News & Features

OPTIONS program allows time for personal life and school

By: Anne Shaw Heinrich for the St Louis American

June 1, 2006


Fontbonne OPTIONS graduate Tiffani Howard says the commencement ceremony that took place a few weeks ago was special, but she experienced even more satisfaction on the drive home, when her 10-year-old daughter asked her a question.

"Mom, can I go to Fontbonne someday?" her daughter asked.

Howard's response was typical of a busy, working mother of two who is still reaching for her dreams: "Yes, baby...but let's get through the fourth grade first."

Howard's practical self understands the importance of getting through something one step at a time. In fact, the programs offered by Fontbonne University OPTIONS appealed to her immediately for that reason.

"What I liked about OPTIONS, from the beginning, is that my entire schedule was planned out," she says.

When Howard first tried to get into OPTIONS Gateway, she was denied admission because her grade point average wasn't high enough. Determined to get in, she took some basic coursework at St. Louis Community College and came back to Fontbonne armed with a stronger GPA. That was in August 2002. Gateway was perfect for Howard, who was looking to get a jumpstart toward her bachelor's degree.

The accelerated nature of OPTIONS appealed to Howard for two very important reasons: her young daughters. Motherhood, coupled with the responsibilities of two jobs, has kept Howard with a full plate, but with help from family and employers, she says she's been able to do it. She finished up coursework for OPTIONS' Bachelor of Organizational Studies degree in March of 2006.

"I have had support from everybody from Day One for my schooling," says Howard. "That's what I would tell anyone thinking about going back to school. Make sure you have a support system and yes, you can do this. You are worthy."

Howard's interest in human resources remains strong and she's been able to apply what she's learned in class almost immediately with her two jobs. Howard has been with TLC Vision full-time for five and a half years. The company provides the lasers used for laser eye surgeries. She's also been employed part-time with Enterprise Rent-A-Car for six and a half years.

"Well, for one thing, you become a better writer," says Howard. "And the class projects make you more comfortable speaking in front of others and running meetings. Already, my supervisors are looking to me for leadership roles, and I know it's because of the training I've had with OPTIONS.

Howard has wasted no time figuring out her next goal: a master's degree. She already has her books and will be back on Fontbonne's campus June 13 to get started with her Master of Management coursework.

"Being at Fontbonne has pushed me to want to continue my education," says Howard. "Things are always changing and there's always something new around the corner. I want to be ready for whatever that is."

Fontbonne University OPTIONS programs are designed to accommodate the needs of busy working adults. Groups consist of about 15 to 20 career-minded men and women from a wide variety of backgrounds, providing a wealth of knowledge and backgrounds. Classes meet on the same evening each week. Degree programs are accelerated and begin throughout the year at several convenient locations: Clayton, South County, North County, and Chesterfield.

For more information, call 314-863-2220 or visit the website at

with permission, copyright (2006) St. Louis American / Choices & Careers