My Ashford | A CHAMPS Mentor's Journey
Glenn Schaefer graduated from Ashford with his BA in Public Relations and Marketing and now serves as a CHAMPS mentor to Ashford students. Since graduating, he earned his master’s degree in Creative Writing, specialization in Non-Fiction from Fairleigh Dickinson University and is pursuing his PhD in Education at Vanderbilt, specializing in Leadership and Social Justice to sharpen his focus on helping the homeless.
Oh, how the times have changed! It seems like only yesterday I was attending a small state college in the cornfield section of Illinois. I was blessed with a $600 per year baseball scholarship that covered a few books and pizza at Marty’s once or twice a month. I trekked across the frozen tundra during the winter semester to attend my political science classes and journalism seminars. I was such a freshman, I never skipped a class.
When I realized baseball was not going to be my path to fame and fortune, I decided after my sophomore year that I would enter the workforce, without completing my degree. I figured if I could write, no one would care that there wasn’t a diploma on the back wall of my cubicle. As it turned out, gaining experience was just as important as having earned a degree, if you were working for a tiny Monday-Friday newspaper and didn’t mind covering high school basketball in the middle of plowed-over soybean fields.
I was able to advance my career, but there was always that empty rectangle space behind my desk, perhaps an empty space in my heart as well. I was tired of dancing around my education credentials, but the years passed. It seemed to be irrelevant. I had bylines in various publications, and while the paycheck didn’t have a lot of zeros on it, the bills got paid.
As my skill set changed to radio, I found myself covering Chicago sports on the CBS affiliate. College degree? No one cared. I knew sports; I could interview coaches and could tell a story now and then. While a degree didn’t matter, the economy hit the skids, and that certainly did matter. Empty box Tuesday (code for being laid off) came, and seven members of the sports crew were let go with a severance check that might cover the morning’s breakfast. Hmmm. This was a problem. Suddenly I was a tad older, in a higher salary level than most places wanted to absorb, but most importantly, employers no longer just wanted “one of the guys,” but rather a streamlined product with a degree. Again with the “hmmm.”
I could only watch so many episodes of Family Feud. After a week of that, I knew I had to make some changes to the resume. I wanted to teach but knew I had to finish my early efforts of college. I needed to stay in the area where I was living, but who let you finish college from your couch?
“Hello, Ashford University. My name is Glenn, and I’m interested in finishing my degree, but I know that will be hard to do with financial aid, transferring of credits, and learning how to socialize with a demographic that I am not familiar with.”
Fifteen minutes later, I was registered. I had been approved for financial aid and was building a class schedule. There were no more excuses. I could no longer blame the bad knees or the having to drive to a campus in a far, far away land. Before I knew it, I was acing courses I hadn’t taken in my first pass of higher education. My posts seemed to make sense, and I enjoyed being a contributor and not just a follower. My life and work experiences compensated for materials I didn’t absorb in the ebooks, and my Ashford instructors were very knowledgeable and interactive and didn’t mind if a bit of personality came out in my classwork.
The two years breezed by, and all I had remaining to graduate was Algebra II. I do not recommend that strategy to those who struggle even using a calculator. Argh. The seas parted; the angels sang; and I muddled through with a B+. Las Vegas would have never handicapped this outcome.
Shortly after the math crisis, I received a package in the mail, roughly 9” x 12”, which contained just the right document to fill that open rectangle space on my wall at home. I had lost my father to Parkinson’s disease many years prior to my graduation, and Mom passed away the week before I finished school. I couldn't tell her that I graduated with Cum Laude honors, but perhaps I had erased some of the disappointment from her face from years ago when school took a backseat to a paycheck.
I had developed and still maintain a strong friendship with one of my public relations professors at Ashford, Garlyn Lewis. She was kind enough to write a glowing letter (more than I deserved) to help me gain admission to my master’s degree school as well as gaining entrance to Vanderbilt University for my doctoral studies. Relationships can be built even through online classes. Always be open to letting that happen.
If you’re contemplating continuing your educational path, I strongly encourage the online method and specifically Ashford. The challenges will be right in front of you on that computer screen. As I often close out my talks on social justice and community involvement, “Go make a difference!”
Written by Glenn Schaefer, CHAMPS mentor