Janessa Aarsvold has had to overcome a lot to earn her degree, including being on disability, undergoing multiple surgeries, and balancing a full-time job and parenthood. But, she used her struggles as her inspiration to work harder.
“So many did not think I would be able to juggle work and school while raising an autistic daughter (who is amazing and brilliant). Honestly, all one needs is the will to succeed and the support of people who love you. Without my family, especially my amazing husband and loving daughter – this would have been much more difficult. They both helped me through every step of the way.”
Not only did Aarsvold walk across the stage – she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.85 GPA and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. We spoke with her about earning her degree with the support of her company, why she chose Florida Tech and more.
Q. Tell us about your background.
I was born in Bellevue, Washington and have lived in Washington my entire life. My career path has taken several paths. I initially wanted to write books for children and was going to pursue a degree in journalism. I ended up getting a job at a law firm doing research and case administration, so then thought I wanted a career in law. After doing that for a couple years, changed my mind and went into property management, which I did for four years until I got my first job at Boeing Sea Launch. That is when I started to find my way and eventually became a certified project manager, Six Sigma Green Belt and various other certifications. I am now at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Quality Engineering. Since the company pays and encourages continued education, I decided to get my degree, as it was always something I intended to do.
There are three very important people who are no longer with me that I wish were here to see this accomplishment: my grandparents and my father. I, unfortunately, lost my father roughly eight years ago and know he would be so proud of me. I am blessed and thankful to have the strong, amazing mother that I do. She has always been my rock through all my ups and downs. Lastly, and most importantly, is my husband and daughter. They are the two most important people in my life and the ones who have kept me going despite my obstacles.
Q. What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?
I obtained my certifications through Villanova University, which was also part of the Bisk family. This familiarity was very important to me when selecting an online school since I knew how challenging online school would be. I had also done research on the school and knew it would provide me with the tools I needed to succeed.
Q. How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?
The main drive to earn my degree was for myself; however, it will also help me advance in my career since many of the jobs require a four-year bachelor’s degree. Even the job I have now does. I have managed to work many jobs without the degree, but having it will solidify my ability and show that I have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job. It should also increase the amount I am paid, which will be nice.
Q. How will your degree help you impact the world?
I am not sure how it will impact the world; however, it will help me do more for others. I have learned a lot more about managing people which is important. I am currently a project manager and love working with people. Learning the best ways to train employees has been integral as well as ways to motivate staff. I have not decided if I want to move into management, such as HRM, program management or just a regular manager, but whatever I decide to do, it will involve managing a team. I also feel getting my degree will show other adults that it does not matter how old you are or where you are in your life, it is never too late to earn your degree.
Q. Do you have any future plans now that you have your degree?
My plan is to pursue a project management specialist or program management position within the company. Right now, my official position is Quality Systems Specialist and I do project management, but am not in the project management skill code. I may also pursue being a manager someday down the road, but for now, I like to be the one doing the work.
Q. What does graduation mean to you?
Graduation for me means that I accomplished a goal. I have a list of things in my life I wish to accomplish, and this one has been on my list for a long time. I am 44 years old and am so proud of myself for finally doing it. It took me six years. My own daughter graduated high school and started college before my graduation. I love that she will be there to witness it. She was able to watch my husband and myself earn our degrees, so she was able to see how much it meant to us. Going to college and learning is a great experience, but graduating shows that your hard work wasn’t for nothing.
Q. How do you think your company’s investment in your education will impact your work at the organization?
I have learned so much, especially this last year during all of the management and training classes. I manage several teams being a project manager and have to put together training plans, etc. I honestly have never known the best way to go about doing that and now I do. Several of the skills I have learned will take me far. I now have accounting skills, know more about how organizations run and their culture, know how to deal with people and more.
Q. What surprised you most about taking an online program?
How difficult it was. It is much easier to be in person to ask questions as they arise. Group projects were sometimes difficult to do online. I love and promote collaboration and working together in teams at work, but doing that online is difficult since you have to communicate via email. Trying to coordinate times to use the chat room is difficult since everyone is in different time zones. I did, however, learn more than I did in a classroom because this forced me to teach myself. I had to do more research and read more. I genuinely learned and can recall what I learned.
Q. What was your favorite class and why?
That is difficult because there are several I have loved. If I had to pick a favorite, I would have to say my Continuous Quality Management class. I love learning about ways to improve processes, Lean management, and how to ensure quality in an organization. The teacher, Dev Raheja, was amazing. I still remember him well. He engaged the students throughout the class and really wanted to make sure we were not only learning but enjoying the class.
Q. What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?
My most valuable takeaway is that getting an education is achievable for anyone. I was hesitant because I thought my disability would interfere, but the school and professors were so supportive, which helped make this possible for me.
Q. What advice would you have for future students?
My advice is to have a support system. There will be days when you feel overwhelmed, and having that person there to push you not to give up is so important.
It is also important that your family and friends know how important this is to you. Events and functions will come up and you may have to tell them you cannot attend because you have a test or homework. Oftentimes they get upset because of the constant denials to invites. They need to support your endeavors; not make you feel guilty. If you have an event coming up that you know you cannot miss – plan ahead!! For example, a camping trip where you know you will not have internet. Plan to double up on your homework so it is done before you leave and be sure to let your professors know since you will not be logging in for a few days. Communication with your professor is very important. If you have questions or do not understand an assignment, ask them. That is what they are there for.
Q. Who has been your support system?
My husband and daughter have been my biggest support system. Before I made the final decision to do this, I sat them both down and told them I would need their help – especially from my husband; he was amazing! He cooked dinner so I didn’t have to worry about it on top of other things. There were a couple times my daughter actually helped me with homework, which was wonderful. Most importantly, when I felt like giving up or was overworking myself, they would step in and make sure I was taking care of myself, but also continue to encourage me. We have been through a lot these past six years, and without them by my side, completing my degree may not have happened.
Q. How does it feel being the first in your family to graduate from college?
It feels amazing! Especially at 44 years old. I am graduating college the same year my daughter is starting. Her telling me she is proud of me means the world.
Q. What is one fun fact about you?
The fun fact would be that I am an adult, but still love Barbie dolls. I have a rather large collection that covers the walls of my hobby room – all perfect in their boxes of course. I never truly grew up and still have an appreciation for crafting, building Legos, going to theme parks and having fun.
I have a lot of hobbies, but my main two are photography and scrapbooking. I seem to always have a camera at the ready. I love to capture moments, then scrapbook them so I have them forever. I also enjoy camping and traveling with my husband. I hope to see and photograph the world someday.
In addition, if I could rescue every unwanted animal and build a sanctuary for them, I would. I currently have an English bulldog, a Maine Coon, a Crested Gecko, a Ball Python, a Pacman Frog, two Oranda Goldfish, and another tank with a Puffer, Corydoras, and Cardinal Tetras; I also have a tank full of snails. If I had the room, I would have more. Also, my favorite animal in the world is the Panda and I have a very large panda collection. My dream is to someday visit a Panda sanctuary in China.
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.