The motivation for Derek Daniel to return to college was simple: no degree, no promotion.
"There was an opportunity that I got passed up for that was a management position," he said. "They said, 'Man, if you had that piece of paper, you'd have it.' I said, 'All right, let's do it. I started my bachelor's degree, I'm going to finish it.'"
Daniel became the first person in his large family to earn a college degree when he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from UTPB's online program in August 2017. Six months later, Daniel earned a promotion to training specialist at the Dallas-based education company where he has worked for six years.
"The business administration degree helps with understanding the different leadership and management styles and how to navigate through types of different behavior and personality styles," he said. "There's no one way to manage or lead somebody. For me, the biggest impact came in that form."
In addition to working a full-time job, Daniel completed the bachelor's degree program while helping his wife, Crystal, raise four daughters -- Addyson (11), Annabella (8), Presley (6) and Loralei (4). He hopes his kids follow his lead and also earn college degrees.
"Even outside of education, just to say that you can do anything that you set your mind to is a good lesson," he said. "When my kids get to the age to go to college and things get tough and challenging, they've been given an example of, 'You can do it if you stay the course and understand your motivation for why you went to school.' Just use that and keep going. There are no excuses from there."
Another bonus of returning to school was some common ground leading to a bonding experience for Daniel with his daughters.
"When they did homework, I used that as time to do homework with them," he said. "It also kept me up to date with what they were doing. I'm pretty good at math, so I could help my oldest daughter with her math. At that age, the kids didn't really understand the concept of an adult learner. It was fun for them."
Originally from Lubbock, Daniel has spent most of his life in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He started working toward a bachelor's degree at Mountain View College, then Northwood University. After some extensive research, Daniel decided that the UTPB online BBA in Management program suited him best.
"The fully online format and the cost were pretty big factors," he said. "Also, UTPB is a school that holds a really good name in Texas, within the UT system. I had a few others I could have looked at, but [UTPB] being in the UT system pushed it over the edge for me."
Because of his previous college experience, Daniel was able to start the program with about 40-45 transferred credit hours.
"I did a couple of online classes at Mountain View," he said. "The adult learner program at Northwood was already in an accelerated format, so I was used to that and had some online experience. The transition to UTPB was pretty seamless. I also have a supportive wife. There were lots of late nights and early mornings."
Daniel enjoyed the leadership courses most in the online BBA in Management curriculum, but the information technology courses were also a pleasant surprise.
"I had a really cool IT professor who created his own animated classroom," Daniel said. "I had never seen anyone else do that. He had characters, so going through the curriculum was like an animated movie. Instead of watching a lecture, this professor has an animated movie going on with real people's faces cut in. It was really neat."
Although Daniel's friends were supportive of his return to college, some marveled at his ability to balance so many things going on in his life.
"They were blown away at the persistence," he said. "It took me a total of 17 years to get this degree, although I wasn't working on it the whole time. Even if there was only one course that I could do in a semester, I was going to do it. I wasn't just going to take off."
Living the Dream
Daniel, an avid fan of working out and Game of Thrones, continually relied on the motivation of missing out on a promotion to help him stay focused on completing the online BBA in Management program.
"You have to know the reason why you're going back, and use that to remind yourself when you hit those points where you don't want to take a course," he said. "Know your 'why' and just keep going. It will come to pass."
Now that Daniel has a degree and some experience to go with it, he eventually plans to enroll in an MBA program and become a performance coach on the executive level.
"I just want to take a nap first," he said. "I'm being really picky with the MBA -- especially with concentrations. I'm really looking at something in data analytics. I think that's where I'm leaning."
In addition to creating more career opportunities, the UTPB bachelor's degree laid a solid foundation for Daniel's transition into an MBA degree program.
"I wouldn't say the bachelor's degree necessarily lines up with my career goal, but it definitely will support it," he said. "Understanding business and how it operates is going to be vital. When you get an undergraduate degree in business, you are learning a lot about strategy and disruption. Being able to communicate that at an executive level is going to be a massive help."
Learn more about the UTPB online BBA in Management program.
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