By Brandi Schwartz, marketing coordinator in Outreach and Engagement
On December 14, 2013, Douglas Hazel participated in USI’s fall commencement ceremony and became one of the newest graduates of the Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) program. While his path to a degree took a few twists and turns, Hazel’s story is similar to many adult learners who decide to return to college and finish something they started many years ago.
Hazel began his college experience in a traditional way at Indiana State University Evansville where he majored in business. Two years later, he was discouraged and disappointed with his performance as a student and became content with full-time employment. He started in the “pot room” at Alcoa’s Warrick Operations and eventually entered a three-year electrical apprenticeship program jointly offered through Alcoa and Ivy Tech Community College. Hazel was named to the Honors List nearly every semester and completed an Associate of Applied Science degree. His career at Alcoa included selection as a union steward and a promotion to electrical maintenance supervisor.
Hazel left Alcoa to join the workforce as a skilled maintenance team member at Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Indiana (TMMI). After six years at TMMI, he began a new position as a plant electrician at Graham Packaging. The fast-paced, highly automated production of plastic bottles and jars proved challenging, and Hazel’s electrical training and industrial experience had prepared him well for the position. Changing jobs also made him recognize how much a bachelor’s degree would help him advance within the ranks of the larger employers.
With an associate’s degree and credit hours from his previous college experience, Hazel realized that a bachelor’s degree was within reach. He learned about the new Applied Studies major offered through USI’s BGS program and decided to pursue the Technical Supervision and Leadership major.
“I realized that obtaining a bachelor’s degree would be beneficial to my career and satisfy my personal goal of becoming a college graduate,” said Hazel. “The course curriculum that I followed improved my communication skills and gave me the tools and confidence to lead.”
Enrolling part-time with two or three courses each semester was challenging for Hazel, especially with his position at Graham Packaging. “The time spent preparing and being prepared for tests and projects was demanding because I worked 45 to 55 hours per week. I spent a lot of Sundays studying. It wasn’t easy, but I am glad I did it.”
Completing a couple courses each semester was the best way for Hazel to make steady progress on his degree and earn top grades. “The BGS courses helped me put in perspective what I needed to do to be prepared for graduation and what comes next. Projects in the BGS program were real-life situations that had me
using all of the courses I had taken to successfully complete course objectives.”
Now that he has earned his bachelor’s degree, Hazel will continue his education and begin working on a Master of Science in Industrial Management degree this semester at USI.
“This is very typical of many successful adult learners,” said Lee Ann Shafer, academic programs manager/advisor for the BGS program in USI’s Division of Outreach and Engagement. “Many BGS students discover how much they love learning and enter a graduate program immediately after completing the program.”