Written by: 
Jessica DeLeĆ³n
Photography by: 
Ranjani Groth
R

obert Maynard ('15) was stuck.

He had an associate degree in graphic design from Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, but he couldn't land a job that paid more than $8 an hour in 2009's tough economy. The single dad wanted something more for himself and his young son, Seth. So he and UNT counselor Trey Anderson collaborated to figure out a plan.

Maynard would work toward a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree, a program aimed at nontraditional students who have about 45 or more hours of previous college credits. Advising counselors work with students to find classes at convenient times, and students focus on three areas of concentration that will build on their interests and make them more attractive to potential employers.

In Maynard's case, the areas were construction management, emergency planning and criminal justice. For six years, he attended one night class each semester at UNT while working full time. He now works as a crude oil logistics scheduler for Bridger Logistics in Plano.

"The journey was long," he says. "It was tedious. I did have some frustrating times when I wanted to quit, but I stuck it out."

The program -- which was established in the 1970s and is now part of the New College, UNT's newest college -- often attracts military veterans and individuals trying to obtain better jobs like Maynard.

"Our goal is to take students and figure out how the academic experiences they've had can be used toward getting a bachelor's degree," says Peggy Shadduck, faculty director of the applied arts and sciences program.

Hard work, memorable times

Maynard knew he had to be organized to get his degree. He worked with his bosses -- first at a construction firm, then at Peterbilt -- to adjust his schedule so he could come in late and leave early, depending on the class. He met with Anderson each semester to make sure he was taking the right classes. A steer wrestler and team roper, he even completed homework on his laptop while on the road to rodeo events.

Maynard's hard work brought in high grades and invitations from the Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity, Golden Key honor society and others. He also attended football games with Seth and participated in service events, such as collecting school supplies for Teach for America.

"I had many more memorable experiences at UNT than at my first college," he says.

Maynard's six years at the university culminated in his B.A.A.S. degree, which he received in December 2015.

"Graduating was a big accomplishment," he says. "It made me proud to have my son and family there."

Now his son, Seth, just graduated from high school, and Maynard is raising two other boys with his new wife Christina while working with the Bridger Group, which oversees crude oil in Texas, New Mexico and other parts of the U.S.

"Having this degree opened so many doors for me in the workforce," he says.

Taking the next step
La Toya Rowell ('15) (Photo by Ranjani Groth)

Like Maynard, La Toya Rowell ('15) faced a career dilemma.

For 12 years, she worked hard at Comerica Bank in Dallas, advancing from administrative assistant to business affairs coordinator. Career advancement was always top of mind for Rowell. But one thing stood in the way. She only had an associate degree in multimedia design from the Art Institute of Dallas.

"I knew I needed a bachelor's degree to take the next step in my career," she says.

Now Rowell is a national external affairs coordinator for the bank, where she oversees community-related events and programs. She appreciated the flexibility of UNT's B.A.A.S. program, which allowed her to take online courses and build on her associate degree hours to complete the degree in three years.

She went full blast in her classes, graduating cum laude.

"I have the type of personality, if I'm going to make a grade, it's an A," she says. "I didn't sleep for a couple of years."

She took two classes each semester, with concentrations in nonprofit management, volunteer management and public administration. She also earned a volunteer management certification.

"The program gave me a behind-the-scenes look at nonprofits," she says. "I learned how much time and effort it takes for nonprofits to conceptualize, design and plan programs for their communities."

Rowell's achievements also led to her selection as a 2018 fellow in the New Leaders Council, a national program that trains professionals to run for office, manage campaigns, and create startups and networks of thought leaders.

In her current job at Comerica, she spearheads the annual Comerica Gift of Knowledge program, in which Dallas students receive seed money to start a savings account after completing an online financial education program. She also traveled to Detroit for the Spirit of Frida awards, which she helped to plan and coordinate, to celebrate the extraordinary work of Hispanic women who are trailblazers in their field.

"I love my job," she says.

A good fit
Peter Dewing ('08) (Photo by Ranjani Groth)

Peter Dewing ('08) had just left class when he approached his professor, Marcy Haag ('06 Ph.D.).

"You know what, I think I might run for mayor," Dewing, who previously served in the nonprofit sector and the military, told Haag.

"If you want to, do it," responded Haag, a former interim dean in UNT's College of Health and Public Service.

"She encouraged me to run if I was running based on principles, not for other purposes," says Dewing, who at the time was pursuing his B.A.A.S. degree with concentrations in applied economics, marketing and management.

So just a few months later, Dewing ran for mayor of Northlake, a suburb near Denton -- and won. He says the advantage of the B.A.A.S. degree for him was the opportunity to study a variety of subjects rather than just one major.

"The program focused on what I liked," he says. "It was more realistic."

Dewing entered the Marine Corps in 1982 on his 17th birthday, after obtaining his GED. He served in a variety of roles in the military -- from infantryman to company commander -- in locations around the world. At his last station in Cincinnati, he worked extensively with nonprofits and started the Marine Benevolent Association for deployed military families in need of assistance during the Iraq War.

He retired in 2005 and went to work for a logistics company. In 2007, he wanted to earn his bachelor's degree. Dewing had previously earned an associate degree in general studies from Central Texas College, and Anderson worked to see that he received 130 credit hours for his college and military experience. It took Dewing only a year-and-a-half to earn his degree.

As the mayor of Northlake, while still a student, he oversaw the town's growth from rural ranch community to thriving suburb. After graduating from UNT, Dewing attended Southern Methodist University to earn his law degree, helpful for his governmental work.

He still uses lessons, such as negotiation tactics, he learned from the classes he took at UNT and says teachers like Haag, marketing associate professor Charles Blankson and public administration lecturer Leslie Roberts were an invaluable source of support.

"They were very open to students and passionate about what they were teaching," Dewing says. "This program was a good fit for me."

Fortitude and focus
Angela McClure ('08) (Photo courtesy of Fresenius Medical Care North America)

As an executive recruiter, Angela McClure ('08) made good money and was never denied a promotion because she lacked a college degree. Still, she spent three years balancing a full-time job and a family with two young children to get her diploma.

"It was important to me to complete what I started," she says. "I knew that I would be limited on future advancement opportunities without a bachelor's degree."

Now she's the chief experience officer for Waltham, Mass.-based Fresenius Medical Care North America, which provides kidney products and services at 2,400 dialysis facilities around the country.

McClure had previously attended Stephen F. Austin University, but she paused her education after two years for family reasons. She chose UNT because her father -- Richard Charles Smith ('61, '67), a certified public accountant who still works at age 73 -- is an alumnus. And, with the exception of a great-aunt, no other woman in her family had a college degree.

A counselor told her about the B.A.A.S. program, which she chose because it offered flexibility for a variety of career roles and sectors. She took two to three classes each semester in the areas of management, human resources and organizational behavior.

"I had a lot of fortitude, focus and perseverance, and I made sure that I organized my day in such a way that my family came first," McClure says. "While other people were sleeping at night, I was studying and writing papers."

Soon after graduation, she received a call from a recruiter asking her to consider a job with Physiotherapy Associates in Philadelphia. She worked there for four years before going to Fresenius, where she was promoted to chief experience officer, developing strategies to improve patient, employee, physician and customer experience.

"My UNT degree offered me flexibility," McClure says, "and it provided a well-rounded base I used to launch my career."

 

How the B.A.A.S. program works

Many of the students enrolled in UNT's Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences program are nontraditional students who want to obtain their college degrees, and the advising counselors and faculty work with each one to make that happen. Students can transfer previous college credits, as well as obtain credit from military experience. The advising counselors try to figure out the missing pieces and find the courses -- whether traditional, online, evening or weekend -- that fit with a student's schedule.

Say a cosmetologist has an associate degree, but she wants to launch her own business or advance in a corporation. The advising counselors will work with her to come up with three 12-credit-hour concentrations, such as entrepreneurship, basic business administration and communication, so she can earn the B.A.A.S.

"We look at where this person is, where they want to go, and fill that gap so they can earn a bachelor's degree," says Peggy Shadduck, faculty director of the applied arts and sciences program for UNT's New College.

But what if someone attended college 25 years ago?

"We're going to sit down with that person and review transcripts," Shadduck says. "We start with the positive, 'What do you have?' and build from that."

Learn more about UNT's Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Janet Bracken ('14) hadn't been in a classroom for 30 years when she entered her ethics class. "I was scared to death walking into that class, but it melted away in five minutes," she says. Learn how Bracken's love for UNT and community service inspired her to pursue a B.A.A.S. degree and how she received the help she needed to graduate.

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