Jonathan Dion is a Champlain College Online student studying business management. He is expected to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in May 2022.
What was your motivation for going back to school?
When I was 19 years old, I tried college for the first time. I ended up having to drop out due to some personal family matters and started working full-time from there. Shortly thereafter, I welcomed my first child and then had my second child soon after. My wife and I were living paycheck to paycheck, and unfortunately, we weren’t raising our growing family in the most ideal living situation. I wanted a better life for my family, so I started to think long and hard about where I could take my career and how to get there.
At age 26, I ended up going back to school at Champlain College Online. At the time, I was working at Comcast and a Champlain representative gave our team a presentation on the partnership Comcast had with Champlain through the truED Program. I had never heard of Champlain before, but I learned that I could save some money through this partnership, so I ended up enrolling in the business management bachelor’s degree program. I knew I wanted to start a career in the field of business, so this program seemed like a great way to do that.
Tell us about your experience with your advisor, instructors, and/or classmates.
The Champlain community has been great to me so far. I’ve had a few advisors since I started the program three years ago, but they have all been very helpful in their own ways. My initial advisor worked with me to map out the first four semesters of my program, which helped me structure my schedule as a full-time worker and full-time dad. A few years into my program, I decided to up my course load. I now take two classes per term (four per semester), which means I’m currently a full-time worker, full-time student, and full-time dad.
In addition to the advising team, I have to give a shoutout to a couple of my professors. Dr. Orbinati, in particular, is amazing. He worked with me one-on-one to help me figure out what I actually wanted to do with a degree in business management. I emailed him some of the things I was looking for in a job – the ability to work independently and in a group, careers in nonprofit fields, and my desire to see a tangible end result in my work – just to name a few.
Dr. Orbinati ended up recommending that I pursue a career in project management. This realization inspired me to become a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). I went through the Project Management Institute (PMI), which is the gold standard for CAPM exams, and sat for the exam – which takes up to three hours and covers 10 core areas of knowledge. Dr. Orbinati was the one who encouraged me to take the exam because in the field of project management, if you don’t have up to three years of relevant work experience then you won’t get your foot in the door. Becoming a CAPM ends up being the equivalent of entry-level work experience, which will hopefully get me into a project management role faster.
It took me one and a half years to study for the exam. After six months of studying, I took the exam for the first time in June 2020 but did not pass. I then decided to take a semester off from school to study harder and recently passed the exam in April 2021. I now have the title CAPM on my resume, which is a huge accomplishment.
In addition to Dr. Orbanati, I also want to acknowledge Professor Denyse Perry. Professor Perry taught a course in conflict management that especially resonated with me. I learned a lot from her and she went on to mentor me a bit as well. I owe a lot of my college success so far, and my newfound career path, to Dr. Orbanati and Professor Perry.
What, in your opinion, makes Champlain unique?
Champlain is unique for a few reasons. For starters, I really appreciate the way the semesters are structured into two terms of seven-week accelerated classes. This fast-paced structure keeps me on track to graduate in a timely manner while also giving me the time and space I need to study and complete my coursework.
Another thing that really separates Champlain apart from other colleges is how superior the customer service is. My wife went back to college a year ago to a school local to us here in Connecticut and the customer service she has experienced so far with her advisor and the financial aid office has been pretty poor. I tried to help her as best I could, but Champlain has never given me any problems like her school has given her. Champlain’s advising team and the financial aid office each offered me really great customer service and assistance, which has made my experience really seamless so far.
Everyone here at Champlain is so respectful and they genuinely want to help. I believe that because I am an adult, a parent, a homeowner, and a full-time employee – much like all of the faculty here – there’s this mutual respect we share. We’re all adults here to get the job done.
Finally, I believe the flexibility I have at Champlain is what has made my college career so successful so far. If I didn’t have the flexibility that I do now, I’m confident I would have flunked out my first year. Being an online student means I can wake up at 2 a.m. to complete my work, if I want. Since I work all day and have kids, the flexibility to log in and complete my work at whatever time is best for me has been really helpful. As long as I complete my work by the deadline, I have complete control over my schedule.
What do you do for work?
Currently, I am an account manager for TTM Technologies, Inc. – the world’s largest circuit board manufacturer. Our primary customers are aerospace and defense military companies. Once I complete my bachelor’s degree and start working in a project management career, I’d like to work my way up to someday become a project management professional (PMP). I won’t reach that milestone until I have between five and 10 years of experience in the field, but it’s definitely one of my long-term goals. I’d also really love to work for a nonprofit, like Habitat for Humanity. I want to find a nonprofit company where I can help people – it’s a really important career goal of mine.
How do your courses relate to your work?
As an account manager, I currently work in a high-level position. Many people assume my position is purely a customer service role, but it’s much more than that. I delegate and manage the needs of my accounts in order to help them place orders, ensure they have what they need, and that their orders arrive on time. I am constantly emailing clients, hopping on conference calls, and working with people who run multimillion-dollar companies.
I use the skills and knowledge I’ve learned so far in business management often in my current position. Understanding how to manage a business, work in a leadership role, communicate effectively, and resolve conflict effectively are all important expertise I’ve learned at Champlain that regularly impact my work. My education has helped me understand how businesses operate and how to create value for the accounts I manage.
What advice would you give to someone considering going back to school at Champlain?
I firmly believe that adults going back to school should have a solid understanding of their desired career path. When I went back to school, I knew I wanted to work in the realm of business, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the degree I was working to earn. Don’t do what I did. Start at Champlain with an idea of what you want. Take the time to break down career paths that interest you. Think beyond what degree you want to get and consider how you’re actually going to use it. Know your career, not just your degree.
I also encourage adult learners to manage their time effectively. The coursework at Champlain is very challenging and the programs can be difficult. Time management is everything if you want to be successful. It’s hard to manage your time if you don’t have structure, so really map everything out to stay on track. If you give yourself a structured schedule to follow, you’ll be successful in completing your coursework and getting to the finish line.
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