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May 3, 2019 | Business, News, SPGS

After hardship, student returns to finish degree

Aaron Whittle photos

Aaron Whittle, BBA ’19, was playing long snapper for Baker’s football team in 2008 when tragedy struck his family.

“During the spring of 2008, my single mother was diagnosed with cancer,” Whittle said. “She lost her battle a few months later in the summer.”

It was a difficult time for Whittle, but Baker offered support.

“During my mother’s funeral I noticed a large pot of flowers that had been sent to the church,” he said. “These flowers were sent from President Pat Long on behalf of the entire staff at Baker University. It was at this moment I truly understood Baker University genuinely cares about their students. It’s a family culture and I could never repay the comfort Baker provided during a very emotional time.”

Whittle tried to return to school in August 2008, but the death of his mother made it difficult to focus. He withdrew and returned home to Arizona work and help with bills. After a few years, he had an aha moment.

“I landed a night custodian job,” Whittle said. “One night while scrubbing bathrooms, I looked at myself in the mirror and said ‘I cannot do this my entire life.’ The following day I contacted Baker University [School of Professional and Graduate Studies] and stated that I wanted to return and finish what I started.”

It was a challenge to reenroll after so much time away, but Whittle was committed to doing whatever it took. In August 2016, Whittle enrolled in the online Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in leadership.

“Baker gave me an opportunity. When I was in need of guidance Baker was right there,” Whittle said. “The staff is supportive, the [Baldwin City] campus is amazingly beautiful, and Baker will put you in a position to be successful throughout life.”

Having experienced both the traditional undergraduate campus in Baldwin City and the online nontraditional program, Whittle said both have been an incredible experience.

“The Baldwin City campus was amazing,” he said. “The friends I gained will be friends for life. We still communicate and visit each other on a regular basis. The online experience has been fun. Life is crazy, and the online program allows you to work at your own pace. The open communication level is high on both campuses, and response times were incredible. This is the best experience I have had within an organization.”

Whittle said the course work has been immediately applicable to his job. He has gone from a night custodian, to a lead custodian, to working in fixed assets in the business department at Maricopa Unified School District in Arizona.

“My leaders have seen a drastic change in the way I work and make decisions,” he said. Taking what you are learning and applying it to real-life scenarios allows you to see that the curriculum is actually working.”

The program has also resulted in Whittle’s career advancement.

“Since starting back up at Baker University, I have seen myself get promoted two times in two years,” he said. “The knowledge I gained from the courses and applying them to an actual real-life work place is a key reason why I have been promoted twice in such a short period of time.”

Graduating in May, Whittle is ready for the next chapter of his career.

“I think Baker is setting me up very well for success,” he said. “For example, I majored in leadership and I am applying my leadership skills that I gained from Baker and using that, not only in the work place, but also around my family. Teaching my nephew and nieces about leadership is going to help propel them forward, and it all trickles down from Baker University.”

It has been a tough journey for Whittle, but with the support of the Baker family, it’s finally complete. Whittle is looking forward to commencement and returning to Baker, where it all began.

“Baker is an incredible university to get a degree from, Whittle said. “My career is young, but the skills I developed from Baker will last the rest of my life.”

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