myself.
Q. How has your Florida Tech degree made a difference in your career?
As I am currently a preschool teacher, the degree I have obtained does not do much for the future outlook in that field. However, what this degree does do for my future career is to provide me a solid foundation to grow upon. This degree has set the stage for me to obtain my master’s degree which will assist in establishing myself as a promising candidate for employment within the cybersecurity field at not only local companies, but nationwide companies.
Q. Do you have any future plans with your degree?
I am currently in the process of applying for the graduate program at Florida Tech. My hope is to obtain my Master’s in Information Technology with a Specialization in Cybersecurity, 100% online. While I am working towards that degree, my hope is to be able to join either Northrop Grumman or L3Harris as an entry-level employee that will do everything in my power to learn and excel.
Q. What surprised you most about the online degree program?
Honestly, nothing really surprised me about the online degree program. I prefer online classes more so than classroom classes because I believe I can better showcase my knowledge and my capabilities in the online environment. I expect to have to do more work, write more papers, and take more quizzes and tests than in an on-campus setting. I believe every student should not be afraid to do the work in a class and should do everything within their power to keep up with the assigned work. The online setting allowed me to work at my pace, and, when I could, I would try to get ahead just in case an emergency arose.
If I had to pick one thing that surprised me, though, it would be the interaction between the professors and the students. While I did have some classes where the existence of the interaction left much to be desired, many teachers did not disappoint me and provided substantial feedback and interactions which facilitated the learning process. I learned quite a bit from my professors and their life experiences. Those interactions are invaluable.
Q. What was your most valuable takeaway from the degree program?
This question is difficult as there are so many valuable things I can take away from completing this degree. However, what stood out to me when I first read this question was the plethora of knowledge I have received. In two and a half years, I have written over two dozen papers on a wide range of topics. I have referenced hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles and have learned about topics that I previously had no knowledge about. As such, I was able to convey my newfound knowledge to others. As I previously mentioned, each of my professors assisted in the knowledge I obtained as well. I learned about real-life experiences and how those tied into what we were learning. I developed a large amount of respect for my professors not just as teachers, but as members of the community and authority figures. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Q. Who has been your support system?
My coworkers encourage me every day and get excited for me, knowing that I am at the end of this journey. The most important people in my support system, however, are my mother, my stepfather, my boyfriend, and my children. Without each of these people in my corner, I do not think I would have been able to push myself through the sleepless nights, the tedious assignments, or the stress that comes with being a single mom, a full-time employee, and a full-time student.
Q. What was the most challenging part of your journey?
So many challenges presented themselves throughout this journey. Some that I didn’t believe I would overcome, some that I knew were just a small bump in the road. I faced adversity, financial worries, medical emergencies, and trying to balance my work priorities with my school priorities.
Q. Who or what inspires you to succeed?
Two things inspire me to succeed. First, coming from an abusive marriage, and the fact that I was a stay-at-home mom during that time when I left, I had nothing. I had to work my way up from the bottom in order to provide for my family. Knowing that I am accomplishing my goal of finishing my education completely on my own through everything I have been through has been my inspiration. Second, my children. I vowed to finish my education to show my children that no matter what struggles you go through, no matter what bumps in the road you may encounter, through hard work, dedication and perseverance, you can achieve your dreams.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for additional details.