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We Spoke To a Commencement Speaker about Work/Life Balance. Here’s her Advice.

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Maintaining a work/life balance is a challenge we all face, but maintaining a work/life balance when you have a full-time job, a family and you’re a full-time student is a challenge that might sound impossible. However, Karen Worsnup, the 2016 commencement speaker and alumna of Villanova University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) is here to tell you that it’s not. It’s about keeping your eye on the prize and efficiently managing your time.

What made you decide to start studying at Villanova College of Professional Studies (CPS)?

I received my associate’s degree from Delaware County Community College in 2003. I had started working on my bachelor’s degree when I was younger, and it was always a goal of mine to finish my degree. But then life got a little more complicated, though in all good ways. I started working, got married and moved to Maryland, and going back to school fell off my radar until I moved back to Pennsylvania in 2011. I had gotten a job at Vanguard, but I was working as a site manager and it wasn’t my dream job. I really wanted to be a project manager, so I started looking into courses that could help reshape my career trajectory and the project management classes at Villanova were what first piqued my interest. Additionally, it’s a nationally renowned institution and I knew a degree from Villanova would ultimately help my career.

How long had you been out of school before going back to school? What was that transition like?

It was about a nine year gap. I finished my associate’s degree in 2003 and I didn’t go back to school until 2012. The biggest adjustment was moving back into a classroom. I was working full-time so I had to get used to working a full day then sitting in a classroom until 9:00 or 9:30, two nights each week. It was definitely a different change of pace from the online classes I had taken through another institution and weeknights spent at home with my family. However, it was a change worth making and Villanova makes it easy because students can take courses at their own pace to fit their busy personal and professional schedules.

How was going back to school a challenge? How was it rewarding?

The first challenge was that I’m someone who has to study really hard to get good grades – I’ve never been able to coast by in school. I’m also a little bit of a perfectionist and have a Type A personality, so if I’m going to do something, I have to do it right and do it well. That meant I needed to find ways to put the time in.

The reward was the usefulness of what I was learning. Since I was working while I was in school, I was able to take what I learned in the classroom and apply it at my job when I went to work the next day. I also have a very supportive family and it was rewarding to see the impact it had on my kids. I’d be studying at the kitchen table and they’d say things like, “Good job, Mom. We’re proud of you.” I hope earning my degree showed my kids that they can take on any challenge and still reach their goals, however lofty they may seem.

What would you say to someone who thinks they can’t go back to school because they aren’t able to manage school, work and their personal life? How did you juggle your personal, professional and educational obligations? 

I would say it’s a temporary adjustment for a long-term gain. Time management is key and it’s important to stay focused on the end goal.

I learned to balance school with the other things in my life, like birthdays and other family events. If I felt like I was missing out on something, I just reminded myself that I would have time for all of it in four years.

I also had a really great boss who was flexible enough to say “go study” if I had a test or needed to work on a project. He knew I was working toward advancing myself for the greater good. Going to school while you’re working shows current and prospective employers that you have drive and ambition. I actually got promoted while I was in school because it proved to my boss that I was an achiever. It also shows credibility and reliability on a resume.

How did your education help you in your career? Are there any specific skills or knowledge that you obtained at Villanova that you feel set you apart from others in your field?

More than anything, it showed that I had perseverance. My education was also a great opportunity for collaboration and exposure to technology I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Programming classes were a real challenge – because I’m not a programmer – but building websites and learning to code helped me tremendously. Going back to school at Villanova and being part of the College of Professional Studies allowed me to interact with students and colleagues who were in similar situations of working while going to school. The Villanova alumni network is exceptional and those connections are lifelong. 

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