By Brandi Schwartz, marketing coordinator in Outreach and Engagement
When Debra Becht enrolled in USI’s Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) program in the fall of 2008, she knew she had a challenge on her hands. Between raising two children and meeting the demands of her career in the financial industry, finding the time to complete a degree would be a true balancing act.
“Returning to college had been on my bucket list for many years,” said Becht. “While I had the desire, I also was concerned that I could not fit it on my plate, I was fearful that it would require more time than I had to give.”
Becht was employed as a regional retail manager at Fifth Third Bank in Evansville when her manager approached her about returning to college to complete a degree. With support and encouragement from her employer, family, and friends, Becht began to research her options.
“I started my investigation immediately and quickly connected with Lee Ann Shafer, academic program manager / BGS advisor at USI,” said Becht. “We were able to work through the details on how the BGS program could meet my needs. I quickly learned that the BGS program would take into account my professional experience and prior college credits.”
Over the next four years, Becht re-prioritized her life so she could dedicate time to class work. With the flexibility of the BGS program, she was able to complete several courses online and at off-site locations in the evening. On Saturday, December 8, Becht will become a proud USI graduate.
“Every course in the BGS program was a new challenge and every subject gave me different perspectives. I have been in the financial industry for 30 years, but knew that at some point I would reach a level where having a degree would be an absolute requirement regardless of my years of experience. Now I have that and it could potentially set the stage for the next step in my education,” said Becht.
As a nontraditional student, Becht made it a priority to encourage and help other students succeed.
“There were many times when I would walk into a class for the first time and find that I was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, student in the room,” said Becht. “I particularly enjoyed the courses that required group projects. Once someone was stuck with the old lady in their group, I like to think that they were glad I was there and that I contributed in a positive way. In fact, I made it a personal goal to maintain an A average so I could show my classmates and my children that you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Becht encourages other adults to return to college to complete a degree and advises them not to be fearful, no matter how long they have been out of school.
“The first step is to make a phone call to ask questions and get answers. Like many things in life, once you take that first step, the fear factor goes away and the next thing you know, you are sitting in a classroom learning something new every week.”
The BGS degree has given Becht personal fulfillment and has helped her advance her career. She has recently taken on a new role as director of retail operations at Banterra Bank. Becht looks forward to continuing her career in the banking industry where she will have the opportunity to learn and develop her skills for wherever the road leads her next.