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Ellen Herman had always wanted to go to college. But “life got in the way,” she said. She eventually earned a bachelor’s degree but knew her leadership skills were being underutilized in the workforce, and she needed a master’s degree to get to where she wanted to be. On Sunday, Dec. 16, she will realize this dream when she receives her diploma during Baker University’s commencement ceremony.

It has not been an easy road. She became a single parent at a young age, and lost her parents before the birth of her son. She was determined to provide for her young family, which led her to work in the management field.

“I set out on a mission to make a decent life for the two of us,” she said. “I found good work that provided the necessities for us.”

While living in Louisiana and Texas, Herman managed private medical clinics, before relocating to Kansas roughly 11 years ago.

“When I moved to Kansas, there were very few private clinics,” she said. “Without a degree, I could work in health care, but not at the level I knew I was capable of.”

Herman got right to work and enrolled in school immediately. After earning her Bachelor of Business Administration from a traditional four-year university, Herman wanted to keep the momentum going. She decided she was ready to advance to her master’s degree.

The conventional college structure had been draining, so when she decided to enroll in a master’s program, she was ready for a change.

“I chose Baker because after attending traditional college, I wanted something fast-tracked, where I could put my entire focus on one course at a time,” Herman said. “I also worked with several people who obtained either bachelor’s or master’s degrees from Baker and had very positive experiences.”

Herman enrolled in the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program, which she knew would be the perfect fit for her.

“After my bachelor’s degree, I took a semester off to really ponder the direction I wanted to go with my career,” Herman said. “While many people were trying to talk me into an MBA, I knew that was not the direction I wanted to go. I am a great leader and implement change well. Once I sat down and thought about my strengths, I knew the MAOL was the degree for me.”

Herman found her Baker experience to be centered on her needs as a student.

“My experience was amazing,” said Herman. “I set a goal to earn a 4.0 GPA and I attained that. I worked very hard. Every single instructor was available for questions—often immediately—and they went out of their way to help each student be successful.”

Balancing a 10- to 12-hour work day plus school is never an easy task, but Herman found that staying organized kept her on track.

“I read every chance I could get—my lunch breaks when I got them, before work, instead of watching television in the evenings,” Herman said. “My goal every week was to finish several days early so I was not stressed at the end of the week, scrambling to get things done. It was not always easy, but when you are determined to finish a goal, you make it work.”

During her time in the program, Herman learned many new concepts and strategies in her courses that she began to implement in her job at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Her employers have taken note.

“Getting my master’s degree has already opened the door for discussion in furthering my career within my organization,” she said. “I look forward to what the future will bring!”

Herman is set to graduate this December, and for her, it still feels surreal.

“I never thought I would be sitting here with a master’s degree or in the job I have,” she said. “Every day I make sure I am not dreaming.”

In spite of the challenges, Herman believes the initiative she took to make a good life for her family got her to where she is today.

“I am so proud to say I made it,” she said. “I became a positive statistic rather than the negative one I could have been. I raised two healthy, successful, happy children and we are each other’s greatest cheerleaders. I am now married to the love of my life, and together we have a very happy and successful life.”

The timing of Herman’s graduation couldn’t have been better. The family’s first grandchild was recently welcomed into the world, and Herman has been enjoying time with her granddaughter.

Herman’s advice to other students is to stay motivated and keep going.

“It is never too late to go to school,” she said. “Finish what you start. Give 110% in everything you do and you will never go wrong.”

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