Aerial view of Champlain College's campus in the fall.

Online Student Stories: Ben W.

Champlain College Online

Benjamin Walkington is currently enrolled in the MBA program at Champlain College Online. He works for the U.S. Federal Government and enrolled at Champlain by way of the U.S. Federal Government’s truED partnership with Champlain.

 

Champlain student Ben Walkington smiles at the camera against a white background.

What was your motivation for going back to school?

After completing my undergraduate degree nearly 10 years ago, it became clear to me how much I missed school and wanted to find a way to add learning back into my life. I’ve always had a goal in mind about earning my master’s degree and still aim to someday complete my Ph.D. I’m a first-generation college graduate in my family and the number of doors my education has already opened up for me cannot be overstated. At a minimum, learning opens my mind and challenges me, and I’d been craving that feeling so I decided to explore my options.

I’ve been in my career for just over a decade now and working for the Federal Government certainly has its benefits, especially when it comes to education. It felt like the right time to explore the educational partners I could go back to school through to begin my master’s degree.

What made you choose Champlain?

My number one goal was to find the right financial fit. Champlain’s truED Program made that search a breeze with their preferred tuition for Federal employees.

Aside from the monetary investment, Champlain’s website was incredibly user friendly. Other colleges make it clunky to navigate around their websites and sometimes rely too heavily on name recognition, campus visits, or their reputation for students to make a decision to attend, but not Champlain. All of the information I was looking for was readily available. I didn’t find the need to call or email anyone for support because the website’s user experience was so effortless and helpful.

I then did some research and came across many reviews that praised Champlain for its support, resources, education, and so on. Its reputation spoke for itself and by that point I had pretty much made my decision to move forward with Champlain.

The icing on the cake for me was that my partner, Adam, hails from Vermont and his family still owns property there. Adam has seen Champlain’s physical campus and mentioned how nice it was. Even though I don’t have plans to be on campus soon, it’s nice to know there’s a physical campus that has a great reputation in the Vermont community.

Tell us about your experience with your instructors, classmates, and/or advisor.

I have completed two courses in my MBA program so far, but even though I am still early on in my online learning journey, it’s clear to me that the entire Champlain community has my best interests in mind.

From the moment I met with the admissions team, I felt that I was in good hands. They guided me through the application process and stayed on top of things to make sure I submitted all of my application items to them in time for my projected start date.

From there, I met my academic advisor, Sarah, who has been fantastic! She is very responsive when I have questions and her communication skills are superb. She checks in to make sure I am comfortable and progressing in my program.

In the classes I’ve taken so far, my classmates and instructors have all been helpful and personable as well. My peers live all around the world, which has been neat, as I’m learning a lot about people’s different perspectives. My instructors challenge me, which I need and appreciate. One of them even held weekly hour-long Zoom meetings to get direct support about our course material. It’s clear to me that the Champlain community is committed to my success.

What, in your opinion, makes Champlain unique?

Champlain is unique for a whole variety of reasons. For starters, the entire team wants me to feel comfortable and help me reach my goal in getting to the finish line. I was nervous about learning online when I initially started because my only college experience was on campus, and I loved being on campus and physically in the classroom, but the sense of community I feel has made the process so much easier. I have come to realize that online learning is what you make of it and provides the flexibility that I need.

Secondly, Canvas is an incredible tool. It’s the online learning platform we use to review our course materials, collaborate with each other, submit assignments, and post to the weekly discussion board. So far, it has been straightforward, user friendly, and is a helpful tool for me to communicate with my instructors and view their feedback on assignments.

Next up would have to be the way the courses are structured. I haven’t seen anything like the 8-week terms Champlain offers. The terms are long enough that I feel like I am learning the appropriate amount and receiving fair credits, but short enough that I feel like I am achieving something. It’s almost like a set of micro goals that I am reaching term-to-term that will all lead to my long-term goal of graduating with my master’s. Even though the courses are jam-packed, I am constantly accomplishing things and doing so at a rapid pace, which I enjoy.

Finally, I will end with the fact that Champlain is incredibly L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ friendly. I haven’t seen such clear and open support of my community in other colleges or universities in my time. Champlain is an ally. I didn’t grow up knowing I could be my authentic self and love who I want to love so openly. Seeing my school celebrate Pride Month with rainbow icons on their social media channels is such a supportive way to demonstrate their inclusiveness. It makes me proud to be a member of the Champlain community.

What impact do you envision your MBA having on your long-term career path?

My MBA and concentration in leadership will undoubtedly open more doors for me post-graduation, but I still have a lot I would like to accomplish in my current career.

I believe my leadership certification will prepare me to become a stronger leader in my agency and my community. I want to focus on criminal justice reform and be part of the much needed work to rebuild trust and community relations. As Dr. Martin Luther King famously said, “...injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The criminal justice system only works when it is just for us all, when we all are treated fairly and equally, and when the community trusts the system that is supposed to protect us. There is a lot of work to be done, but I believe that we can do it and we must do it.

Not only will the knowledge I’m gaining and skills I’m developing impact my current role – they’ll also set me up for success in other opportunities post-government. I imagine myself continuing to be part of a college or university in some way – perhaps as an instructor or professor. Earning my MBA and continuing on to get my Ph.D. down the road will help make my dream a reality.

What advice would you give to someone considering going back to school at Champlain?

Believe in yourself. Be courageous and know you can do it. Check self-doubt and negative self-talk at the door. Most of us are going back to school after spending a lot of time out of school, but it’s like riding a bicycle. It takes a few tries and feels a bit awkward when you start again, but then you’re off to the races. It all comes back to you and makes you feel good to accomplish a major goal.

Before finding Champlain, I was feeling stagnant in life and in my career and needed a new challenge. Being back in school and starting my master’s program has been a goal of mine for so long. I am relieved I decided to do it.

If you’re like me, you probably have voices in your head that say going back to school is too hard, or that you’ve been out of it for too long, or you can’t spend the money right now, but those voices are only holding you back from all the possibilities. Ignore them. Silence them. Just go for it. Especially if you have a truED tuition benefit, like me. You won’t regret it.

 

About truED

Are you curious about Champlain’s truED program? Our online college degrees are designed in partnership with workforce development professionals and talent and recruitment experts, with a laser focus on skills gaps, workforce trends, and market demand. truED offers affordable, career-focused learning that enables employees to flourish and organizations to grow. truED students can earn an accredited college degree from a nonprofit college committed to helping them achieve their career goals quickly. Expect more, pay less with truED and Champlain College Online. Learn more.

About the Author

Champlain College Online

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