Filling the Empty Frame: Virginia Braden and the “Perfect Fit” of Online Education

Virginia Braden

Virginia Braden

Selecting the perfect degree program is an age-old rite of passage for students. Historically, 18-19-year-olds would go straight from high school through college before taking on careers and starting families. Students today often detour from that traditional path and blaze their own trails back to the classroom, sometimes later in life, and usually with diverse sets of needs, concerns, and expectations. Cutting edge online degree programs provide the perfect blend of fit and flexibility for the frenetic pace of today’s modern students. For University of Louisville Criminal Justice graduate and non-traditional student, Virginia Braden, online learning was not just simply the right fit for her busy lifestyle; it was the perfect fit.

Virginia Braden completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Justice Administration (now called Criminal Justice) at the University of Louisville, and credits the flexibility of online learning for allowing her to accomplish her long-held dream of collegiate success. Though local to the region, the divorced working mother of five children said that traveling to campus each day was, “simply not an option,” given the demands of her personal and professional life.

“The online degree program at UofL made it possible for me to capture a dream that otherwise would have remained forever out of reach,” Braden said. “Most important to me, is that it has communicated to my children the worth and value of a higher education – and that if you are willing to work for what you want, anything is possible.”

Though she’s gone on to complete a graduate degree and is a licensed private investigator and behavioral profiler, one memory still stands out from Braden’s time at UofL.

“The night I graduated with my bachelor’s degree all five of my children were present and as I went on to pursue my master’s degree online with UofL as well, they’ve been my biggest supporters,” she said. “Two of them are now college age and are themselves pursuing degrees.”

Braden said it was UofL’s reputation for educational excellence that first piqued her interest, but credited the quality of the instruction in the online Criminal Justice program for keeping her desire for continued education strong, while obtaining not only one, but two degrees via e-learning.

“The faculty at the University of Louisville are so completely dedicated to the success of their students,” she said. “They are remarkable in their personal attention to the students and though I had all online classes, I was able to develop and maintain relationships with them that have served me so well throughout the years – all without ever stepping foot in a brick and mortar classroom.”

“There is a real sense of community in the online classes and the professors are intentional in their commitment to forging and nurturing that sense of community,” she added.

Braden said that the strong sense of community was especially important as she and her children went through a traumatic divorce and spent time living in a hotel. During this time, Braden’s drive and determination to meet her dream and attain her degree pulled her through.

“Without question, the drive to complete my degree, the ability to continue on towards that goal via online classes in the midst of such a dark time provided me an anchor,” she said.

For Braden, success was not just an option, it was a requirement.

“I remember I had an empty frame hanging on my wall in my home office, a reminder of the goal I was after, and a promise to myself that I would one day have a degree to put in it,” she said. “When we became homeless for that period of time, I packed up the empty frame and brought it with me to the hotel and put it out, determined that though my life circumstances had changed, my goals and vision had not.”

Now Braden’s frame has been filled and although she encountered personal hardships during her journey as a student, she persevered, and ultimately found e-learning to be the best option for achieving her lifelong educational goals. Not only did Braden fill her original empty frame, she also filled a second one by earning her master’s degree online as well. Now her framed diplomas proudly serve as a reminder of the goals and dreams she achieved through online learning at the University of Louisville.

Visit our Criminal Justice online program page to learn more about the courses offered, and to find a program that is the perfect fit for you.