Deborah Kearns is a recent graduate of Ball State University’s master’s degree in public relations. Living in Aurora, Colorado, Kearns needed an online master’s program that could work around her full-time job and two children. With unending encouragement from her academic advisor and the support of her family and friends, Kearns was able to complete her degree despite personal challenges.


Q: What other priorities did you have to balance while pursuing your degree?

A year after I started at Ball State, my mother fell gravely ill and died. Months later, I became pregnant with our second child and had a rough pregnancy. Months after my son’s birth, I was laid off from my job of 7.5 years. What should’ve taken just 18 months to finish instead took nearly five years.

My advisor kept encouraging me to finish. I’m forever grateful that she saw potential in me when my hope and drive faltered. I graduated in May 2017 with a 3.9 GPA, and she’s a key reason I didn’t give up. I flew to Indiana from Colorado for commencement to thank her in person.


Q: How has your Ball State degree influenced employers or coworkers?

Ball State is widely recognized as a leader in communications research and training. I’m not sure about other universities, but I know that since I’ve earned my master’s degree from Ball State, potential freelance clients take note of the fact that I pursued an advanced degree and can articulate public relations concepts and issues. Having that knowledge helps me better understand the business goals of the public relations professionals I work with to secure expert sources for my news stories in national publications.


Q: In what ways has your Ball State experience helped you determine, define, or realize your career goals?

I always knew I wanted to earn a master’s degree. I enjoy learning, and I wanted to expand my knowledge to diversify my skills beyond news journalism. Also, I am the first in my family to attend and graduate from college, so it was a personal goal to start that legacy and earn a master’s degree in a field I see myself pivoting to in the future. I also wanted to show my children, especially my young daughter, Kaylyn, that no matter what life throws at you, and no matter how much you doubt yourself along the way, you can reach your goals with hard work and grit.

There were times when throwing in the towel seemed inevitable because of my personal struggles. There were times when I was too exhausted, mentally and physically, to keep juggling so much at the same time. But I had my husband’s support and the support of friends to keep me going. And, of course, my advisor, who was always there to talk me back from the ledge of quitting. Still, in the end, I really did it to prove I could, and walking across that stage, being hooded, and receiving my diploma made all of that struggle, as bittersweet as it was, worth it.