The Pioneer Post

The Pioneer Post is a resource for online students that provides tips and information about distance education.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Jeff Marenda
Jeff Marenda can chrome almost anything. He’s spent the past 26 years working in the plating industry, the last 16 in chrome. He supervises a staff of 25 employees that plates parts for varied industries, including Harley-Davidson, Inc. For this motorcycle and car enthusiast, who purchased his first motorcycle at age 12, the work is a good fit.

Jeff values completing what he starts, however long it may take – including his education. Although he left UW-Platteville in 1985 after his freshman year, he returned as a distance education student in 2011 and graduated with his bachelor’s degree in May.

“As the years go by and life takes its course, it makes it more difficult to go back to school. At this age, you’ve got your life established,” Jeff said.

In the 1990s, Jeff completed an associate’s degree from UW-Waukesha and 38 business credits from Marion College. He was close to completing a bachelor’s degree, and his boss nudged him toward it. “My boss knew not having completed the degree was a monkey on my back, and told me he knew I could do it.”

Jeff was also motivated by his mom. Although she never pressured him to complete his education, he knew it would make her happy. “The number one thing that kept me going at the end was that I wanted to surprise my mom. I wanted to see the expression on her face when I told her I’ve graduated.”

Jeff chose to complete his business administration degree via the print-based option, as it allowed greater flexibility than the online programs.

“The print format really appealed to me because it allowed me to work at my own pace. If things were crazy at work, I could back off school. When I had more time, I could hit the books harder,” Jeff said. “The disadvantage is that you basically have to teach yourself the material without the benefit of in-class lectures.”

But Jeff found the instructors helpful and quick to respond. “The teachers were awesome. I got responses the same day. It blew me away how responsive the instructors were!”

During the application process, Jeff chose to prepare and submit portfolios of his work, hoping to earn course credit based on his life/work experience. “It was a lot of work, but to me it was well worth it because it was much more cost effective and saved time. It took me about a month to do each portfolio.”

Returning to school wasn’t easy. “The biggest challenge was getting back into it. The last time I took accounting was 15 years ago. My first exam score was not very good, and I was a bit discouraged and thought ‘how am I going to get through this?’ It was tough, but I buckled down and kept at it and the scores kept getting better and I ended up with a B in the class. I told myself, ’I’ve come this far already and I can’t stop. I can get through this.’ I tried harder.”
                                                                                                                             - Denise LaBudda


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