A Week in the Life of a Hodges University Student

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How much time will I need to devote to school work? Will I be able to balance school, work and family time? When individuals are trying to decide if going back to school is the right course of action, we, as Hodges University faculty and staff, understand the importance of making the right decision at the appropriate time. This is why we want to give prospective students an inside look at what life is like for some of Hodges’ students. Each of the three individuals featured has his/her own journey with day-to-day responsibilities he/she must manage, but they all have one thing in common: a desire to become something more at Hodges.

Douglas Sanborn
Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies

Douglas SanbornFrom the moment he wakes up, Douglas Sanborn is on the move. Beginning each day with an exercise routine, his next steps often include taking care of his 6-year-old daughter, going to work, spending time with his wife and helping his daughter with her homework, all while trying to incorporate time for his own school work.

“If I have even just a few minutes, I’ll jump on the computer and work on something school-related,” he said. “It could be that I’m waiting for dinner to cook or for the shower to warm up. If I have some time, I’m working on school.”

Prior to starting his educational journey at Hodges, Sanborn spent several years in the United States Army. Growing up an “Army brat,” in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, it was only natural that he join the military after high school, enlisting in 1997. Spending a few years with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, he left the military behind and moved from Colorado to Fort Myers, working various jobs until deciding to reenlist in 2008.

“I ultimately want to write screenplays, whether it is for television or a movie. I have a lot of ideas, I want to bring people in with the written word.” – Douglas Sanborn

By the time he completed his contract with the Army in 2015, Sanborn was married with a 4-year-old. Reflecting on his time in Fort Myers, he and his family made the decision to move to the area in 2017 in hopes that everything would fall into place, and fortunately, it did with him being able to go to school.

When looking at options for school, a friend recommended he look into Hodges. Earning an associate degree in automotive technology while living in Colorado, he knew it would take a bachelor’s degree to get noticed. Originally considering a general studies degree, he enrolled in Hodges’ management program; however, after realizing he was better suited for on-campus classes, he spoke with Jeanette Colon in Student Services, who recommended the interdisciplinary studies (IDS) program.

Enrolling in the IDS program in winter 2018, Sanborn sees this as an opportunity to learn the necessary skills he would need to be taken seriously in the workforce. Although currently working on his pre-requisites, he hasn’t entered the IDS core courses just yet; however, his desire to reach people through his writing is already something he is working toward thanks to professors like Dr. Wesley Boozer and Professor Patricia Racz.

“I ultimately want to write screenplays, whether it is for television or a movie. I have a lot of ideas,” he said. “I want to bring people in with the written word.”

Considered an adult learner at 38 years old, going to school isn’t the only aspect of his life that requires his time and attention. Working full time delivering pizzas at Pizza Hut, taking classes to become a free dive instructor, spending time with his family and making sure he stays fit and healthy with a morning exercise regimen are just some of the other aspects of Sanborn’s life that he must balance while in school.

However, as busy as his days may seem, it is his personal drive and motivation from his wife and daughter that enable him to embrace the temporary circumstances and sacrifices he needs to make in order to succeed in the long run.

*At the time of publication, Sanborn has left his position at Pizza Hut to focus more on his school work and family.

Shani Dubock Rodriguez
Master of Public Administration

Shani Dubock RodriguezWhen a person makes the decision to go back to school, it is often because of advancement opportunities at work, encouragement from family or friends, or a decision to change career paths. For Shani Dubock Rodriguez, she knew a degree could open many doors, so when she enrolled at Hodges, it was more about the “want” than the “need.”

“When I enrolled in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program in February 2018, it was something I simply wanted to do. It was for me,” she explained. “Plus, I was looking to open doors that are currently not available to me.”

Rodriguez knew that if she ever wanted to move into a higher-level, educational administrative position, the MPA program could lead to greater opportunity. Currently the Pre-K programs manager for the Office of Early Learning through the Collier County School District, she is already seeing ways to apply her coursework to her day-to-day work responsibilities.

“The class I’m currently in is covering federal regulations, which is what I do right now. It touches so specifically on education, even Head Start, which is the department I am in,” she said. “Everything I’m learning is directly applying, so it is a perfect fit.”

Her MPA classes aren’t the only ones that have directly applied to her professional work. Prior to enrolling in the master’s program, Rodriguez completed her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Hodges.

After meeting and becoming friends with Heather VanBrummelen, admissions coordinator at Hodges, Rodriguez decided to enroll at Hodges in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in October 2015. Earning an associate degree from Florida National University in 1997, she was re-entering the academic world after 18 years.

“The courses were fascinating because the students made them so political, on both sides of the spectrum.” – Shani Dubock Rodriguez

“It was through talking with her one evening and seeing how well she was doing in school that I asked her what you have to do to sign up. She told me the steps, but I said, ‘You know what, you do it for me, and I’ll go to school with you.’ So, she led me through the process step by step and within the week, I was signed up for school,” she said.

With a husband, four children and a full-time work schedule, Rodriguez knew the only way she would be able to pursue her degree would be to take her classes online. “My husband and children knew how important this was to me,” she said, and although unable to work closely with her classmates and professors, she admits the class discussions proved lively and beneficial.

“The courses were fascinating because the students made them so political, on both sides of the spectrum,” she said. “I just loved reading the discussion boards because of how the students were applying what we were learning,” she explained.

Graduating with her bachelor’s degree in December 2017, Rodriguez could have easily stopped; however, she became interested in the idea of continuing into a master’s program, but only at Hodges. As a result of her experience in the bachelor’s program, she contacted Erlis Abazi, director of admissions in Naples, and within days was enrolled in the MPA program.

“Surprisingly, when I told my two younger children that I was going back for a master’s, they were not happy, but just like before, they know this is important to me, and I promised them I would work harder at finding a balance,” she said.

While maintaining the work-school-family balance isn’t always easy, Rodriguez finds the MPA program convenient and flexible, especially since she can listen to her lessons in the car or while walking the dog. The format of not only the MPA program but all of Hodges’ programs inspired her two oldest children to enroll at Hodges, too.

“Hodges has become a family affair for us. My brother graduated from Hodges while it was still International College, I am working on my second degree and both of my older children, I know, will complete their degrees,” she said. “It [Hodges] has helped me seek out my goal, all while making it easy, accessible and real with step-by-step support along the way.”

Heather VanBrummelen
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration

Heather VanBrummelenIt takes time, sacrifice, confidence and perseverance to earn a college degree, hence the saying, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” Heather VanBrummelen is a true example of someone who understands what it takes to achieve a desired result. As a single mother of two young children who works 60 hours a week and maintains full-time student status, she may be tired, but she remains committed to earning her degree.

“Finding the balance between school, work and home is difficult, but it is doable,” she said. “On Fridays, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., that is my time where I can just go home and sit in silence if I want to.”

Settling in Naples in 2011, she worked as a server for several years, but it wasn’t until she was pregnant with her second child that she made the decision to go back to school. Seeing a billboard for Hodges, she told herself she wanted more stability in her life, so she stopped in for a visit and enrolled in the marketing program at the associate level in 2014. She later changed her major to business administration.

“Hodges is my family. They are my support system. Hodges brought my identity back, and every faculty and staff member has shown that if I ever need help, whether school-related or not, they’re here for me.” – Heather VanBrummelen

“I chose Hodges because of the class sizes, as well as the mentorship I received and continue to receive, especially from individuals like Brian Hawkins and Dr. [Aysegul] Timur,” she said.

Completing her associate degree in 2017, she immediately started the Bachelor of Science in business administration program with a minor in marketing, which she will complete in winter 2018. However, an unfortunate, life-altering event occurred at home in fall 2017, leaving VanBrummelen on the verge of giving up.

“I remember my grades started slipping, and my relationship with Dr. [Aysegul] Timur was so strong in the months leading up to this. When my grades started going down, I felt guilty and ashamed, and I didn’t talk to her for months,” she explained. “At the Open House in January 2018, she came up and gave me a hug and told me that if I wanted this degree, she would help me earn it.”

Taking many of her classes in the blended format, she appreciates the technology-enhanced courses that allow her to livestream if she is unable to make it to campus. “I have learned so much in all my classes because they are not textbook lecture. Instead, we incorporate role play scenarios or presentations,” she said. “I use much of what I learn in class in my daily work, including how to navigate a conversation, time management and learning about my target customer.”

Although graduation in June will mark the end of another degree for VanBrummelen, she plans to complete a second bachelor’s degree in marketing and professional sales, as well as a graduate-level degree in 2019.

“My motivation is my kids. They inspire me, and I want them to see that mom can do it, even while balancing other responsibilities,” she explained.

“Hodges is my family. They are my support system. Hodges brought my identity back, and every faculty and staff member has shown that if I ever need help, whether school-related or not, they’re here for me.”