Stephanie Prado and Susan Baker - mother, daughter Hodges students.

Establishing a Goal, Mother and Daughter Look to the Future

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Susan Baker and Stephanie Prado are two Hodges University students with a distinct connection. Pursuing degrees in legal studies, Susan enjoys attending class on campus while Stephanie appreciates the flexibility of online courses. Susan is pursuing a bachelor’s degree while Stephanie is close to completing her master’s program. Although their experiences may seem like other students, their connection as mother and daughter make them a unique and inspiring addition to the Hodges community.

“We’ve always been close,” said Prado. “However, this experience has definitely brought us closer together.”

A registered paralegal, Prado earned her associate degree in paralegal studies from Edison State College before enrolling at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) to pursue a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. Graduating in December 2014, she enrolled in Hodges’ legal studies graduate program in January 2015.

“Between balancing a full-time job as a paralegal and mother to a six-year-old daughter, I knew that Hodges’ online program would be my best option,” she said.

On Mother’s Day 2015, after sharing her Hodges experience and overarching goal with her mother, Prado and her mother discussed the notion of Baker returning to college. “I went to Broward Community College 30 years ago, but things have changed,” Baker laughed. “However, this time, I thought, ‘if my daughter can do it, I can, and I want her to be proud of me.’”

Having experience in supervisory roles and business management, Baker, who works full time as a respiratory department assistant at Fort Myers Oxygen, always had an interest in law. Knowing her daughter had set a goal to open her own firm one day, Baker wanted to serve as the firm’s business manager but knew she needed the legal background to manage the business effectively.

Wasting no time, she contacted Hodges’ admissions office the next day. “Registering was so easy. They helped me with all of the forms, and as I think about how easy it was for me, it is a shame that more people don’t do it,” said Baker.

Enrolling in the legal studies bachelor’s program in summer 2015, Baker admits she was nervous about returning to the college, saying, “We didn’t have instant communication and online learning tools 30 years ago. My biggest fears were getting into the mindset of studying again and not being able to grasp the material; however, Stephanie, my professors and my fellow students have been extremely helpful.”

Although they are in different legal studies programs, the two agree that the knowledge and dedication of Hodges’ professors have aided in their educational success. “Dr. Baradat is very personable and wants to be involved. He is so knowledgeable and is always providing enthusiastic feedback,” said Prado. “To have professors like Scot Goldberg and Dr. Char Wendel, they’re in the trenches and can provide real-world examples of what they’ve experienced while working in the field, which I enjoy and appreciate,” added Baker.

As a student returning to the classroom after 30 years, Baker believes that this time is different. Inspired by her daughter and her accomplishments, she says, “It means more to me now than it did before. I’m here for a purpose.” Identifying her purpose to be that of managing her daughter’s business one day, she also plans to continue her education and earn a master’s degree after finishing her bachelor’s program.

As her mother continues her educational pursuits, Prado will be graduating from the legal studies master’s program in summer 2016 and is eager to begin training to become a family law certified mediator. “After going through my own experience with a mediator, I saw a need for this type of service,” said Prado. Working toward the goal of opening her own firm, Prado looks forward to one day working with her mom, saying, “Because my mom has a background in office management, I want her involved. She knows how to successfully run a business.”

With a six-year-old daughter at home, Prado views her degree completion as an opportunity to set an example, saying, “My daughter is my inspiration, and I am working hard to build up her future. I want her to know that when she gets older, there is no option to just stop.” Prado has even inspired her husband to enroll at Hodges and pursue his degree.

For adults considering going back to school but are unsure of their ability, Baker urges these individuals, saying, “No matter how old you are, it’s never too late. So many people are afraid of student loans and being able to pay for their education; however, the money you are spending is going toward your future, which, in turn, is just going to open so many more doors.”