It’s Monday, which means it’s time for another installment of CollegeSurfing’s blog series, From Laid Off to Learning. This week, we profile a woman making the transition from Super Mom to Super Student. For other inspiring stories, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

cropped steph picSometimes life can get in the way of learning, like it did for Stephanie Hale of Chelsea, Michigan. After high school, Hale started her degree at community college, but she then got married and eventually left school to raise a family. She later started a career in sales and marketing, and between growing family obligations and the good fortune of maintaining gainful employment, Hale’s educational plans slipped off her radar.

Hale enrolled in Cleary University in 2005, but it once again proved to be a false start. It wasn’t until she was laid off from a sales and marketing position in February of 2009 that she decided enough was enough: she was going back to school and completing her degree.

“It was just determination,” Hale, 42, says of the thought process behind the decision to make her realize her educational goals. She views a college degree as a key component not only in her career, but in what was becoming an increasingly difficult economy.

“I want to be a contender,” Hale says.

So Hale went back to Cleary in order to seal the deal on her bachelor’s degree in business administration, enrolling first with distance learning classes, then traditional ones on campus. While she thinks that online classes are convenient, Hale has an outgoing and verbal personality, which she credits to her experience in sales, that lends itself better to classroom learning.

Cleary University is not only a good choice for Hale’s business studies, but also in getting her reacquainted to the classroom. “Cleary does a great job of helping anyone understand how to be a college student,” she says, referring to the difficulty that traditional students sometimes have adjusting to college, especially those returning to campus after 20+ years. Cleary offers a class called Academic Planning and Preparation that is a requirement for all students. An organizational class at its core, the course also teaches life skills that help students maintain a healthy balance between life and study, and it’s been invaluable for Hale.

Returning to college is a hard decision to make, and it’s one that is made even harder when a family is involved. Luckily for Hale, three of her children were grown up and out of the house, but her 8-year-old son was still very much at home. When she broke the news about going back to school, he hesitated only slightly before asking, “Oh, what grade?” Now, Hale says that they are able to do their homework together, although her young son often boasts that he can finish his homework a lot more quickly than she can finish hers.

Hale says that while every personality profile test she has ever taken says that she should have a career in sales, she admits that she also likes the prospect of employee training. She, like many other teachers, enjoys the “aha moment” that occurs when students understand the very concept that the teacher is trying to convey.

Of course, there are many sales and marketing opportunities available in the education industry, so Hale has many career options after graduating from Cleary. One thing is for certain, though—her future job will be working for what she considers to be a “noble cause.” She explains that her main purpose is to do something she can feel really good about at the end of the day.

But for now, Hale is just looking to beat an 8-year-old in a homework race.

-Barbara Bellesi

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