“There is always a ‘next’ goal to strive for, and one can never really be finished.”
That’s Lara Cone’s philosophy. It pushed her to join the Navy after graduating from high school. Then, it motivated her to earn her bachelor’s degree online from Florida Tech while being a single parent and working full-time.
Now, Cone plans to continue her education with a master’s degree from Florida Tech.
“My own drive willed me to be successful and to do all that I could within my reach to achieve each goal. I don’t want to stop either – I very much plan on returning to school for my master’s degree.”
We spoke with Cone about how she’s applied her degree at work, her favorite class and her future plans.
Q. Tell us about your background.
When I graduated high school in 2005, I had immediate plans to attend college and had already been accepted at a local university for a psychology program. However, at the time I didn’t have enough funds to put myself through college, so I started considering what options I had. I began looking into joining the military since my father was a retired Navy chief, and I knew that the armed forces held a lot of potential for someone like me who was starting out fresh in the world. I wanted to travel and jumpstart my career, and what better way to do all of that and get to serve my country than through the United States Navy? I had already lived in places like Turkey and Spain, and knew I wanted to travel more and see the world. So that’s what I did – I joined the Navy and served for five wonderful years. As an added bonus, I was able to earn and use the G.I. Bill to put myself through college to obtain my bachelor’s degree.
Q. What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?
Florida Tech was one of the few universities that offered the degree I wanted online, which was applied psychology. I appreciated the term lengths and how I was able to tailor earning a degree with my schedule because I was a single parent working full-time. The ease with which I was able to complete my courses around my work schedule was of the utmost importance.
Q. How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?
I currently work in the financial industry, and one of the most important aspects of my job is providing both external and internal customer service. Having a degree in psychology helps me truly understand all types of different personalities and mindsets, which allows me to easily adapt for smooth interactions and pleasant experiences with our customers. Many roles in the financial industry require a bachelor’s degree at minimum, so it is very beneficial to have on my resume – it opens up lots of doors if I ever want to alter my career and go a different direction.
Q. Do you have any future plans with your degree?
I plan on returning to Florida Tech within a year to earn my MA in Organizational Leadership. There is a big opportunity within my current bank to be part of the managerial leadership team, and my degree would be extremely helpful with that career path!
Q. What surprised you most about taking an online program?
What surprised me the most was how I could feel like I was in an actual class learning with the professor and peers, all while being in a virtual setting. We still had class discussions and worked on team projects – the only difference being that the physical classroom of four walls and desks was removed.
Q. What was your favorite class and why?
Psychology of Natural Disasters. While applied psychology covers many different types of psychology, this one in particular I enjoyed learning about because it doesn’t seem to be a widely discussed topic, in my opinion. When the media covers natural disaster events, they only speak about the occurrence and the damage, and then move on to the next issue. The psychological impact on the victims is hardly ever spoken of or addressed. I feel there is little awareness of how they are recovering and picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives. It is important that people who suffer through traumatic natural disasters have a support and recovery system, so this class taught me the basics and procedures of what one could do after experiencing a natural disaster.
Q. What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?
The most valuable takeaway was learning about all the different categories of psychology. I liked how applied psychology wasn’t just a narrow scope of one subject, but rather various topics – forensics, experiments, natural disasters, sports and organizations, to name a few. It really helps you zone in on which category is your favorite and where you might want to further your education. For me, it was organizational psychology. I loved learning about the mindset of the workplace, its structure and departments, the impact of employer/employee and all that they do to keep the company afloat and moving forward.
Q. What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?
Just go for it. If you have no clue what you want your degree to be in, the key is to just get started. Take a variety of classes at the beginning so that you may find your niche, and then once it’s found, run in that direction. The bright side is that you will already have some credits under your belt and those other classes you explored could count as electives!
Q. Who has been your support system?
My husband and my son. My husband was great at taking care of things like the house and chores so that I could focus on my schoolwork. Now, I’m doing the same thing for him as he finishes up his bachelor’s.
Q. What was the most challenging part of your student journey?
The stress of upcoming exams, especially after a long work week. However, I never let it deter me and kept my eyes on the prize the whole way through – that glittering degree.
Q. Who or what inspires you to succeed?
Honestly, myself. I am not sure where the drive comes from to do it all, but I put pressure on myself to work hard and achieve my goals because they are not going to just fall into my lap. It was my very own drive to join the Navy. It was my own drive to go to school with the GI Bill and earn a degree. My own drive willed me to be successful and to do all that I could within my reach to achieve each goal. I don’t want to stop either – I very much plan on returning to school for my master’s degree. There is always a “next” goal to strive for, and one can never really be finished.
Q. What is one fun fact about you?
I have been writing since the age of five and have even had some poems published. One day, I will be an author writing book and after book nestled deep in the woods somewhere with my family.
Have you completed one of Florida Tech’s online programs? We would love to share your success story in our Student Spotlight series. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional details.