DoDEA Educator Earns 4 Graduate Degrees from Halfway Across the World

Rachel Geesa with Dr. William Sharp and Dr. Serena Salloum, all wearing academic regalia

As an alumna and assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Ball State University, I am confident that I made the right decision in choosing this institution to become a successful educational leader, administrator, and scholar.

I grew up in the Indianapolis area, and after graduating with my bachelor’s degree in education, I came back to the area to begin my teaching career. After a few years, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to teach at a United States Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)-Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) middle school on a United States Army Garrison in Seoul, South Korea. With a passion for learning and traveling overseas, I began an enlightening career of teaching military children, serving United States military families, collaborating with educators and school leaders, and expanding my knowledge of Asian cultures.

Reputable and Rigorous Online Graduate Degrees

During the latter part of my first school year in South Korea, I decided to pursue a degree and license to become a school administrator. Searches for reputable and rigorous online graduate education degrees led me to Ball State Online. I was familiar with Ball State’s reputation in Indiana and throughout the country. I was thrilled to be admitted into the Department of Educational Leadership master of arts in education in educational administration and supervision (MAE) and building-level administrator licensure programs.

The opportunity to study online at Ball State University was ideal for my situation. Although I was living on the other side of the world, I taught children with DoDEA standards. My professors at Ball State designed courses to best meet the needs of practitioner-scholars. I could do my job as a teacher each day and complete my Ball State coursework as a student during the evenings and weekends.

The coursework was relevant to my work as a teacher and emerging educational leader in the school, and I found myself wanting to take more courses and pursue more degrees. Following the end of the first year of coursework for the MAE, I began taking courses towards a master of arts in educational psychology and a gifted and talented education add-on license. The coursework was practical and relevant to my school and me. I felt rewarded by learning opportunities that I had due to guidance from professors and expectations within individual courses.

By the end of my third year as a Ball State graduate student, while living and teaching overseas, I also decided to pursue a specialist in education in educational administration and supervision (EdS) with a district-level administrator license as well as a doctor of education (EdD) in educational administration and supervision. Although my being an online doctoral student abroad was new to the Ball State faculty, every professor was extremely helpful and communicative throughout my programs.

During two years of rigorous internships for my building- and district-level administrator licenses, I had helpful and meaningful dialogue, experiences, and opportunities to learn with building- and district-level leaders. The internship projects also challenged me to focus on educational leadership in multiple aspects such as management, vision, and culture with teachers, administrators, students, and school and community stakeholders. These practices prepared me to be a more rounded and confident incoming school leader.

At the beginning of my fifth year in South Korea, I received a promotion as the assistant principal of a DoDEA middle school on a United States Naval Base in Japan. I was ready for this new challenge because of the preparation I received from my Ball State professors, particularly from the guidance of the Department of Educational Leadership faculty.

Faculty and Advisor Support Across Time Zones

While living and working in Japan for two years, I wrote my doctoral dissertation and completed all required coursework online. My dissertation chair and I met via web conference to talk about my writing progress regularly. We became accustomed to meeting late at night or early in the morning due to the time difference between Japan and Indiana.

Additionally, my doctoral advisor was always responsive and helpful when I needed additional support or had questions about my program. When I completed the EdD degree, I had the pleasure and honor of returning to Indiana from Japan to graduate and be hooded as a “Doctor” by two professors who supported me throughout the program. It was such a special day for my family and me. I was humbled to learn that some of the teachers and specialists at my school in Japan watched the commencement ceremony online!

Applying Her EdD to Her Career

After earning the EdD, I worked as the gifted resources specialist at a DoDEA elementary school in Quantico, Virginia. My education and skills acquired as a DoDEA teacher and administrator were extremely useful to me in this position. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with all students as they gained skills to be successful in the 21st century. My fellow educators and I focused on integrative STEM education approaches and College and Career Ready Standards to best prepare students for their futures. This opportunity gave me new insights into the needs of teachers and leaders of 21st century learners.

Towards the end of the school year, I felt ready to teach and guide educators and educational leaders to excellence in education within higher education. After talking with my dissertation chair, I learned that a position opened in the Department of Educational Leadership at Ball State, and I applied for it. The university made an offer, and I accepted an assistant professor position within the department that supported me for so many years.

To become a faculty member in the Department of Educational Leadership was an honor. Although I had a unique experience as an online doctoral student abroad, I was welcomed, mentored, and supported by the faculty as I made the transition from working in PK-12 education to higher education.

Achieving New Goals

During the past six years, I have taught courses, supervised principal interns, advised students, implemented program recruitment strategies, designed and led doctoral peer mentoring programs, worked with colleagues and developed an integrative STEM education course and book, received grants, published peer-reviewed articles, presented peer-review papers, and collaborated with colleagues throughout the college and within other institutions. The work that I have completed and continue to do at Ball State inspires me, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have at this institution.

I have focused on international studies, creative thinking, and educational leadership throughout my higher education and work in schools. Before I began working for DoDEA or taking courses through Ball State Online, I set a goal. My goal was to take undergraduate or graduate students overseas to study education systems. I wrote this goal in a notebook and shared the goal with friends and family members. I believed I could achieve this goal if I continued to work hard towards it every day.

In 2018, Ball State provided me the opportunity to achieve this goal by accompanying Ball State student teachers to Ramstein, Germany, during the fall semester of that year. I was the university supervisor while the student teachers complete their student teaching semester at DoDEA schools on the United States Air Force and Army bases in Germany.

Now, I am the Director of International Programs for Teachers College and work with faculty to develop and implement meaningful partnerships worldwide and within DoDEA. The relevant knowledge and practical experiences that I gained as a DoDEA teacher and administrator, Ball State student, and assistant professor have prepared me to be an effective leader and educator in multiple capacities. I look forward to future opportunities.

Dr. Rachel Geesa,
MA ‘12
MAE ‘13
EdS ‘13
EdD ‘14

Online Doctorate Offers Rigor and Flexibility to DoDEA Educator Making 5 International Moves

As a former military spouse, I served the United States Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), Child and Youth Services, and The University of Phoenix (UOP) in Cuba, Korea, Germany, and Italy for over eleven years in a variety of teaching and administrative positions. As an alumnus of Ball State University, it is apparent that I made the right decision in choosing Ball State Online to become a successful teacher leader, administrator, and college professor.

During my fifth year in Korea, I decided to pursue a doctorate in education with an emphasis in special education from Ball State with a friend’s urging. I had researched long hours looking for reputable and rigorous online graduate education programs. I looked into programs in Southern California to include my alma mater; however, I was unable to find a program that mixed high rigor with flexible access to the learning platform. As a current faculty member of UOP, I qualify for a significant discount but was attracted to the quality, depth of program rigor, and faculty involvement found in Ball State’s educational programs that were not available at many programs I researched.

Faculty and Advisor Support

My professors and advisors helped design a program that enabled me to succeed without stepping onto the campus until graduation. I taught for DoDEA during the instructional day and the UOP in the evening while completing my coursework during nights and weekends. I did everything from lectures to testing to defending my dissertation via an online learning format.

Additionally, my doctoral advisor was always responsive and helpful when I needed additional support or had questions about my program. I finished the first half of my doctoral program while living in Korea, including the first half of my internship, and I completed the second half of my program while living in Las Vegas, Nevada. I finished all my research for my dissertation and the second half of my internship in Southern California, where I focused my research on High Achieving Title I Schools in Southern California. As is apparent in the multiple locations where I lived during my education, Ball State Online’s flexibility supported my diverse lifestyle.

I had the pleasure and honor of stepping foot on the historic grounds of Ball State to graduate and be hooded as first an education specialist and a year later as a doctor by Dr. Marilyn Quick (who supported me throughout the program). It was such a special day for my family as I am the first to earn a doctorate.

Setting and Achieving Goals

Before I began working for DoDEA or taking courses from Ball State Online, I set a goal. My goal was to focus my continued education on improving myself as a teacher leader by filling in any “gaps” from my teacher education program. Whenever I interviewed for a new position in education, I shared this goal with my prospective employer. I believed I could achieve this goal if I continued to work hard towards it every day.

Ball State allowed me to fulfill this goal by customizing and tailoring my learning program to become a well-rounded educator. By doing so, I added the knowledge of the superintendent’s position, and special education content mastery that I felt was missing before beginning with Ball State Online. The relevant knowledge and practical experiences that I gained as a DoDEA teacher and administrator, Ball State student, and adjunct professor have prepared me to be an effective leader and educator in multiple capacities. I am grateful for the opportunities that I had at this institution.

Moving into my eighth year of teaching for the UOP, the university phased out professors without master’s degrees. Earning my doctorate and education specialist degree prepared me for the higher rigor expected from the developing university. After earning my EdD, I worked as a gifted resource specialist and English teacher in the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada. After that experience, I accepted a gifted position in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and continue to teach for UOP.

Dr. Cameron Gonzales, EdD ‘14

U.S. News “Best Online Programs” Rankings Revealed: Ball State Places in the Top

U.S. News and World Report released its rankings for the “Best Online Programs” of 2021. A record high of 1,641 online degree programs were assessed this year, and, once again, Ball State Online proved its ability to compete on a national scale.

Academic quality is nothing new to Ball State Online. Many of our online degree programs have consistently ranked among the best since 2013.

Several factors are considered before determining if a degree can claim a “Best Online Program” honor, such as faculty credentials, student engagement (which includes retention and graduation rates), class size, peer reputation, and the quality of the university’s student services and technology.

“Ultimately, the Best Online Programs rankings measure whether online degree programs have academic standards commensurate with quality brick-and-mortar programs, properly adapted toward the unique pedagogy of distance education,” states U.S. News and World Report.

As the first in Indiana to offer online and distance education, our reputation for high-quality academic experiences and commitment to life-long learning are things we don’t take very lightly. Take a look at the rankings below and you’ll see why.

2021 Best Online Programs

Bachelor’s Degrees

Ball State University’s online bachelor degrees have ranked in the top 40 in the nation since 2013.

Graduate Business Degrees

The master’s in business administration (MBA) category is one of the most competitive nationally – with over 300 programs in consideration – however, our online MBA has maintained a top 20 status for the past eight years.

“We are extremely excited and honored to be named a top 20 program again. More than half of our incoming students cite the U.S. News as the reason they applied,” says Jason Webber, director of MBA and certificate programs.

“While our overall score keeps us in the top 20, we typically excel in faculty credentials and student services. In the Miller College of Business, all of our faculty who teach in the MBA program have a PhD and almost all of them are tenured or are tenure-track. This is something our prospective students often ask us about. These prospects are looking for academic experts who have demonstrated research experience in our core courses,” acknowledges Webber.

Graduate Education Degrees

Ball State has reputation for exceptional educator preparation programs – having been first established as a school for educators – as well as a long history of national recognition of those programs. Ball State’s Teachers College is the largest preparers of educators in the state of Indiana and one of the largest schools of education in the nation.

“The reason Teachers College has such a sterling reputation is because we are focused on excellence, making sure we have top-notch resources, and our focus on equity – making sure we serve populations that might be neglected or underserved by other institutions,” says Anand Marri, dean of Teachers College. “The U.S. News rankings contribute to the sustainability of our online programs because it allows us to better allocate resources to make sure we are supporting these programs and continue to improve.”

Graduate Information Technology Degrees

Our online master’s in information and communication sciences (CICS) degree earned a top 25 ranking in its first year being considered in the graduate information technology category. Additionally, it was the only online information technology program in the state to earn this honor.

Having already earned Information and Telecommunications Education and Research Association’s (ITERA) 2020 “Outstanding Program of the Year,” the recent U.S. News designation continues to add to the credibility behind this program.

“CICS has a long history of national and international recognition as a top technology program. The U.S. News and World Report ranking is the most well-known and widely regarded of such recognition and ranking programs,” says Dennis Trinkle, director of the Center for Information and Communication Sciences. “We are especially pleased that the U.S. News ranking will help make our remarkable program more visible to all those who might benefit from its distinctive experience.”

Graduate Nursing Degrees

Our master’s in nursing remains a strong top 25 online program since 2014.

Programs for Veterans

  • 17th – Master’s Degrees in Education Programs
  • 37th – Bachelor’s Degrees

U.S. News and World Report also recognizes the Ball State as a leader in reducing the cost of education for veterans through online programs. Highly ranked programs have strong traditional academic foundations based on student-instructor access, graduation rates and instructor credentials.

Combining a Love for People and Data With Quantitative Psychology

After graduating from Weber State in 2012 with his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Mike Nguyen took time off to pursue his career. It wasn’t long before he felt the “itch” to go back to school. But finding the right graduate program proved to be a little challenging.

Even though Mike’s work as a consumer insights consultant for Intermountain Healthcare, the largest healthcare system in Utah, deals heavily with data analytics, he still pulls from his psychology background to draw insights from research to discover what consumers are thinking. It’s his love for people that drew him to Ball State University’s online master’s in quantitative psychology.

“A lot of my friends pursued MBAs or MHAs, which they recommended to me. And, while those programs made sense for someone who works in analytics, they didn’t feel right,” says Mike.

 

“I was looking for the perfect combination of people and data – I was looking for something like quantitative psychology.”

 

Sensed Hesitation

It didn’t make sense for Mike and his husband to uproot for his education, especially with their full-time careers, an assistant coaching position, a newly built home, and his in-laws all residing in Utah. But Mike’s friends who completed their graduate degrees online weren’t necessarily convincing him that this was the way to go for his own education.

“They described feeling unattached from their schools and being unable to get to know their professors. I didn’t want that experience,” says Mike.

Mike was unsure if an online education would provide the same connection as an in-classroom experience. He also had concerns about time management and receiving the proper attention from professors. Still, he made the decision to reach out to Dr. Holmes Finch for more information about the online master’s in quantitative psychology degree.

“Maybe Dr. Finch sensed my hesitation, as he was quick to resolve my concerns,” says Mike.

Dr. Finch shared that there wouldn’t be a single deciding factor to Mike’s decision, so he took a hard look into the qualifiers he set for choosing a university and its online graduate programs.

The university Mike would attend needed to be non-profit, have an on-campus presence, be engaged in research, and it had to be at least 100 years old. Ball State checked off all of those boxes.

Being an assistant high school boys’ volleyball coach, having a Division I men’s volleyball team to cheer for during his studies was, as Mike puts it, “the cherry on top.”

Connected Across Time Zones

After Mike was accepted into the program he was quick to follow the University’s social media accounts and subscribe to a Ball State sub-Reddit to keep up with the student community. And, of course, he made sure to follow the men’s’ volleyball team throughout their season.

“These things made me feel like I was a part of the student body, even though I was two time zones away,” says Mike.

Mike also attributes the faculty he worked with, particularly Dr. Finch, for the connection he felt to the University and the success he had as a student. Dr. Finch was not only one of Mike’s professors but also his advisor, and always met him with the same excitement for learning and understanding of course materials. He also made a conscious effort to group students by time zones to make collaboration easier for schedules.

“As his student, he was always happy to answer my questions – and I had a lot of questions,” Mike remembers. “He has a mentor-like quality to how he approaches students. And, despite how much I felt like Bambi trying to learn how to walk on the ice with my statistics courses, he was excellent at coaching me along.”

Applicable Education

Mike took a quick inventory of his current skillset and of those needed to achieve his career aspirations. His interests were leading him more and more in the direction of statistics and survey design – both of which he needed advanced knowledge to become a leader in his field.

Throughout his studies, he found that the education he was receiving could be applied to his current job immediately, and on a daily basis at that. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he frequently used his new quantitative and qualitative skills to understand Utahns’ thoughts and behaviors at a given time. The insights they gained from survey responses helped to shape statewide campaigns that encouraged Utahns to wear masks.

Mike’s skills also expand into continuing medical education research as well. His statistical work as a second author on a research paper will hopefully soon be published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

Mike graduated in May 2020 and made plans to travel to campus to attend Spring Commencement. However, plans shifted once Ball State had to postpone Commencement due to the pandemic. Mike still celebrated his achievements and plans to visit the University at a later time.

For those who are considering earning their degree online, he offers this bit of advice:

“Ignore any perceived stigma [about online programs]. You will find that, in many ways, it is a lot harder. You have to push yourself harder and be disciplined,” he says. “Most importantly, you’ll get what you give – so, give it your all.”

Confidence, Skills, and a Path Toward a Doctoral Degree

Already having a background in business, Lindsay Peelman was looking for a way to branch her career into the education sector and knew she needed a master’s degree to do so. However, living in a more remote area of California proved difficult to find nearby accredited and focused in-person programs. If she was going to get the education she needed to achieve her career ambitions, she needed to look online. 

Lindsay Peelman

Lindsay did her research. She looked into MBA programs and was accepted into quite a few, but when it came down to the final decision, it was clear that Ball State’s online master’s in business education was the winning choice.

“I was able to tailor it to weigh heavier on education courses and round out my knowledge while closing any gaps that existed,” says Lindsay. “I sat next to another student from the same program at graduation … and we both remarked how amazing it was to come out of the same program feeling confident and prepared for two very different career paths.”

Additionally, the University’s accreditation was another important factor in her decision. Because of this, Lindsay is able to teach in California in both the education and business departments with her degree.

Along with her tailored education, she gained confidence and sharpened skills that she can readily apply to her career as a business and cooperative education instructor and coordinator at Monterey Peninsula College. 

“I feel like as an instructor, I learned how to step back and facilitate instead of lecture,” says Lindsay. “I always left with the understanding of how pivotal a good instructor can be for a student. I carry that with me to every class I teach at the college I work at.”

Lindsay Peelman and Dr. Allen Truell celebrate Lindsay’s graduation from Ball State University

But what may have exceeded her expectations even more was the support and mentorship of Dr. Allen Truell.

Dr. Truell, acknowledged by many students for his support and investment in their futures, continued working with Lindsay even after graduation and recommended her for doctoral study. He gave insights on his experience, input on programs she was considering, and encouragement to fly. 

Through it all, Lindsay found that her educational journey would continue on at New York University where she was accepted into an EdD in Leadership and Innovation at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. 

Army Veteran Balances it All: Career, School, Mountain Bikes

Josh Michael
Bachelor’s in Business Administration

When Josh Michael was 18 he set out to do what most other high school graduates did at that time: go to college. He moved to Indianapolis in pursuit of an associate degree in computer aided drafting and eventually found a career in sales.

Fast forward 10 years, and Josh found a new calling: to serve his country. Even though he would be older than 80 percent of his battalion, he joined the Army as an infantryman and soon deployed to Afghanistan to fight on the frontlines.

In 2011, Josh’s unit was deployed to Logar Province, one of the most dangerous areas at the time. With only 20 days remaining in his deployment, he took a direct hit from an 82mm mortar round. The blast destroyed his left elbow and knee, and also left him with a traumatic brain injury. It took a year and a half at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas to recover from his injuries before being medically retired with a Purple Heart.

But that’s not the end of Josh’s journey.

“I wanted the best.”

Having had sales experience before joining the Army, Josh was fortunate to find employment with a company dedicated to hiring military veterans.

“When I retired [from the Army] my company hired me right away,” says Josh. “It was very challenging to transition into a civilian job. They let me work a few hours a week, while I was still recovering, to get to know the company.”

But the sales profession is competitive. Josh knows this. He often times describes his career as “high pressure.” So, when he decided it was time to use his GI Bill and earn his bachelor’s degree, Josh knew he couldn’t afford to put his career on hold.

Ball State University’s online bachelor degree programs provided Josh with the option to further his education – with the same academic rigor as on campus – while also continuing his career.

“There are many online schools that offer a bachelor’s degree in business administration,” says Josh. “But I wanted a school with a strong reputation as a university, not just an online school. I wanted the best.”

A Balancing Act

Josh leads a very busy life. In addition to his full-time career and course load, he’s a husband, mountain biker, and an active churchman. So, discipline – which his military career taught him – is one key to this balancing act.

“Balancing life is a difficult mission for anyone. I have learned to be efficient by embracing the challenge,” says Josh. “I would like to do other things, but my end goal is to be a positive impact on society. Being a well-educated veteran is the best way I know how to do that.”

Another key factor to Josh’s balancing act is the support of his academic advisor, Laura Waldron. He notes that the degree completion timeline is very important to him. Working with Laura has helped him strategize his course load, based off his job’s schedule, and remain on track to graduate on time.

“Josh and I connect regularly throughout the semester … and we discuss what is going well for him or questions he has,” says Laura. “He works tremendously hard to balance life, a full-time job and a full academic load, and he does it well. He’s incredibly driven to complete his degree in four years and he sets very high standards for himself and his course work. I am very proud of him.”

Even though there’s only 24 hours in a day, Josh makes his schedule work, and advises others that they can, too.

“You will be surprised how much time you have for school when you make it a priority,” says Josh.

Well-deserved Honors

Since Josh is always pressed for time, he enjoys how Ball State’s online bachelor’s in business administration program has allowed him to work at a pace and in an environment that is best for him, where he can focus without many distractions, other than his dog Lieutenant Colonel Bunker.

Plus, having to commute to campus wouldn’t leave much time for Josh’s mountain biking excursions. His involvement with mountain biking began as an opportunity for physical fitness and therapy, but it became something more.

In 2014, Josh was selected to join former President George W. Bush for the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Military Service Initiative’s Warrior 100K (W100K). The W100K is an annual 100-kilometer mountain bike ride for U.S. military servicemen and women who have been wounded or injured since September 11, 2001. Josh has participated in every ride since.

Adding to this experience, President Bush published “Portraits of Courage” in 2017. The book is a collection of portraits he painted of veterans he had met throughout his life. Josh was one of 98 veterans selected for this honor.

May 2020 will bring more well-deserved and hard-earned honors for Josh: graduation and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Master’s Degree is a Life Changer for Haris Vrabac

Haris Vrabac knew Ball State University was the only school he wanted to earn a master’s degree from. He’ll even tell you that the University “holds a special place in his heart.” And for a good reason.

In high school, Haris didn’t take his education very seriously. In fact, he admits that he never imagined he’d go to college, let alone earn two degrees.

But when his skills on the football field turned into a scholarship opportunity with Ball State, his attitude about education began to shift.

“In sports, you can break a bone or tear a ligament at any moment and your career can be over,” says Haris. “I learned that if I wanted to be successful one day and be able to provide for my family, then I needed to grow up and get serious with my education.”

His hard work in the classroom paid off, earning him a bachelor’s in general studies with a concentration in organizational communications. This taste of educational success left him wanting more.

Haris had one year remaining on his football scholarship and he wasn’t about to let it go to waste. It was time to achieve another educational milestone.

Support Before the Start

One year is a tight timeframe, but the former student athlete was determined to earn his master’s degree and even more determined that it would be at Ball State.

“I had built a strong relationship with the University,” says Haris. “And I knew that it was the only place I wanted to further my education; the only place I fully trusted.”

Initially, Haris applied for a different one-year degree option at Ball State, but graduate admissions must have known he wasn’t entirely convinced the program was right for him. They advised him to speak with Dr. Allen Truell about the master’s in business education.

Not only did the online degree program offer the flexibility he wanted, but it also offered a customizable track that allowed Haris to take both general business as well as business education courses geared toward his career goals.

Haris was sold.

More Than a Master’s Degree

Haris now operates a transportation company in Detroit, which his father started years ago, and uses his degree daily. He particularly uses the skills that will help push the company into future growth such as customer relationship management, international sales and marketing, communication and problem solving.

“I believe I received a world-class business education,” says Haris. “The skills I gained gave me so much confidence and understanding of the business world.”

But a degree and skills are far from the only things Haris walked away with after graduation. He also walked away with a mentor and role model in Dr. Truell.

Haris credits Dr. Truell with always being there, “every step of the way.” From explaining course content until Haris fully understood to responding quickly to all communication to being there during a tough time, he could always count on Dr. Truell.

“Dr. Truell is not only a great professor, he is a great person who taught me a lot about not only business but life,” says Haris. “I am truly thankful for meeting him and taking his program. Out of all of my professors, he is one of the few who I still communicate with today. I would do anything to help give back to this program.”

Setting New Goals

With his master’s degree in hand, Haris is eyeing new goals within his career. He wants to become more involved in logistics and sales at this father’s company, and even has ambitions of becoming a business trainer or coach.

In addition to business skills, Haris also gained an understanding and appreciation for the educational side of business. Learning how to create lesson plans and use various learning styles to teach opened a new view to the business world he never knew was there.

Whatever he decides, he will be prepared to tackle these goals, thanks again to his master’s degree in business education.

“Going from someone who thought he would never make it to college to having a master’s degree is something that I am truly grateful for and proud of,” says Haris. “I can honestly say that earning my master’s degree in business education has changed my life.”

Now or Never: Miller, 77, Proves It’s Never Too Late to Earn Bachelor’s Degree

Jane Bell Miller
Bachelor’s in General Studies

There were only two concerns Jane Bell Miller had before starting her educational journey online. One, if she could manage the technology involved. Two, how she would pass a math class after 60 years of not studying the subject.

Miller isn’t like your typical online student. At 77 years young, she set out to complete her bachelor’s degree through Ball State Online.

“Academic success is not about the age of the body or how long since you were last in school,” said Miller. “It has everything to do with determination and a willingness to do whatever it takes.”

Now or Never

Rather than attending college after graduating from high school in 1958 – a decision she’s always regretted – Miller began working as a secretary at the University of Virginia. However, throughout the course of her 40-year secretarial career, Miller picked up enough credits at community college to earn her associate degree in 1997.

Twenty years later, Miller decided that if she was going to earn her bachelor’s degree, it was now or never. Ball State Online academic advisor, Laura Waldron, helped Miller determine which of her prior courses would transfer into the bachelor of general studies program.

“Taking that first step is the hardest. From then on, it’s just a matter of following through on the next step, and the next,” said Miller. “I credit Ball State’s staff with making my online learning experience so successful.”

Miller has never felt disconnected to her instructors or classmates, even though her classes are completely online. In fact, being an online student has given her the freedom to open up in assignments and discussion boards in a way that might otherwise be intimidating in a classroom setting.

A Fueling Factor

Completing her education means more to Miller than just a diploma; it’s also a way to keep her mind active and sharp at her age.

“A factor fueling my focus on education is that my mother died of complications from Alzheimer’s, so I am willing to do anything in my power to try to avoid the same fate. Luckily for me, I thoroughly enjoy the process of learning,” said Miller.

It’s evident Miller’s doing just that, as proof of the 4.0 GPA she’s maintained every semester at Ball State.

“It is so satisfying to see that my brain can handle the material just as well as a 20-year-old [student],” said Miller.

Never Stop Learning

Miller is set to graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s in general studies, but admits that her learning will not stop there. After graduation, she plans to resume piano lessons and work to improve her bridge game as a way to continue exercising her brain.

“I had held back for years before looking into finishing my degree,” said Miller. “I’m so glad I decided, ‘It’s now or never.’ ”

As for that math class, Miller proved once again that there wasn’t a challenge she couldn’t tackle. She did, however, make sure to celebrate her passing grade and no longer needing to study probabilities and statistics again.