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By Dermaine Wardrick

The best part of my job as an academic advisor at University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is helping students achieve one of their major life goals―earning a college degree.

Some students arrive at UMUC with college experience, but others embark on their journeys with no formal education since completing high school. My job is to provide students with an honest assessment of the requirements and to encourage and support them during that journey, and I appreciate their excitement when they register for their final classes.

More than half of UMUC’s student body consists of working adults and parents, and many of my students juggle responsibilities of family obligations and careers. I can empathize with them because their circumstances are like my own.

In addition to working at UMUC, I am pursuing my second master’s degree here―an MBA. I am also a husband, the father of four children, two with disabilities. and the grandfather of one.  Despite wearing so many hats, I have been able to manage the load with help from my wife and family.

When I started classes at UMUC, I had completed a degree at Coppin State years earlier.  Conversely, my wife Monique, an Air Force veteran, arrived at UMUC with credits from two other institutions, but no degree.

Monique grew up in some of the toughest neighborhoods in New Orleans, but attended some of the most prestigious magnet schools in the area. Although she did well academically, finances were still a huge problem. Though she went on to do well in the Air Force and in her civilian career as a legal assistant too, Monique still wanted to earn a college degree.

She credits UMUC’s educational construct and quality of instruction with finally arriving at a point just months away from earning her degree in Communications Studies. “A big part of why I chose UMUC,” Monique said, “is the wide array of classes offered, and also the multiple terms provided during semesters. I honestly don’t believe I would be on the road to graduating, and now contemplating graduate school, if it were not for UMUC.”

For Monique, earning her undergraduate degree was a goal that had been delayed for 25 years.  For me, graduate school was the necessary and logical step to align myself with the types of career opportunities I hope to have going forward. This is why, after completing my first post-graduate degree, a Master of Management in Public Relations, I immediately dove back in to pursue my MBA.

In addition to helping us attain our personal desires, our degrees are helping us set an example for our children and other young people in our family.

Monique actually started at UMUC before me and encouraged me to start graduate school. Despite our Hollywood ending, we never planned to graduate at the same time. But after three years of coursework, of swapping out use of the desktop PC in our home office with a MacBook Pro and sacrificing fun times with friends, we are truly excited to finish together.

As for our post-graduation plans, Monique wants to use the corporate communications skills she’s developed since attending UMUC to segue into a career in her firm’s business development department.  She also intends to enroll in graduate school in Fall 2016.

I plan to continue with UMUC, and I have aspirations of pursuing career opportunities in the public relations or marketing realms.

And sometime in the future, Monique and I plan to combine our skills and establish our own public relations and media relations consulting firm, DeeMos Media.