Chris Denis graduated from Champlain College Online with her bachelor’s degree in health information technology (2017) and her master’s degree in human resources and organization development (2020). She works at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT) and enrolled in Champlain by way of her company’s partnership within Champlain’s truED Alliance.
What was your motivation for going back to school?
I’ve decided to go back to school a few times as I’ve grown in my career and readjusted my career path over the years. Originally, I went to school for respiratory therapy. I then studied health administration. For those programs, I was a traditional student and went to school on campus. Later in life, I enrolled in Champlain College Online’s bachelor’s degree program in health information technology, which is no longer an active program at Champlain, and I graduated in December 2017. Thereafter, I studied human resources and organization development at Champlain with a specialization in leadership and graduated in December 2020.
For me, going back to school was a no-brainer. My organization, BCBSVT, has a fantastic tuition reimbursement program and their partnership through Champlain’s truED Alliance made it that much easier on me, financially, to expand my education.
Tell us about your experience with your advisor, instructors, and classmates.
Champlain has a greatly respected reputation in the Vermont community and my experience was overwhelmingly positive in both programs I graduated from. I met so many wonderful classmates from a variety of places around the world. In fact, one of my closest friends was a Vermonter who was stationed in Japan as part of her military assignment. During various courses, I encountered plenty of familiar faces, like fellow coworkers and even some affiliates through the BCBSVT network. It was nice to see so many affiliations from work and the local community that my organization serves.
As for Champlain’s faculty and staff, I had nothing but positive experiences with them as well. My professors were all high-quality educators that are working in the industry and are true subject matter experts. They were always open to answering my questions and were very reachable when I required their input or assistance. Between my advisor and my faculty, I felt supported and always had someone I could turn to for guidance.
I think what I took away most from my experience in the Champlain community is that when I graduated, I didn’t lose my connections. The connections I made at Champlain are connections that I still have today. I continue to talk to many of my former classmates and even a few professors. My network has the potential to be instrumental in helping me advance my career or even just chat about relevant topics happening in my industry. There is always someone I can call from the Champlain community to make sure I get the answers I need. The connections never end. When I graduated in 2020, I knew it was not an ending full of goodbyes, but rather a door to the possibility to stay part of the Champlain community.
What do you do for work?
I’m a clinical coder at BCBSVT. I refer back to what I learned during my health information technology degree program in my career in various ways. My certificate in leadership from my graduate program was especially helpful in shaping me to become a leader at work.
What impact have your courses had on your professional work?
I’ve learned how to relate to people. At Champlain, I regularly communicated with so many people across various time zones and in different countries. There’s a sort of etiquette in doing this successfully, and I think the way my programs were administered helped me master that craft.
Additionally, I credit my time at Champlain to polishing my written communication skills. Whether it was writing an email, crafting a discussion post, or simply reaching out to a classmate, improving my written communication was a huge accomplishment during my college experience and it directly translates back to my work now. I’ve learned how to be a stronger, more effective communicator. My emails are stronger and I actually find myself asking questions more often, as opposed to being a passive listener. I am a big proponent of asking questions and that has propelled my ability to ask questions at work during meetings.
What impact do you see your degrees having on your long-term career path?
While I don’t foresee my new degrees directly impacting my career path, I can confidently say I believe that education is the only thing in life that someone cannot take away from you. Your education stays with you forever. It’s a foundation of knowledge that you can always pull from and utilize in different ways. There was never anything I learned at Champlain that I couldn’t apply to some part of my life or another – both personally and professionally. I envision myself using my learnings in various ways long-term.
What advice would you give to someone considering going back to school at Champlain?
A lot of people make excuses for why they can’t do something in life. But, when you really think about it, most of us are better at managing ourselves and our responsibilities when we’re busy. Look at me – I have four degrees and work full-time and had positive experiences with each program I enrolled in! My busyness ultimately led me to pursue more educational opportunities to become more successful.
I personally believe that going back to school is completely doable. If you set a realistic routine for yourself, you’ll be successful. You can go back to school even if you’re taking care of your family. You can enroll in classes and still work full-time. Whatever is going on in your life, you can make going back to school work as long as you are willing to make the necessary adjustments to fit it into your routine. That may mean it takes five years to finish your degree, but so what? It’s good to have goals and things to work toward. As long as you take the necessary time to do the work and fit it into your life, you will be fine. Stay open-minded about the process and remember that we all have to start somewhere.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your Champlain experience?
My experience at Champlain was truly seamless. Applying was very straightforward and the paperwork I had to complete to enroll was quite minimal. I found the online learning environment to be very convenient. Online learning definitely requires structure, but it was easily achievable. I had a great sense of the resources available to me in the Champlain community and where to request/find information that I needed.
Finally, I feel it’s worth noting that when it comes to learning, age doesn’t matter. I’ve gone back to school multiple times in my life and have found through firsthand experience that people connect no matter what. Learners share a common goal: we want to better ourselves, better our careers, and expand our foundation of knowledge. When you’re an adult learner, all that matters is making a connection within your college community and doing your best to succeed. So, what is holding you back from becoming part of the Champlain learning community of graduates?
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.
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