Where am I?

Student Profile: Nicole Harris

Name: Nicole Harris

Degree Program: OPTIONS BBA Graduate, 2009

Nicole Harris was in her mid 30s, working full time, married with two young children and struggling with the thought of scheduling school into an already full life. She was a success in her career, rising through the ranks with the May Department Stores Company – all without ever having taken a single college course. 

Yet Harris was keenly aware of the importance of higher education and had her sights set on a bachelor’s degree. Her children were a driving factor. “How could I preach the importance of education when I hadn’t done it myself? I wanted to be their role model,” she admitted. The impending merger between May and Federated Department Stores gave her the final push.   

“Once I decide to do something, I do it one hundred percent,” said Harris. So in the fall of 2005, she enrolled with Fontbonne OPTIONS to pursue her bachelor’s of business administration.

A year into her studies, she interviewed with Maritz and got the job, but candidly admits, “They took a big leap of faith hiring me without my degree. If I hadn’t been pursuing my bachelor’s, I can’t imagine things working out the way they did.” 

Not surprisingly, in 2009, Nicole Harris earned her bachelor’s degree, graduating at the top of her class with Latin honors.

Recently, she made a big shift at Maritz into sales and account management. “Earning my degree helped give me the confidence to make the move into sales – something I had always wanted to do. I had the tools from Fontbonne and knew I could do the job.  OPTIONS really sharpened my skills.” 

“And I learned how to think differently. The instructors took us out of our comfort zones and made us question what we believed in so we could consider situations from different perspectives. This totally changed the way I looked at things – personally and professionally.”

Harris was determined to do well but credits two people who helped her succeed.  On the first night of class, her instructor encouraged everyone to set goals and then commit them to paper. “I set mine pretty high – to graduate with honors,” chuckled Harris, who doesn’t shy away from a difficult task. “But I also couldn’t have done it without a really great husband!  He understood the sacrifice we were making. You really need a good support system.” 

What’s her advice to other time-strapped professionals contemplating a degree? “Every person has it in them to do this and you can’t let self doubts and ‘what ifs’ stop you. Sure, it’s hard taking on another commitment, but after the first few months it becomes a part of your day-to-day life.” 

“Take that leap of faith. Push yourself. You’ll definitely get out of it what you put into it.”

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