This is a guest blog post from Petty Ishak-Bernard, a recent Kettering University graduate, reflecting on completing her degree at age 49.
Certainly, I am not the first Kettering University student who earned a degree at age 49, and most definitely will not be the last.
But as I walked toward the stage on June 9, 2012, to receive my diploma for MSc in Manufacturing Operation (MSMO) I knew that it won’t be the end of my educational journey. A memory of my self-taught dad who never stopped learning until he was physically unable came to mind; he was my role model. Appreciation goes to my supportive husband and my two children, my inspiration and driving force, who always believe in me. Most importantly, it would have never happened without the Distance Learning program and grad staff at Kettering University.
I had my undergrad degree in Chemical Engineering from Wayne State University in 1987 and started my career in the automotive industry to survive a divorce after completing the Machinist Training program at Focus Hope. I joined GM in 1997 as a general assembly operator at the Detroit/Hamtramck plant (the best training any engineers would ever want to have!), left the company to work at an E-Coat facility in 1998 as Quality Systems Supervisor that gave me the experience engineering and quality in the auto industry, and came back to GM in 2000 as Supplier Quality Engineer (SQE) where I was involved in several vehicle launches (including Escalade, CTS, Camaro, Volt and ATS) as Launch SQE and Advance Planning Quality Part SQE in Michigan, Mexico, Canada and China in various assignments.
Throughout my career at GM I had the opportunities to take non-degree courses and earned Certifications in Red-X Journeyman (problem solving methods), Strategic Management and Global Automotive Technology Leadership from various universities that GM has joint-venture with but had no confidence in committing to any graduate degree programs. My demanding career and being a single mom were some of the excuses I gave myself. In 2008, at 45, as my youngest child was getting ready for college and with my husband’s encouragement (I married my best friend in 2005), I took the opportunity and enrolled in the MSMO Distance Learning program at Kettering University. It is an online program that catered to individuals like me with busy schedules and a million excuses.
The Graduate Office at Kettering made the admission and my whole learning process easy. Communications are done primarily via e-mails. The staff, particularly Dyan Robinson, was responsive, knowledgeable and personable in assisting me with all my inquiries throughout my years at Kettering; from helping with registration for classes, textbook and class materials, getting in touch with professors to graduation. The office is the backbone for the success of the program, and the staff did an excellent job.
Classes were delivered effectively and conveniently. I could listen to lectures any time, any day, from anywhere in the world. I had taken my classes, did my assignment and took exams in the comfort of my home, in the hotel rooms around the world, and even in my dad’s hospital room in Jakarta, Indonesia. The IT at Kettering is compatible with other online classes I had taken from other big institutions; the staffs are equally helpful and responsive.
The professors were highly qualified individuals whom I never met in person but they were accessible and each one communicated to the students very effectively. Most of MSMO instructors have had real-world experience so the program was not only tailored to meet auto industry’s need but also applicable to other manufacturing and service industries’ applications. The class structures were well organized, expectations were clear and assignments were designed to enhance the understanding of material learned but achievable in terms of content as well time for completion. Tests were purposeful which reflected the proficiency of material learned and fair.
I found the knowledge I learned in the program improved my job performance as an SQE and continuing to do so as GM Purchasing’s Buyer. I believe that learning is a life-long journey and one can never be too old or too late to earn any degrees. Recently, I took another opportunity to enroll in dual MBA program at Indiana University. Distance Learning at Kettering University had made it all possible for me to achieve my educational and career goals, one class at a time.