In the spring of 2022, Lorena Bierenday earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources Management from the Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech). Like others who seek higher education, Lorena’s desire to complete the program was uniquely personal – inspired by the drive to expand her skill set and work toward new opportunities for her and her family.
She started this journey in 2018 as a mother of five children. Her youngest was two years old at the time and her husband had just received his medical retirement from the United States Army. The previous year, the family had also purchased a home in Merritt Island, Florida.
Wanting to help ensure a bright future while still being able to balance her day-to-day commitments, Lorena knew that online education would be the best way to get started on a new career path on her terms.
A Warm Welcome
She began by researching different programs and trying to find the one that best fit her schedule and the direction in which she wanted to take her career. Soon after, Lorena found herself drawn to the curriculum offered through Florida Tech’s online Human Resource Management bachelor’s program as well as the support she received from her advisors.
“Before starting at Florida Tech, I had called a few state colleges [and] I did not get the same welcome,” she says. “The lady [at Florida Tech] was the only one who did not talk to me like I did not belong there. I am the wife of a 100% disabled combat veteran and was able to use some benefits. Everyone I spoke to was amicable and did not look down on me because I used VA benefits.”
Balancing Life and Coursework
As a military wife, Lorena fit right in at Florida Tech, which is ranked as one of Military Times magazine’s Best Colleges for Vets. The flexibility and understanding provided were instrumental to her success, as it made education accessible. She was able to find a schedule that worked around her life – allowing her to care for her kids during the day and focus on her schoolwork at night.
She also appreciated the nurturing she received as a beginner. Without a background in the field, she was able to thrive due to the well-paced curriculum and the support of her professors. Soon, Lorena began building her knowledge in all aspects of HR, including candidate selection and training, compensation packages and contemporary leadership in a globalized world.
“I loved all the classes I took,” she says. “Especially the law classes. I learned about business laws, and most notably, the right way to treat people.”
As she continued through the program, Lorena explored accounting, economics, and global business. She also delved into psychology and learned about the behavioral principles that underlie leadership.
The tools she had to master in order to complete her assignments provided a challenge, but she succeeded with the help of Florida Tech’s faculty and staff. “When I started, I knew nothing of online schooling – Word, PowerPoint, and Excel,” she says. “[Now] I can do anything on a computer.”
Check-Ins, Support and Encouragement
“Though I had my family and friends as a support group, my biggest supporter was my student representative Arielle Click,” Lorena says. “Without her, I don’t think I could have done it.”
Arielle and Lorena touched base every week and Arielle’s check-ins kept Lorena on track and helped her not give up on her human resources management degree.
Most importantly, Arielle kept Lorena motivated. “[She] always knew what to say,” Lorena says. “When there was a challenging class and I was ready to drop out of the course she would email me, telling me that I could do it and that she believed in me. Arielle believed in me more than I believed in myself.”
Arielle also helped Lorena handle the logistics of online study – a big help while she was managing her household and caring for her children. Lorena recalls her textbooks arriving weeks in advance. If she needed one she’d used in a previous semester, Arielle made sure she didn’t have to re-order it.
“Every semester, I knew I had nothing to worry about because Arielle always had everything done,” Lorena says. “I hope to one day meet her in person and give her the biggest hug for helping me achieve this goal and for always encouraging and believing in me.”
“I am very proud of myself for starting college at Florida Tech,” Lorena says. “This is something that I never thought I would be able to do with five children.”
Focused on the future, Lorena is excited about her next steps post-graduation. Currently a substitute teacher for the Brevard Public Schools in Florida, she sees herself succeeding in the field of human resources.
“I know I will go into a fantastic career with my degree,” Lorena says. She sees herself in her dream job in her dream company, but she has no intention to stop growing. A lifelong learner, she wants to advance her education and go as far as possible with her career.
“I am taking a break from schooling,” she says, “but I plan on coming back [to Florida Tech] for my master’s degree.”