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A Villanova Dean’s Advice for Adults Going Back to School

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Deborah J. Tyksinski, PhD, the dean of Villanova University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) completed all of her degrees while working full-time. She knows a thing or two about balancing school with a family and a forty hour work week. We sat down to ask her how she did it and how other working adults can do it too.

What advice do you have for adults who are juggling families and full-time jobs but want to continue their studies?

My advice to those potential students is to consider how well they might integrate their academic work into their home, work and community lives. Villanova partners with its ambitious students to shape their desired life transitions. By that I mean our courses and programs strive to weave career skills with life skills so that our students’ goals are met in an individual, yet holistic, way.

Many prospective students haven’t been in school for a long time, which can make college courses intimidating. What advice do you have for students who have been out of school for years?

In my experience most students don’t fail to persist because of lack of intellect or talent, but rather because they are not able to relate the course material to their lives. Experienced adults bring a lot of fertile ground upon which to develop their ideas. So the homework and exams are much easier to navigate than they expected. If they can manage a household, operate a business or organize a fundraiser event, they will succeed in managing their learning journey.

You have completed all of your degrees while working, just like students attending Villanova College of Professional Studies. What are two or three important pieces of advice you can offer from that experience?

Studying part-time while working full-time can be a challenge. My advice is to be brutally honest with yourself and accept the fact that this is a journey rather than a destination. I had to learn to pace myself so that I could accommodate the inevitable conflicts among my various responsibilities. Though I wanted to take two courses each semester, it was not always possible to do so. I learned to be honest with myself about upcoming projects and events that would interfere with my ability to focus on my education. My final bit of advice, and perhaps the most important is to make your education a team effort. The support from your family, your friends, even your classmates and professors, can help restore your strength and resolve when you’re feeling especially challenged.

How can Villanova CPS help adult learners build a degree toward their career goals?

CPS offers flexible degree options for adult learners with majors in leadership, administration and management for professionals, information systems, media and technology and general studies. Each major offers a mix of courses that focus on critical thinking skills, applied professional skills and a set of electives that enable the learner to tailor the degree to their interests. I like to say that “Professional” is our middle name, so all of our degree and non-degree options focus on the efficient development of skills and resume-building credentials.

How can applied learning help adult learners reinvent and transform their professional lives?

Applied course topics lend themselves to immediate applicability and enable the student to enhance the personal relevance of each course. Whenever possible, I encourage our students to choose a real work or home issue to work on in class. Since the best way to learn is to teach, we encourage our students to share their work with their colleagues. Having said that, often the biggest impact comes from learning new ways to think about problems and real-world situations. When we expand our frame of reference new solutions begin to emerge. This is the type of transformation that we strive for in the College of Professional Studies.

Learn more about continuing your education at Villanova’s College of Professional Studies by clicking here.