For years, Carol Reed focused all of her energy on those around her: her two children, her friends and family, and anyone in need of help.
“I really enjoy helping someone overcome an obstacle and gain the confidence to move forward,” said Reed. “I love to help others as much as I can.”
In 2011, however, she found herself in a position to focus on herself. Her children were growing up, and she had decided she wanted a career change after working in the early childhood education industry for 20 years.
“As my role as a mother began to change, I realized it was the perfect time to concentrate a little on me,” Reed said. “Deep down, I regretted not completing college, and I realized going back to school was something I needed to do.”
Reed was not sure where her schooling would take her, but she knew she was ready to take the plunge. In 2011, she enrolled in Baker’s Associate of Arts in Business program.
“I did not really have an idea what I was going to do with my degree,” Reed said. “I did not have a particular career path lined up. What I knew for sure was I wanted to grow professionally and personally, and going back to school would help me do that.”
In 2011, Reed began working at Baker at the Registrar’s Office as an Academic Records Specialist. As a Baker employee, she became familiar with the educational environment she would be learning in.
“I accepted the position as a Baker employee because of the reputation of Baker’s programs,” said Reed. “Several people I knew had Baker degrees and had shared their experiences with me over the years. The reputation of the school and, most importantly, the real-world business knowledge the instructors possessed helped me to know Baker was the school I wanted to attend.”
Going back to school is never easy, and Reed found herself apprehensive at first.
“When I started back to school I had a lot of fear about it,” she said. “I was so excited to be starting classes, but it had been 20-plus years since I had been in a school setting. I started to question if I was crazy for thinking I could go back to school at 40 years old.”
As she progressed through the courses, however, Reed found herself regaining her confidence.
“Those feelings [of apprehension] began to disappear with each week of my first few courses,” she said. “I found that the more I put into the courses, the more I got out of them. I chose the online format, but as classmates we still managed to connect and talk with each other virtually.”
Reed also noticed immediate feedback and real-world application in her studies.
“As I went through my classes, I was always excited when something I had done in my professional life connected with something we were learning in class,” she said. “I cannot count how many times I reflected on something I had done or a situation that occurred in my previous work experience and had an ‘aha moment.’ I quickly realized that I was meant to go down this path to earn my degree.”
As a single working parent, Reed usually completed her schoolwork on weeknights and during weekends. She used her lunch hours to complete her reading assignments. And she carried around her laptop and books in a backpack in case an opportunity came about to do school work.
Most important, Reed always focused on the bigger picture.
“It was not always easy to manage, but during difficult times I would remind myself that I had a goal to reach and the crazy workload was only temporary,” she said. “There is a lyric from a song by the band Train. ‘It’s not just a daydream if you decide to make it your life.’ I thought of that quote at least once a day to keep me motivated. In the grand scheme of things, a few years of hard work was nothing compared to what I was accomplishing.”
Her achievements have been staggering. Since beginning her studies in October 2011, Reed has earned an Associate of Arts in Business, a Bachelor of Arts in Business Leadership, and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Baker University. Since then, she has moved into a supervisory position in her department, and works as the academic advisor for Master of Business Administration, Master of Liberal Arts, and non-degree-seeking students.
Dr. Emily Ford, interim dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies, regards Reed’s dedication to her education as inspirational.
“In six years, she’s completed three Baker degrees while working full time and taking care of her children as a single parent,” Ford said. “She is thought highly of by her students because she is walking alongside them in the journey and finding success.”
After all of her hard work, Reed is using her education and giving nature to their fullest potential to help people.
“My master’s degree will allow me to fulfill a goal of becoming an instructor,” she said. “It was taking classes in my undergraduate program that made me want to teach. I want to share the knowledge that I have and help adult learners succeed. I want to be able to give a little back.”