News & Features

Learning for the sake of learning with OPTIONS

Independent News

December 2008

by Anne Shaw Heinrich

Blackjack resident Charlene Sowell had been considering going back to school for her master’s degree when she heard a commercial on the radio about Fontbonne University OPTIONS. She heard the same commercial again later in the day and got online to find out more about the program.

“I went to an informational meeting and started school within two weeks,” says Sowell, who is enrolled the OPTIONS Master of Management (MM) program.

Sowell earned her bachelor’s degree the traditional way, right out of high school, graduating from UMSL in 1981. She has worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis for 29 years, holding positions in research and data analysis before landing in her current management role in information technology.

“When I was in school the first time, the objectives were different,” she says. “I was trying to get a degree so I could get my first job. This time around, I already have a job, and I’m in management. I’m strictly here for the learning. My first OPTIONS instructor pointed out to us that knowledge is power. I’d agree with that. These courses and my work experiences are enabling me to tie everything together, to see how all of the pieces fit together.”

Sowell says coming to class armed with her work experience is not only helpful, but enjoyable.

“I have examples, real experiences from my work day that make the textbook come to life,” she says.

Fontbonne OPTIONS is designed specifically to accommodate the needs of busy, working adults with convenient, practical and accelerated undergraduate and graduate degree programs. One of the features that Sowell and many other OPTIONS students appreciate is the same-night-each-week format.

“Tuesdays is a good night for me to be in school,” she says. “I like the individual work, but I also enjoy the study teams and hearing about what other working adults are doing. And taking once course at a time really allows you to be focused on what you are learning.”

Sowell has two grown children who are also going back to school, and an 18-year-old who will start college next year.

“We’ll be a family of students for awhile,” she says. “I’m doing this because I want to be even better at what I’m doing and I’m certain that having a degree from Fontbonne OPTIONS will help me do that.”

Sowell anticipates graduating in April 2010.

Since 1991, more than 3,600 adults have earned degrees through the OPTIONS program. With its main campus located in Clayton, Fontbonne University has also established OPTIONS sites in North County, South County, Chesterfield, Downtown and Fenton. A new, adult learning center will open in Brentwood in 2009.

For more information, call 314-863-2220 or visit

With permission, copyright (2008), The Independent News