Back in School: Career Coach is 'Living Life Backwards'
It's not an easy decision to go back to school. Adding classes on top of work and family responsibilities can be stressful. But plenty of University of Arizona employees have taken the leap, taking advantage of the Qualified Tuition Reduction to build their skills through master's and doctoral programs.
Over the next several weeks, LQP will profile some of these employees to find out why they chose to go back to school and how they're striking the balance between work, school and life.
If you're on the fence about going back to school, we'll provide some tips and information along the way that could help you make the decision, from how QTR works to how to choose a master's program. If there are specific questions you'd like answered, let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For 11 years, you could find Peter Corrigan trading on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
He worked as a commodity trader for 25 years until he retired and moved his family to Tucson for a change of climate and scenery.
After meeting the undergraduate dean of the Eller College of Management at his daughter's soccer game, Corrigan now works as employer relations coordinator and career coach for undergraduate programs at Eller.
He's also halfway through finishing his master's degree in higher education and doing an internship in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.
Corrigan says his wife likes to joke that he's living his life backwards.
"I'm a really nontraditional student," he said.
Corrigan's undergraduate degree is in economics. He began his job with the University four years ago, starting as a part-time liaison between Career Services and Eller before switching into his current full-time position at Eller.
Initially, he started taking classes just to see if he would like them. After finishing three courses, he applied and was accepted into the higher education master's program.
"It's really added to my skill set when working with students, so I think it's valuable," he said. "I don't think I would want to do an online program because I really like being in the class and the interaction with other students. I think that's a lot of fun."
So far, he's been balancing his time by taking just one class per semester, but plans to start taking two classes each semester until he finishes all of the course requirements. He expects to complete his master's by May 2015.
On Mondays, he devotes an hour to his internship and he often works on other coursework remotely on his own time outside of regular class hours. His current project for the internship is a literary piece about student budgeting information that he hopes will be used by the Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid once it's completed.
Corrigan, who is also the father to teenage twins – a son and daughter – said he's had to improve his time management skills. On the weekends, he's trying to carve out time to write papers. During the week, he occasionally has to miss a class because of an important meeting.
Talking to his classmates gives him some perspective on his nontraditional student status.
"They were talking the other day about what they were doing to do after (graduating)," he said. "I made a joke that I would still be here taking classes and they said, 'Yeah, but you already have a job in higher ed, Pete, and we don't.' They're concerned they won't get a job after getting their master's. … There isn't the pressure on me to have to finish."
Without the motivation of needing a master's to get a job, Corrigan says he relies on self-motivation to prove to himself that he can finish the program.
"When I took my first class, I was really concerned," he said. "Can I do all the reading? Can I keep up? But after I've done a few classes, I know I can keep up."
Next week, we'll profile Michael McKisson, a journalism professor of practice who works to balance time with his family with his pursuit of an MBA from the Eller College of Management.