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Real jobs, real grads—how online learning helped me achieve my goal

by Monica Smith

Oct 07, 2021, 3:00 PM.

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Fully online students explain how their degrees provided them with the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to level up in their careers.

While knowledge, skills and abilities are accumulated over a lifetime, many times, a degree is necessary to open doors to a dream job. This is the case for several FIU alumni who share their thoughts on why they decided online learning would be the best route toward their career goals. From hospitality to education, engineering to communications, the following alumni discuss their reasons and experiences within their programs.

Culinary arts educator, Chicago Public Schools

Samantha Jones ’21, completed the online Executive Master of Science in Hospitality Management because she loves teaching the next generation culinary skills to help open their minds and to see opportunities in the field. 

“I chose the online executive hospitality management program because of its rankings, price and reputation. It would also allow me the flexibility to continue working in Chicago to teach 15- to 18-year-olds professional kitchen skills,” says Jones. “I was surprised that with online learning, you can develop very close relationships with classmates, and I enjoyed and learned a lot from the diversity of perspectives and experiences offered.”

High School Math Teacher, Palm Beach County Public Schools

For Virginia Santoni De Arguelles ’21, going back for her master’s degree was a matter of conviction. She saw something needed in her field and decided that an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction: Curriculum Development Track, fully online, would help her address the deficits while she continued working in Palm Beach.

“I noticed there was a huge gap in student learning. I chose FIU because of the concentration of the program and prestige,” she states. “The support and check-ins from the professors were wonderful and I feel prepared to work toward my goal of working with the Department of Education in Florida to make curriculum more real and useful.”

Manager, FIU Academic Support Services, Academic and Career Success

Already working at FIU, Maria Walker ’20, knew that pursuing her Master of Science in Higher Education Administration completely online would offer the greatest opportunity for advancement and she could study on her own time, asynchronously.

“I wanted to become a better professional in higher education. I felt supported in the program and it was a lot more manageable than I thought it would be. Having taken courses on campus, I found it was the same experience, just online,” offers Walker. “Online learning taught me how to manage my time so much better. FIU offered the most holistic approach and offered all the things you need to know when you're working in higher ed.”

Director, Digital Strategy at Harvard Kennedy School

Taking the next logical step in her communications career, Simone Worsdale  ’10, ’16, decided to complete her Master of Science in Mass Communication: Global Strategic Communications, 100 percent online, to learn even more in her field while she continued working.

“The mass communication master’s degree in global strategic communications was rigorous, but I liked the curriculum and support. I learned the skills needed to create communication plans and I made long-lasting connections with my classmates and faculty—they are resources I know I can use throughout my career,” she recounts.

Senior Associate/Project Manager, Transportation, Stantec Consulting Services, Inc.

Looking to get ahead, Ross Shillingford ’20 completed his Master of Science in Engineering Management to open opportunities for advancement.

“I chose FIU because the fully online program is affordable, highly ranked, well-known, accredited and many of my colleagues are FIU graduates—that was reassuring,” notes Shillingford. “The program was fast and challenging but offered many applicable tools such as those for online collaboration and new skills like marketing management.”

He notes that he liked the flexibility of the program to take as little or as many classes as he wanted each semester.

FIU Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Communication

As a new mom, Paula Powell ’16 knew she’d need a flexible program through online learning, so after looking at several options, she chose the M.S. Mass Communication: Global Strategic Communications.

“I did my research about the institution. The school had a strong network of partnerships in the industry and this is what attracted me to the program,” she shares. “The program was exceptional as there wasn’t just one thing that I liked. The faculty was knowledgeable, and I made connections that will last a lifetime.”

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