PR Degree is a Boost to Kearns’ Freelance Business

Deborah smiling at another woman while writing

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.



Kat Parker Enrolls in Ball State Online to Finish What She Started

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.

Kindergarten Teacher Motivated by Passion for School Leadership

Ty Johnson’s desire for leadership opportunities at her elementary school in Michigan City (Ind.) motivated her to pursue an online master’s degree in educational administration and supervision with Ball State University. Throughout her career as an educator, she has been diligent in prioritizing children’s interests, while also being interested in leadership. She wanted an educational experience that would allow her to directly apply the knowledge gained from her program in the workplace.

Q: Why did you choose to pursue a degree online?

A: When I discovered that Ball State had an online degree program that combined my two interests, education and leadership, along with the opportunity to pursue my passion for leading a public school organization, it was the motivation needed for me to pursue my degree online.

Q: How do you balance online classes and your personal and professional life?

A: Life balance is no easy task. I have found that setting goals, then working towards those goals consistently and systematically has resulted in my success in those highly demanding, yet important areas of my life such as staying connected to family, performing well at work, and advancing my career through online classes.

Q: How has the program benefited you in your workplace?

A: Studying educational leadership covers a multitude of areas concerning education, leadership, and how schools are run on a daily basis in our current society. It gives you a broader perspective that allows you to truly understand why some of those top-down decisions are made. Gaining this new perspective had an immediate impact on my ability to relate and have a deeper understanding of my administrative team’s duties, responsibilities, and decisions. It also led me to pursue and obtain a leadership role as a BLT (Building Leadership Team) member within my school. I was confident that I could contribute in a meaningful way.
Q: What would you say to other educators considering this program?

A: For educators who are truly serious about gaining the skills they need to assume a school leadership position I highly recommend it!

The curriculum for the educational administration program is rigorous and challenging and has all of the components necessary to help you develop into a strong leader.

Another program benefit is that it serves as a catalyst to connect and build relationships through a huge network of professional educators. So, while you may technically access your classes from the comfort of your home, that in no way negates the value of this program!

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