Couple’s shared career goals lead to continuing education together

June 20, 2017

Burks prove it’s never too late to pursue higher education

Springfield, Illinois ~ Sarah and Chris Burk of Springfield had full-time careers at AT&T and were raising a family when(from left to right) Sarah, Lauren and Chris Burk they decided to pursue bachelor’s degrees at Benedictine University's Springfield campus.

“AT&T places a high value on lifelong improvement, including continued education,” Chris said. “We operate in 21 states in the United States and with our ‘beefed up’ resumes we will be contenders for hundreds if not thousands of job opportunities across the country. Prior to completing our bachelor’s degrees, we were not as competitive for the most sought-after positions.”

As a senior specialist in Technical Process and Quality, Sarah supports various programs and systems for the AT&T Construction and Engineering organization. Her primary responsibility is to support and onboard vendors/suppliers who do business with AT&T.

Chris, an area manager of Outside Plant Engineering at AT&T, supervises a team of engineers who design and maintain the network in central and southern Illinois.

Both earned a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) in Management and Organizational Behavior in 2016 through Benedictine's School of Graduate, Adult and Professional Education (SGAPE), which offers convenient and affordable adult degree programs throughout northern and central Illinois, southwest Arizona and online.

“We shopped around before deciding to go to BenU,” Sarah said. “We found that BenU really understood the implications and needs of an adult student – especially an adult student with a full-time career. We had an outstanding meeting with the local advisor and that sealed the deal for us.”

Designed to help graduates effectively function in increasingly complex business environments, the B.B.A. in Management and Organizational Behavior program teaches key concepts that business managers and leaders need to be successful. During the program, the couple found motivation from their professions, the flexibility of the program and in each other.

“Showing up to an actual classroom with a cohort (a group of students who progress through the program together) was a very motivating factor,” Chris said. “We both preferred traditional classes to the online classes. We would give each other ideas during times of writer’s block.”

(from left to right) Sarah, Lauren and Chris Burk“Also, it’s kind of neat when mom, dad and daughter, who is a third grader, all sit down to do homework on a Sunday afternoon,” Sarah added.

The Burks realized that many of the concepts they learned at Benedictine could easily be applied to their careers. Their business acumen and communication styles had also been significantly strengthened because of their time at BenU.

“We now have this foundation of knowledge from which we view the work, make decisions and interact with coworkers,” Chris said. “More specifically, we have had the opportunity to use accounting concepts to better understand our operational budgets. I have personally used some of the team building exercises from class with my team.”

The Burks believe their life and work experiences further prepared them for the adult degree program. Most of the assignments they completed referenced those experiences and made the material simpler to understand.

“I found it much easier to be a student as an adult than I did as an 18-year-old,” Chris said. “I can’t imagine what I would have written about as a kid fresh out of high school. As non-traditional students, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

“The most important lesson we learned was that it is never too late for personal development,” Sarah said. “My recommendation is to go for it no matter what stage of life you are in. It is easier than you would expect because BenU designed their programs with working adults in mind. Starting or finishing the degree later in life is an advantage, not a disadvantage.”

Sarah and Chris are currently enrolled in the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program at Benedictine University.

For more information about SGAPE and Benedictine's adult undergraduate and graduate degree programs, visit ben.edu/gradadult.

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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