As a first generation college student, going to college was never a “given.” When I graduated high school, I began working full-time, just as everyone else in my family did. After working for several years, I realized that my family’s path was not my path, and that I wanted to further my education. So at the age of 25, I enrolled in classes comprised mostly of 18-year-olds. While this experience was terrifying in many ways, it made me realize how important education was to me, and it ultimately motivated me to continue on to graduate school after completing my bachelor’s degree in English.
After finishing a master’s in English, I found myself in a job that I was not fully satisfied with. I wanted to advance my career, but I needed to continue to work full-time. The University of Louisville’s Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration (MAHEA) program was the perfect fit for both of my needs. All of the jobs that I wanted to apply for required this degree, and the ability to take it online allowed me to juggle graduate school with a full-time job. Since enrolling, I have moved into a position that better suits my interests, and I know that my career prospects will only continue to grow from here.
Having completed a “traditional” face-to-face master’s degree, I was curious about the differences that I would experience with the online format – would the classes be more challenging? Less challenging? Would I really be able to engage with my classmates and professors? Fortunately, all of my fears were dispelled during my first semester in UofL’s online MAHEA program. I have found the coursework to be rigorous, the professors to be responsive, and my classmates to be both diverse and inspiring.
One of my favorite aspects of the MAHEA program is that I can tailor the coursework to my goals and work environment and apply it to real-world scenarios. Each course has a culminating assignment, and for most of the classes, it is possible to focus this project on my specific area of interest. For example, I am interested in tutoring services, so for my final project for the Research Methodology course, I designed a writing-center-specific research study. Similarly, for the History of the American University’s final project, I researched an artifact I selected from the earliest American writing centers.
The quality of the courses is due in large part to the applied expertise and dedication of the professors who teach them. They are the same professors that teach on campus, and they put forth the extra effort to make sure the virtual environment feels as much like a community as a traditional classroom does. Many of the professors provide weekly feedback on discussion board posts, and they are all very happy to answer questions via email. While online classes are certainly more self-taught than traditional classes, I know there is always someone that I can reach out to for guidance and assistance if I need it.
Weekly discussion board posts also help me connect and stay engaged with my classmates, and making these connections has been the most surprising benefit of the online program. When I was considering enrolling, I only thought about the courses and the professors–not who would be learning in these courses with me. Yet, because the classes are so diverse–and include people of widely different professional and academic backgrounds from all over the country–the weekly conversations are rich and complex and aid significantly in my overall understanding of the material.
Ultimately, the online Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration has helped me grow both professionally and personally. I have enjoyed the program so much, that I am planning on applying for the PhD in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development after I graduate in 2017. Although I am not yet sure what position I will end up in when I finish the PhD, I know that the MAHEA program has given me the foundation necessary to pursue a wide variety of career paths. If you are looking for a way to advance (or start) your career in higher ed, I can’t recommend this program strongly enough.