James D’Amato completed his Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Studies in May 2017 and completed his Masters in Leadership in 2019. He currently lives in Buffalo, NY.
What were you doing prior to starting at Champlain College Online?
I joined the military when I was 19 years old and when I finished my service, I started taking college classes, but couldn’t really commit myself to my studies. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time, and I was really still deliberating if I wanted to leave the military. Several years went by, and I took classes off and on. I started to become more invested in my career, which I’ve been in for 19 years now. My career has really surpassed any expectations I had for it when it began.
What sparked you to pursue Champlain College Online?
I was in a bit of a transition with my career and in more of a leadership role, and found myself aligned with people who had finished college, and had graduate degrees. That motivated me to focus on my education pursuits and make it a priority for me both personally and professionally.
When I received an email from my boss sharing information about the truED program, I decided to reach out (to CCO) and started the admissions process.
What was your experience at CCO like?
One of the things that had held me back in college was that I didn’t have a lot of direction in a big university setting. I needed someone to help me consider my strengths and goals, and design a path to completing my degree. My advisor Janet partnered with me to talk about credits that I had accumulated in the past, what would transfer, and what I needed to do to finish my degree. Janet was instrumental in that process and made it attainable.
I really have to credit Champlain College for their online format. The Canvas platform is tremendous. They made it very very easy for someone like me to navigate and get my undergraduate degree. I was in my 40s when I started at Champlain Online and I didn’t feel like I was in tune with what was going on in this environment given I had never taken online classes before, but they made it very easy, and I picked it up quickly.
What prompted you to continue on to your graduate degree?
It was a year, maybe a little less when I started thinking about the graduate degree program. I [found] myself in these senior leadership positions competing against people who, in many cases, have advanced degrees. I had a lot of confidence coming off the undergraduate degree that motivated me to pursue a master’s program.
Although it was difficult and I was juggling a job change and moving alongside my coursework, I wouldn’t have changed anything. The sense of pride and fulfillment that came with finishing my graduate degree even surpassed the undergraduate, knowing that not only had I fulfilled the expectations that were placed on me but I had surpassed them and taken it to the next level. It was a huge feeling of personal accomplishment. It very much enhanced my career as well.
How did your time at CCO help you in your career?
The Leadership program perfectly complemented what I was doing at work. I could directly apply concepts from my courses to what I was doing professionally. There were things that I could directly correlate to my job and that was extremely fulfilling. It was very motivating because it really inspired me to ask myself, “How could I do this better? How could I become a better leader?” using the theoretical leadership concepts I was learning and writing about and talking about and sharing with my classmates and other leaders from all over the world.
What is your advice for anyone who is thinking about starting classes?
I wish I had known back then what I know now, I would have done it much sooner. You can do this. I didn’t take the easy path to a college degree. Despite whatever challenges you have in your life, it’s manageable. It’s cost effective, and it will make a huge difference for you personally and professionally. If you think you can’t, just look at my situation, and I think you’ll find that you can. And, I will help you do it!
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