For Michelle Stoltz, a Master’s Degree is Key to Expanding Her Personal Coaching Business
Michelle Stoltz spent the early part of her career as teacher, having earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She suddenly had to give that up when her husband’s injuries, sustained during his military tours in Iraq, required her to take on full-time caregiving duties.
While on active duty with the Army, Michelle’s husband sustained compounded trauma. He is healing from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but also dealing with a traumatic brain injury and chronic pain associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an inflammatory auto-immune disease believed to be associated with the anthrax vaccination.
Michelle’s caregiving responsibilities can be all-consuming, requiring routine and organization. She oversees her husband’s medication, mood management, advocacy, scheduling and appointments with primary and specialty care providers, as well as daily support to ensure he stays physically and mentally active. After years of care, she is hopeful these established routines have helped improve their quality of life.
“We find ourselves in a solid and stable routine that we strive hard to maintain because we’ve seen the benefit in keeping a structured life,” she said.
That routine includes the small hobby farm Michelle and her husband operate in Florida, where they settled to be near both their families. “We live on five acres about 20 minutes from town, which provides my husband the quiet, tranquil space that helps support his healing,” she said. “The farm creates a sense of purpose for my husband, now a stay-at-home-dad.”
When not working on the farm, Michelle runs her own life and financial coaching practice, Complete Life Coaching 365. She also volunteers with several organizations that serve the veteran community. And she will begin the Master of Management and Interdisciplinary Studies program at University of Maryland Global Campus in August.
Michelle is one of this year’s eight Pillars of Strength Scholarship recipients. She believes a master’s degree will give her the credentials she needs to expand her business and to move into a leadership role with an organization serving veterans.
Michelle enjoys giving back. She started volunteering while her husband was still an active duty servicemember. Once she switched to full-time caregiving, she started leading a support group for other military caregivers. That, in turn, led her to facilitate workshops through the Veterans Administration.
Reflecting on how she might advise others in her situation, Michelle said it’s important to take time to breathe. “After that, it’s really about prioritizing the different responsibilities we have, and so many caregivers are in the younger age bracket, so it makes it challenging.”
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of her journey in caregiving was to educate herself on her husband’s conditions. “That was a game changer,” she said. “In the beginning I had no idea what we were dealing with and then I became really active in his care.”
Through it all, Michelle learned a lot about herself and what she is capable of. She discovered a tenacity, steadfastness and resilience that she expects to help her as she embarks on her master’s degree program—and a future as a leader helping serve the veteran community, a goal that is important to her.