Kristin Spencer was a 20-year-old student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marketing when two things happened that changed her life: Her father died, and she found out she was pregnant. When she gave birth during her sophomore year, she was unable to physically attend some classes and was forced to become a part-time student.
By taking summer courses, Spencer still was able to graduate in four years, but her next goal of pursuing an MBA wasn’t feasible while she had a 2-year-old and a full-time job.
But then, while interviewing for an internship, she crossed paths with an alumna of Spalding University and learned about the opportunities at that institution to pursue graduate school as a fully online student. Suddenly, Spencer’s goal of continuing her education was within reach again.
“She went to Spalding and completed the online MSBC program,” Spencer said, referring to Spalding’s Master of Science in Business Communication degree, which is equivalent to an MBA. “After the interview that evening I researched the program. I reached out and met with Dr. (Robin) Hinkle, who explained the program and showed me different ideas of what she expected at the end. I eventually went to an information session and enrolled.”
The flexibility of Spalding’s online courses allowed Spencer to do schoolwork around her work schedule and mom duties.
Now the university hopes even more students will take advantage of the same convenience and flexibility of online programs that helped Spencer in her educational journey.
Starting in fall 2019, Spalding is expanding its fully online offerings in a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, with students able to take all the required general-education and core courses they need online.
The eight Spalding programs that can be completed fully online in 2019-20 are bachelor’s degrees in business administration, communication, psychology and nursing (available to registered nurses moving up to a BSN); master’s degrees in business communication and nursing (nursing leadership/administration track); and doctoral degrees in occupational therapy (post-professional track) and nursing practice.
Spalding Online Lead Strategist Dr. Robert Johnson said a general mantra for participation in the Spalding’s expanded online program is, “Any time. Any place. Any person. Any pace.”
“Spalding is a compassionate university, and we want to meet people where they are,” Johnson said. “The online program helps adult learners and learners with adult characteristics, meaning those who are working full-time jobs, taking care of an ailing parent or juggling child care. There should be no one in the community who can’t take advantage of what Spalding offers.”
Though Spencer was a fully online student, she still enjoyed traditional access to the brick-and-mortars Spalding Library. Online students have access to all Spalding support services including academic advising, career development, the writing center, a math-tutoring lab and the counseling center.
“I did homework on lunch breaks,” Spencer said. “I worked on Fourth and Broadway, so I’d leave work and go to the library on Third Street before picking my son up at daycare.”
At first, she thought that online courses would be an extra challenge because she was so accustomed to traditional, seated classes. But she soon discovered that “all of my online professors were very helpful and responded in a timely manner,” she said. “Some classes had side-by-side lectures (professors and slides), so that made it more like an in-classroom setting versus just reading from the textbook and figuring it out on your own.”
An unexpected bonus, she said, was that “having online classes helped me practice and incorporate better time-management skills and also work at my own pace.”
Meeting the needs of the times
Johnson helped develop some of Spalding’s first online programs two years ago and is now instrumental in implementing more offerings, refreshing the program and making it consistent with the mission of changing times.
In developing new programs, he meets with representatives in the business community to find out what they want to see in new graduates.
“They want people who can collaborate, who can work in and lead teams, and can write well,” Johnson said. “We design our programs with those real-world needs in mind.”
James Burkhart is an example of a student who’s making it work in the real world.
He began pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Spalding in the 90s. That was put on hold when, in 1999, he moved to San Francisco. In 2002, he started LuckyParker, a business that offers an eclectic collection of modern gifts. It was in 2018, after he began an independent clothing brand called StreetDragon, that he realized he needed some marketing help.
“But I soon discovered that small business owners don’t have the budget to hire marketing people,” Burkhart said.
He decided to start taking business classes to expand his skill set, and because he loved Spalding, he also wanted to finish his degree there. However, working on average, 18 hours a day didn’t leave much time to attend traditional college classes.
Spalding’s online course offerings were just the ticket for Burkhart. They allowed him to work long-distance, he said, and “work an hour here, an hour there. I can log in when I have a work break.”
The quality and flexibility of Spalding’s online program prepared Burkhart to take his business even further. For Spencer, Spalding allowed her to keep a focus on her family without sacrificing her goals of her education.
With more online offerings on the way, Spalding believes it’s well-positioned to empower even more students to find satisfaction and success.