After dropping out of Ball State 30 years ago, Kat Parker of Indiana recently returned to pursue an online bachelor’s degree in general studies. For Parker, returning to school was not about pursuing a new career, but achieving an old goal—for herself, her children, and her mother, now deceased. Today Parker serves as a Ball State student ambassador to other online students returning to college.

Q: What motivated you to return to college to pursue your degree?

A: Back in 1987, I had poor study habits and poor time management skills which – combined with a strong taste for independence and a love of socializing – did not make for a successful student. I quit Ball State within a year. As I got older, I regretted the wasted opportunity and hated feeling like a quitter. I also regretted disappointing my mother by dropping out. When she passed away and my oldest daughter was getting ready to leave for college, I wanted to prove to myself that I could go back to college and be a better student. I wanted to show my daughters that it is never too late to learn, and I wanted to honor my mother’s desire for me to earn a college degree.

Q: Can you give a specific example of how your education has helped you in the workplace already?

A: I am currently taking a business writing course. I recently was able to use what I have learned to carefully compose an email to [middle school] administrators about some issues that needed attention. Using the 3×3 writing process really helped me make my key points clear and concise so I did not overwhelm the recipient with needless information. The administrators, as a result, have been positive in their responses to my concerns.

Q: How do you balance your education and your career?

A: I have been a student now for more than three years, and I still struggle finding balance. When I am at work, I think about the things I need to do for school and at home. When I am studying, I am thinking about what I need to do for work. It is a rough cycle. It really comes down to finding a good time management system that works for you. I try to list everything I need to do for school, work, and home into one calendar to help me keep track of what I need to be doing.

Q: What motivated you to become a Ball State Online Student Ambassador?

A: It had been more than 25 years since I had been a student in college and a lot had changed. I wished there was someone to guide me through the Blackboard system and tell me what to expect as an online student. I was overwhelmed and almost quit my first couple of weeks because I felt like I was not prepared for all the changes. When I read about the Ambassador program, I saw this not only as an opportunity to get involved with the university, but also to meet new online students who might be looking for someone to help them through their first semester.