When Jolene Stetz finished her first class at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) with an A, she knew she was finally in the right place, at the right time and surrounded by the right staff, faculty and peers. She felt supported, for possibly the first time, in her pursuit of higher education.
After high school, she wasn’t sure of her career goals. “I just felt like I needed to kind of establish what I wanted to do with my life and where I want it to be,” Stetz said. Having already attended two traditional colleges, she also realized that day classes and commute time didn’t fit her lifestyle. On top of that, a negative experience with an instructor left her feeling alone in her journey.
But now, Stetz is a month away from finishing her online bachelor’s in marketing at SNHU, where she’s maintained a 4.0 GPA while working full-time as a content editor for a video licensing company.
“The flexibility that Southern New Hampshire University offers – I probably wouldn’t have ever been able to go back to school without it,” she said.
Motivated by Mom
Stetz learned that her mother, who did not have a college degree, felt stuck in her life once her children grew up and moved away from home.
“She didn’t want me to ever feel trapped, or to ever feel like I had hit a wall in my life, in my career,” Stetz said. She believed education and experience are the way forward, and she wanted her daughter to have the ability to grow her professional life.
After her mother passed away, Stetz decided once and for all to return to school – and made it her priority.
Given her previous college experiences, Stetz sought a school she could rely on for support and flexibility – criteria she knew she needed. So, with her mother’s hopes for her, paired with a better understanding of herself and her goals, she found her way to SNHU.
“When I got accepted to SNHU, I was ecstatic,” Stetz said. “I was so sure that I wouldn’t even be accepted to college.”
Better yet, she was able to transfer several classes worth of credits she previously earned, accelerating her timeline, putting her on track to finish her bachelor’s degree in just over two years.
Navigating Enrollment and Coursework with Support
Stetz didn’t want to go through her education alone – and she wouldn’t. From her first phone call with an admission counselor to inquire about SNHU and the application process, she knew she could trust the institution. “(The admission counselor) was very open, talked to me through every question that I had … and then gave me things that I hadn’t even thought to ask,” Stetz said.
She can complete her coursework each week when it makes sense for her – often after she gets out of work at 5 pm and makes dinner. Even when she reaches out to instructors with questions at night, she often hears back within a couple of hours – and sometimes as fast as 15 minutes. “It made me feel like my time was important and my schedule was important,” Stetz said.
Plus, she knows her instructors bring a wealth of knowledge to the classroom and are professionally qualified, having real-world experience working with organizations from NASA to NBC.
“I was surprised by the level of support because I felt like I hadn’t had that in the past,” she said. “And then stepping into (SNHU) … all of a sudden, everyone was on my team. Everyone wanted to help me succeed.”
She didn’t only gain knowledge and support from her instructors. Stetz also felt the weekly online discussion posts enriched her experience.
“Getting the feedback on the discussion boards from students from all over the place with all different kinds of backgrounds has really opened my own experiences and improved the depth that I’m getting from the information in class because I can see how it applies to other people and to other walks of life,” she said.
Now she’s friends with many of her classmates on social media, and they often check in with one another to see how they’re doing and discuss assignments and their lives in general.
“I feel like there is this connotation about online school that you have to do it alone … I haven’t felt that at all,” Stetz said.
Growing in Industry Knowledge and Confidence
Stetz decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in marketing with a double concentration in digital marketing and social media marketing because they merge her interest in digital media and her desire for a strong business foundation.
In her current role, she edits videos for a company with more than 400 media partners globally to share on several social media platforms and studies analytics to inform social media strategy.
“I regularly use my coursework in my professional life in terms of just knowing all of the data analytics that goes into my job is supported by my coursework,” she said. “And we do a lot with copyright law which was really helpful when I took a business law class.” Now she can make educated recommendations regarding contract updates and general business moves that benefit both the customer and the company.
“I feel like my coursework at SNHU is allowing me to be a better coworker and a better employee,” she said.
Having the industry knowledge she learned in the classroom has also helped her develop confidence, whether sitting in a meeting at work or networking with business leaders. “I think my degree has taught me a lot about myself and given me a self-confidence that I never had before,” Stetz said.
When she taps into a network of business professionals through her honor societies, she understands the industry jargon they use. “And that is such a fun feeling to be in the in-crowd,” she said.
Now that she’s wrapping up her bachelor’s degree, her academic advisor, Rob Sturgis, is helping her apply to master’s degree programs. Her goal is to become a marketing director at an international company one day. Being able to advance her education while continuing to get real-world experience can help position her for success.
“I think, more than anything, Southern New Hampshire (University) felt like the place for me because of the support that I had gotten right from the beginning and that hasn’t stopped since,” Stetz said.
Consider how a bachelor’s degree can change your life.
Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.