Deciding to pursue your education is a big commitment. Add in work and family responsibilities, and the decision is that much harder to make. But for small business owner and American National University graduate Jerry Ferrell – it is the first piece of advice he gives to everyone he cares about: “I know you’re busy. I know you’re tired,” he acknowledges, “but would you please just go down and talk to someone about going back to school? You’ll thank me later.” Jerry Ferrell, a graduate from the Richmond, KY Campus, and Samantha Miller, a graduate from the Danville, VA Campus – like many ANU students –juggled being parents and working full-time while going back to school. Having now graduated and successfully continued on in their careers, they shared that even though finishing your degree in the midst of a busy life takes hard work and dedication, it is worth the reward.
Jerry is the father of five children, runs his own business, and was in his fifties when he first enrolled at ANU in the business administration-management associate’s degree program three years ago. His business, Madison Carpet Care and Restoration, had been running successfully since 2003, but he was reliant upon a lot of outside sources for certain management aspects. When work began to slow down, a friend recommended that he go back to school, and Jerry’s initial reaction was: “I don’t have time to go back to school and run a business!” But when he began to worry that he might have to give up on his dream and return to the factory work he had left behind, he decided that he would give returning to school a try. “It was like starting all over again,” he admitted with a laugh.
That sense of having to start at the beginning again was all too familiar to Samantha, who is a mother of four children and a graduate of the pharmacy technician diploma program. After several years of going from layoff to layoff, jumping from job to job, Samantha was sick of repeated dead-ends and the stress of the never-ending job search. “What can I get into that is always going to be here?” she asked herself. She knew that the health care field was both in high-demand and a field that had always interested her, but “I did not want to be a nurse,” she stated emphatically. However, she found the perfect niche in the pharmaceutical field, which allowed her to pursue her interests while avoiding the clinical aspects of health care.
For both Jerry and Samantha, the key to achieving their degrees was having a university that was going to meet their needs. Having experienced classes at a large state university in his hometown, Jerry knew he wanted smaller classes and a more personal approach. “I didn’t want to start out and not be able to complete what I started,” Jerry said. “At my age, my temperament, and being in business and still having a family – you need to do what you’re comfortable with.” Samantha echoed similar reasons for why she chose ANU over other options. She saw that National offered “smaller classes and you get more one on one training,” and that convinced her to check it out. “The teachers – any time you needed help – they were always available,” she said about her experience in the program. For Jerry, the fact that his instructors knew him personally, and understood the demands of running a business, made all the difference in the world. “It would not have worked,” he said honestly, “me running a business and going to any other school. It just would not have fit the schedule.”
“It would not have worked-- me running a business and going to any other school. It just would not have fit the schedule.”
Despite all the hard work, late nights, and long days it took to accomplish their degrees in the midst of their busy lives, Jerry and Samantha feel like they are now reaping the rewards in full. “I knew how to clean the carpet, but I didn’t know how to run the business,” Jerry shared about the difference his education made for his business. “Now I know how to do both.” Since graduating from ANU, he has been able to pull back on many of the things in his business that he was relying on outside resources to achieve, including keeping track of his accounts, getting more leads, and processing information in-house. His business has stabilized and even grown as he’s learned how to better manage and build his customer relations. Prior to graduation, Samantha was in a stressful job situation, often having to work night shifts, never knowing when she might get laid off again. Now, having successfully completed her degree, she works day shifts, in a job she loves, with a career she sees herself continuing in for the foreseeable future.
Without hesitation, both students say that the benefits of getting your degree is worth facing your fears, continuing to push through the struggles, and staying the course to finish what you start. “When you go – be serious,” Samantha advised. “Decide. Do it. And put your all into it. And you’ll be out in no time.” After accomplishing her diploma in just under a year, she’s already looking forward to pursuing her associate’s degree in the near future. For Jerry, the degree didn’t just change his business, it changed his outlook on life. “My confidence was already high, but it doubled after I graduate,” he stated. “Two years can change your life. Sky’s the limit now.” He is pursuing certification for his business, and after that he’s planning on getting his bachelor’s degree. “You need these things now to be able to compete in this world,” he stated. “If you don’t have these skills – you’re going to be lost.” Having taken the leap toward accomplishing their educational goals and pursuing their dreams, both students look forward to continuing to achieve great things without letting their hesitations or fears hold them back.
A- Business administration-management graduate Jerry Ferrell earned a business degree to help him run his business more efficiently without having to rely on outside vendors as much.
B- Samantha Miller, a mother of four, earned her pharmacy technician diploma while working full-time on third shift and attending classes during the day.