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A Bachelor of Science Degree Ten Years in the Making

– LEONCIO ALVAREZ, FIU Online. December 3, 2013

An academically minded athlete, Robert Lucky’s path to FIU Online began in 2002. Lucky’s dream of commencement day and obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts with a track in Organizational Communication studies would take years to be realized. Lucky, who is not a Florida resident, chose to stay close to home his freshman year to spend time with his family and to help out. “After one year, I decided to pursue playing basketball and transferred to Palm Beach Community College in 2003,” says Robert Lucky. His experience at Palm Beach Community College “was fantastic,” according to Lucky, who graduated with an Associates Degree in 2005, in General Studies.

Rather than staying in Florida following graduation to continue his education, Lucky received a basketball scholarship to an institute in Chicago. “The experience was not what I expected,” he says with disappointment, adding “I left after the first semester.” He considered giving up on his education entirely. “I spent the next two years traveling from one city to the next, living out of my suitcases and experiencing life,” he recalls.

Fast-forward to the birth of Lucky’s son in 2008. “That milestone is when everything changed, especially in terms of my priorities,” he says with conviction. 

“I was always a hard worker, but no matter how much success I had, I wasn't able to capitalize on it because of not having a degree.”

Lucky was the first to realize that there was always a "glass ceiling" preventing him from taking his career to new heights. After several family members and his fiancée obtained their degrees, he decided that it was his turn.

“I wanted more for my family and most importantly, I wanted my son to be proud of me.”

In 2012, he decided to return to school, but because of work commitments and family obligations, he knew he would not be able to attend traditional classes. “I needed flexibility, so I looked at almost 20 online programs and the curriculum necessary to graduate. I knew FIU Online was the right choice,” he says. FIU customer service facilitated the admissions process from beginning to end. Since Lucky acquired his Associates Degree from a Florida-based college, all of his credits transferred over. “All I had left to complete were courses associated with my major,” he says.

Originally, Lucky was part of the Business Administration program, but changed his major to Communication Arts because that degree fell more in line with the career path he was headed on. “It was a lot of hard work, but it feels amazing to be done! A thousand pounds have been lifted off of my shoulders,” he says. A full-time employee, full-time student and full-time parent, there were times that were challenging. But unlike some of his previous college experiences, many professors were willing to work with him. Lucky could also turn to his student success coach, Kimberly Noy, when guidance was needed.

“With my responsibilities, there were not enough hours in the day to complete everything. If it were not for the support of my success coach, the faculty, the department staff and my family, I probably would have given up. I'm glad I didn't!”

Ten years after obtaining his Associates Degree, he proudly walked across the stage on graduation day and finally obtained his Bachelor of Arts. Although at first, he wasn’t sure about attending the graduation. At 30 years of age, he was hesitant to walk the commencement ceremony with 20-somethings.

“My fiancée convinced me to attend the commencement by reminding me of the countless hours I put into my studies, on top of all of my other responsibilities. Attending the commencement ceremony was worth every second!” he says. “And I was inspired listening to University President, Mark Rosenberg.”

It was also special because of relationships that had a meaningful impact on his success. “I had the best feeling while shaking the hand of my department chair, seeing her for the first time in person, after our many emails and phone conversations throughout my time at FIU,” says Lucky. He also finally met Kimberly Noy, his success coach, for the first time. 

“This was a fantastic experience that we'll definitely remember. My son had the best time taking pictures in front of the panther outside of the Arena. I'm so happy to be a part of the FIU alumni family now.”

A Profile in Motivation, Goal Setting and Success

– LEONCIO ALVAREZ, FIU Online. December 3, 2013

Stephanie Llamas was always focused on reaching the pinnacle of academic success: graduation. On a hopeful sun-filled commencement day in early May, her goal came true. That goal had been propelling her forward since she was young. While still in high school, Llamas recalls driving past Florida International University and picturing herself on campus as a student someday. “It was the only university I applied to,” says Stephanie Llamas, who now proudly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts with a track in Organizational Communication studies. It is the first step, for Llamas, who plans to pursue a Master in Business Management in the near future. 

Prior to her graduation Llamas was filled with excitement. 

“I could not believe that I was finally graduating from FIU; the feeling of accomplishment at completing such an important milestone is indescribable.”

Once on campus as an undergraduate, Llamas ran into some challenges. Despite her best efforts, as a working professional, wife and mom to now 3-year old son Javier (affectionately known as JJ), she found herself falling behind in her coursework. “It became increasingly more difficult to make it to classes on time,” says Llamas. When a counselor advised about FIU Online, she initially took two online classes while also maintaining one class on campus. Llamas began taking courses online in summer of 2013 and became a fully online student by fall of that year. The process, says Llamas, was easy and hassle-free.

“I loved the flexibility that being an online student gave me,” she says, adding, “I was able to study when I wanted without taking time away from my son and my husband.”

Being a fully online student let Llamas balance her work, family life and school.
“It allowed me to become more organized, manage my time more efficiently and it also taught me how to stay focused in different environments,” says Llamas, who currently works at IPC, a company that is owned by Subway franchisees. “My goal is to continue to grow with the company as a services manager assisting franchisees in North America and internationally.

Intentionally designed to be user-friendly for students in the online environment, the syllabus was broken down for every course, which enabled Llamas to plan ahead for weeks when her workload was going to be heavier or for social events and family vacations without having to fall behind on her assignments. “This was one of the highlights of taking online courses,” she says.

 When it was time to declare a major, Llamas met with her advisor because she could not decide what to invest her time, money and focus on. “I took the packet with information on the Communication Arts degree program and the following week I completed the form to declare my major,” she says confidently.

Commencement day was very emotional.

“My family was there and I could see my son waving at me and yelling ‘mommy’ from the audience.”

Her FIU Online student success coach, Kimberly Noy, who Llamas had never met in person was also there. In her role, Noy helps online students with goal setting, time management, personal and career development, stress management and more. Post-graduation, Noy acts as a liaison for alumni seeking customized career coaching. 

“Kimberly was great! She greeted me with a hug and told me she had been cheering for me!  It was a very special moment. I did it all for my son, who I hope one day can see my accomplishment and know that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.”

An FIU Online success coach phrase is, ‘The journey is the reward.’ That statement resonates for this proud graduate, “I truly feel that I made the right decision by becoming an FIU online student,” says Llamas.