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Student Spotlight: Graduating From Champlain College Online & Life After College


Jessie Anderson graduated from Champlain College Online (CCO) with a master’s in Organization Development and Human Relations and a certificate in Positive Organization Development. She currently works as a human resources generalist for the City of Burlington. 

This student spotlight tells the story of her unique motivations, experiences, and accomplishments—in both online education and the real world pre- and post-graduation.

Jessie Anderson’s Background & Motivation

What inspired you to pursue higher education?

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I was inspired to pursue higher education because I was a first-generation college student with the hopes and dreams that education would pave my path to a successful future. I grew up in Monrovia, Liberia, and immigrated to Vermont in 2014 to be with family and further my education. Where I grew up, teenage pregnancy was a threat to young girls' education. I know a lot of people who didn't even finish their high school education due to becoming pregnant. Remembering where I came from and wanting to be a role model for young girls back home, I worked hard to stay in college so they, too, could know they could do the same.

Initially, completing my bachelor's degree was all I was aiming to achieve since many people in my family didn't get this far in their educational journey. After earning my bachelor's, the goal of earning a master's degree seemed more possible. I found a good job out of college that provided me with the financial means to achieve my new goals. This new job also gave me a manager who was deeply invested in my career development. She challenged and encouraged me to think about where I wanted my career to go, and she tried to help me get on that path to building my career.

Why did you choose Champlain College Online to pursue your degree?

I chose Champlain College Online because my current organization, the City of Burlington, is a TruEd partner with the college; employees get discounted tuition, which is fantastic, and the college's programs fit what I was looking for. Also, someone I know at work was working on his master's degree at Champlain when I started my job. He shared good things about the program and how the flexibility works well for him as a working dad with three kids, and he urged me to apply.

Why did you choose to study your specific degree program?

I chose to study Organization Development and Human Relations, with a certificate in Positive Organization Development, because I wanted to attain a degree that would equip me with the skills and knowledge to create more positive institutions in the world and make workplaces better for people to thrive in them. I remember taking my first positive psychology class during my undergrad years at Saint Michael's College and was blown away by what happens when we decide to focus on what is working and creating more of that thing instead of dwelling on challenges or solving programs all the time. At that moment, I knew I wanted to do work that makes organizations better places for people to thrive.

College Journey: Personal & Professional Growth

What is one way you saw yourself grow throughout your online college education?

Throughout my online college education journey, I witnessed a profound evolution within myself, characterized by triumphs over self-doubt and a newfound trust in my capabilities. Every moment invested in the program marked a significant stride in my personal development, and my love for learning was strengthened. I felt challenged in my classes to practice what I preach to others, and since we journaled in most of my courses, I was able to build the habit that has now stuck with me and helps support my well-being. I am confident in my knowledge of organizational change processes and my ability to co-create changes with others that can make a lasting impact. I also gained vital insight into my operating system and can now communicate my strengths and how it helps me show up in the world as my best self.

Was there any part of your journey where you had to adapt?

I found myself constantly adapting throughout the program because I was intentional about bringing what I was learning into my workplace. For example, while in the program, I became the chair of our workplace wellness committee and got a promotion at work. This new responsibility brought new things to learn, more financial independence, and also opportunities to put what I was learning into practice. Amidst the challenges and new opportunities, my unwavering commitment to prioritizing others remained steadfast, anchored in the belief that genuine kindness and compassion are the ultimate benchmarks of achievement. With the right mindset and learning how to navigate change in the program, adapting to what was happening around me wasn't too hard. I also had a great support system at home and work that helped me succeed.

Did you complete any internships throughout your online degree program?

I didn't complete any internships during my online degree since I was working full-time. Still, I used the knowledge and skills I gained in the real world in real time, fostering an environment of continuous learning and personal development. This hands-on approach helped me improve my work and allowed me to expand our employee wellness program in new ways, leading to the creation of an employee newsletter we still utilize today.

What was your favorite part of your online program?

My favorite part of the program were the weekly discussions, group projects, and meeting new people from across the country. It was always great to hear what others were doing, and we helped each other with ideas and seeing possibilities around us. I made good friends I still talk to now, which is pretty cool for an online program. The asynchronous structure of the program also worked well for how I learn best. I was able to plan my coursework around my work and life responsibilities, which made learning fun and less stressful.

Did you have any favorite classes or professors?

My favorite professors during the program were Dr. Lindsey Godwin, Professor Don Haggerty, and Professor Ellen Hewett. The classes I most enjoyed were Advanced Applications of Appreciative Inquiry, Creating Cultures of Wellbeing, Creating Cultures of Continuous Evolutions, Foundations of Positive Organizational Development, and the Human Relations & Organizational Development Capstone course. However, the capstone class was my favorite because I got to bring what I learned in the other courses into my project work. My well-rounded knowledge and input from top leadership in our organization helped me strengthen our current employee wellness program, and the work shifted our culture for the better.

How has Champlain supported you as a student?

Champlain supports me as a student me as a student and now alumni with a network of great mentors and professors, career-advancing events, and opportunities for me to give back to the college and the Burlington community. The work I do now impacts our employees and the greater Burlington community, and it all makes me a better person so I can help others thrive. Having programs like the TruEd partnership and other scholarships makes dreams of attaining a higher education possible for many people, especially those who look like me. As I shared earlier, this accomplishment of attaining a master's degree means a lot to me, my family, and my community back home. During a recent trip to Liberia in March of this year, I was able to speak to students about the importance of staying in school and the power education has to help us be ready for what is yet to come. I still reach out to my professors now, even though I am not a student, and they always help me how they can. It feels great to know that the college still wants me to succeed.

What has been your biggest achievement throughout your online college education?

My most significant achievement throughout my online college education was getting promoted from HR Administrator to HR Generalist while working on my degree due to implementing what I was learning in my courses at our workplace. It has been incredible to witness the transformative impact of positive initiatives I lead and implement continue to reverberate throughout our workplace, creating a ripple effect that opens doors for me and newfound opportunities for our dedicated employees. With this new degree, I have been able to lead my organization to receive its first Gold Excellence in Worksite Wellness Award from the Vermont Governor's Council of Physical Fitness and Sports. For the first time this year, we also received that prestigious gold-level 2023 Cigna Healthy Workforce Designation from Cigna Healthcare. I share all this to show that putting my learning into action and co-creating new people-centered initiatives can create real change for others.

Life After College: Career & Opportunities

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What does it feel like to be graduating college?

It feels remarkable to graduate college and make it this far in my lifelong learning journey. Reflecting on my time at Champlain College, I am proud of myself, my achievements, and the collective growth and learning I experienced. I have become more aware that we all have the potential to achieve the impossible—especially when we support each other—and learning to embrace change gives us the courage to see challenges as possibilities.

What are your plans for life after graduation?

My plan for life after college and becoming a homeowner last year at 24 is to get married this year. Homeownership was never a goal I thought I would achieve at a young age. I am looking forward to my fall Vermont wedding and all that life will throw my way as I continue to work on building my career in positive organizational change and building a life that allows me to experience joy daily. I am very grateful to have found my person at a young age and have their support throughout all our life goals and challenges. It is truly a blessing to have a support system that constantly cheers me on and shows up for me. I will continue to pour the goodness I receive back into others as a small way to make the world a better place.

What career do you want to pursue?

I plan to continue my career in human resources, concentrating on employee well-being and positive organizational change and development. My dream is to become a chief people officer one day and create a Positive Change company that allows me to do this type of work globally.

How has Champlain helped your job search?

I haven't been actively job hunting, but I did attend a virtual student workshop where we learned how to build/optimize our LinkedIn profiles. The workshop was a good networking opportunity, and I got feedback from a professional about my LinkedIn profile, which led me to make new connections on the site. I see what I learned in my courses helping me with future job search processes because I know how to communicate my skills and capabilities better. Also, I will have a network of alums I can contact.

Do you have any advice for students embarking on this journey?

My advice to students is always to appreciate the importance of resilience, hard work, and embracing change. I have made it this far by focusing on the big picture, asking for help when I needed it, leaving my comfort zone, being OK with not always having the correct answers, being unafraid to fail, and not getting lost in the day-to-day challenges. I am naturally hardworking because of where I came from and have experienced what it is like not to have hope for a better tomorrow. Still, my understanding from a young age that good things take time and effort helped me persevere so I could achieve my goals. And they should never forget to shine bright, inspiring others to follow their paths with courage and conviction.

Earn Your Degree With Champlain College Online

When it comes to your passions and future career, furthering your education has the potential to open up a world of possibilities. If you are interested in pursuing an online degree or certificate and exploring accredited online colleges, check out all the programs available at Champlain College Online. Whether you’re seeking an associate, bachelor’s, or post-graduate program, we can offer the educational experience to get you there.

Ready to get started? Get in touch by requesting more information from CCO today.

About the Author

Champlain College Online

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