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Catrina Hopkins, MSIT in Cybersecurity, Class of 2019

Catrina Hopkins had long wanted to advance her education, but life got in the way. Between motherhood and career changes, it was hard to find the time to accomplish her lifelong goal.

As she turned 30, Hopkins decided it was time to earn her degree and make her dreams a reality.

“Earning a degree and having a great career were always my plan in life. But, life had other plans in store for me, and I became a mother and wife. When my daughter was little, I always told her that she could be anything that she wanted to be. But I never became what I wanted. Now, I am living up to those words that I have preached to her for so many years, by earning that degree that I yearned for all my life.”

Earning her bachelor’s was only the first step for Hopkins. When it was time to continue her education, Hopkins said her choice in university was “easy.”

“Choosing where I wanted to earn my master’s was easy. Florida Tech is located in the Technology Corridor for the State of Florida, and that was a huge factor. I wanted to learn skills that would effectively provide me a competitive edge in the industry, and where better to achieve that than at a college that has so many professors that were successful in that very same industry.”

Hopkins’ educational journey doesn’t stop there. She plans on earning a doctorate to teach and inspire others in the classroom.

We spoke with Hopkins about her Florida Tech experience.

Q. Tell us about your background.

I was born in California, but due to my father being in the military, we moved around quite a bit. A good portion of my primary years was spent in Germany. I always wanted to achieve a college degree. During high school, my dreams were to graduate and become a lawyer. Life had different plans for me, and instead, I found myself marrying my high school sweetheart and becoming a mom. Fast forward a couple of decades, my high school sweetheart is no longer part of my life, my beautiful daughter is all grown up and now I have a handsome grandson that is nine years old.

Before I turned 30, I found myself dreaming of earning a degree again and promised myself that I would achieve that dream. Literally days before my 30th birthday, I graduated with my AS in IT and Networking. But again, life had different plans for me. Even though I had this document that I had yearned so long for, the technology industry suffered a blow, and I found myself not being able to find a job. Instead, I maintained a healthy career in Customer Service with various management roles and made memories with my daughter.

At the age of 35, I found myself single for the first time in decades. In addition, I felt that familiar yearning again and decided to go to school once more. I earned an associate’s degree at St. Petersburg College with a focus on website development and programming, and then continued on to earn a bachelor’s in cybersecurity. Soon after, I acquired a position in the technology sector that had evaded me for so long and am a manager over a tech support group. And now I am excited to say that I have furthered my education by earning my master’s degree in cybersecurity as well.

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

My goal is to eventually go to school so that I can earn my doctorate. This master’s degree is a huge component of achieving that ultimate goal.

I also am looking to move forward in my career as a manager, and I feel that the skills learned while at Florida Tech will help me earn a better position.

Q. Do you have any future plans with your degree?

Having earned a master’s degree will definitely help me with my career endeavors. I intend to utilize the skills that I have acquired to help develop a better understanding of security measures within my current place of employment.

My next educational endeavor is to work toward my doctorate. My goal is to be able to eventually become a professor so that I can hopefully inspire other students, the way that my mentors and professors inspired me.

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

The decision for me to enroll in an online program was a risky choice. I was concerned about the value of my education and hoped that I really was as dedicated to my studies as I thought. Needless to say, I was impressed with the curriculum as well as the professors. The ability to not have to attend a physical class allowed me to continue to grow at my company, but to also continue earning that degree that I very much wanted. I think I made the best choice and would do it again.

Q. What was your favorite class and why?

There were so many great classes that it is difficult to choose a favorite. The obvious selection would be my last class, as it represents closure to another chapter in my educational career. Honestly, my favorite class was Organizational Behavior. No matter what your career choice is or where you work, this class explains the structure of a corporation and just how important corporate culture is. No matter where I find myself working in the future, I will be able to apply the skills learned in this class.

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

I enjoyed the fact that I had a representative that was by my side throughout the entire program. Brett was there to help me figure out what class came next, what books I needed, to check on my progress, and to support me in any way that he could. That type of handheld customer service was so appreciated and made my journey at Florida Tech far easier and allowed me to concentrate on my studies.

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

What are you waiting for? Each day that you postpone is another day that you could be closer to your goal. School isn’t easy, and it takes sacrifice and dedication. But in the end, you will feel good and can show the world that you are a well-rounded person. The personal growth you gain sets you apart from everyone else and will elevate you to a new level in life.

Q. Who has been your support system?

I have been so blessed to have a strong support system throughout my college career. My family and friends have grown so used to me not being at events and gatherings because I had homework. But they all understood and supported my endeavors. They let me read to them, drive them nuts with bouncing ideas off them, and dealt with my tantrums when I almost missed a deadline.

My other half, Jim, has encouraged me every step of the way, and never let me give up. My mom would tell me to sit down and do my homework while telling me I better get a good grade. Their support has meant the world to me and made a world of difference when I was struggling to stay afloat.

Q. What was the most challenging part of your student journey?

The most challenging part was working full-time. Learning to balance my life was critical. I work 14-hour days and still had to find time to do homework and have some downtime with my family.

Q. Who or what inspires you to succeed?

My daughter and grandson are my inspiration. Earning a degree and having a great career was always my plan in life. But, life had other plans in store for me, and I became a mother and wife. When my daughter was little, I always told her that she could be anything that she wanted to be. But I never became what I wanted. Now, I am living up to those words that I have preached to her for so many years, by earning that degree that I yearned for all my life. Deciding to go to school was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I want to show my daughter and grandson that dreams do come true, with effort and hard work, of course.

Q. What is one fun fact about you?

I recently bought an adult tricycle for myself, Jim, and my mom. Life is all about remembering to stop to smell the roses, and that is what the tricycles represent. The healthy aspect is encouraging, and I am really looking forward to making memories on the many bike trips that we have planned.

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@bisk.com for additional details.

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