After she became the administrative assistant to the chairman of the company where she worked, Sharon Stanciel realized she had no place else to go.
Except back to school.
"I took many secretarial courses to get to where I was, then I realized I had gone as far as I could because I was working for the top person of that company," she said. "That's when my goals changed and I realized I needed a bachelor's degree to advance into management."
Stanciel enrolled in the Adult Accelerated Programs at Benedictine University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Management by going to school one night per week for four years. But she did not stop there. She continued her education at Benedictine and earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Today, she still reports to the same boss. But as a manager in government relations for a large firm involved in commodities trading, she now has people who report to her.
"I travel to Washington, D.C., frequently and attend many congressional events," Stanciel said. "I am enjoying this position because there are so many opportunities out there for me now. By getting my degree, the world has opened up for me and there are many options available."
Benedictine University offers adult accelerated undergraduate programs designed for adult learners who have little time and multiple responsibilities. With evening and weekend formats and multiple locations, Benedictine makes going back to school easier than ever.
"The program was very convenient," Stanciel said. "It allowed me to continue working and spend time with my family and still complete my class work. The classes were interesting and challenging due to the accelerated pace."
Benedictine's MBA program also emphasizes teamwork. Students organize into study groups, complete projects as teams, provide academic support to each other and serve as a safety net for those who may have trouble balancing work, study and family.
"I enjoyed having teammates to work with because it helped lessen the workload," Stanciel said. "It was easy for me to adapt to the group study since during high school I participated in many athletic activities that taught me the importance of supporting and depending on teammates.
"Working in teams can be difficult because not everyone has the same work ethic," she added. "But when you have a team that really understands each other, your team can be very successful. My team worked well together. We knew each other's strengths and weaknesses and used them to our advantage to excel in all our classes."
Armed with an MBA, Stanciel is enjoying the professional opportunities with which she has been presented.
"My degree has given me flexibility with career options," she said. "It has opened doors for me that were once closed. My degree has given me the leverage and knowledge in certain areas to get ahead of other applicants. In addition, getting my degree has given me a huge network of people who will be great resources in the future."
There are also personal and family benefits to earning a degree, Stanciel said.
"I am not stressed anymore about not having my degree and I am more confident about my educational status," she said. "I also received a promotion and now my income has increased, which will allow me to take better vacations with my family."