Long before Gina Litwin, 39, became a non-traditional student, she knew plenty about beating the odds.
“I have had multiple sclerosis for about 18 years,” Litwin said. “At one point, I was in a wheelchair, and they said I would never walk again. I’m walking fine — everybody is shocked, but I am. The thought in the back of my head is, ‘I have to be able to do something. I don’t want to be a statistic where something happens and I never do anything for the rest of my life.'”
So, Litwin enrolled in the University of Texas of the Permian Basin online Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing program. She is on track to graduate in 2019.
Another motivation for Litwin to return to higher education was her oldest daughter, Gina Saladino, recently graduated from another University of Texas System school, UTA, with a criminal justice degree.
“When she was going to school, there were times when she needed help,” Litwin said. I was sitting there, as a mom, helping her and thought, ‘I could be getting my own degree.’ That was basically the turning point. I thought, ‘You know, why am I just sitting here helping her?’ She’s going into the San Antonio police academy in October.”
Litwin also hopes to inspire her other two children, Andersen (10) and Natasha (8), to pursue higher education as soon as they graduate from high school.
“I certainly hope so,” she said. “My son is in fifth grade. He is already a mathlete who is really into schoolwork. My youngest told me last week she wants to work at McDonald’s and she doesn’t want to do third grade anymore. They’re just different.”
Connecting the Dots
Litwin was born in North Carolina and grew up in a military family, so she moved frequently as a child. She graduated from high school in Huntsville, Alabama, and met her husband, Michael, in Las Vegas before moving to Texas.
She works part time for a pair of nonprofit organizations for youth — The Ferrari Kid, which is similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Optimist Club of San Antonio.
“It’s like I have an administrative job, but obviously you want to pull new people in, so there is also marketing,” she said. “My husband is in real estate. We’re always doing marketing for him, so that’s why I decided to earn this degree. I feel like I’m a basic networker. I’m very social, hands on. When I meet somebody, my mind is immediately like, ‘Who can I connect this person to?’ I’ve been doing that probably 20 years now.”
Litwin also believes marketing is an extremely versatile area of study that will allow her to do most anything.
“A lot of people have it in their heads that marketing is, ‘Oh, they’re going to go do a magazine. They’re going to go be a publicist,'” she said. “Marketing encompasses so many other jobs that you wouldn’t even think about. Marketing can go with nonprofit and everything else.”
Why UTPB Online?
Litwin had a pair of very good reasons she opted to attend UTPB.
“The big driving force was that the cost was lower,” she said. “There also aren’t a lot of colleges that will do 100 percent online, so that was also a determining factor. I’m online all day long.”
That format has made it possible for Litwin to balance all of the things she has going on in her life.
“I absolutely love it,” she said. “Obviously, I’m super busy — I’m all over the place. My younger kids have after-school programs, so I’m driving all day long. Time management is not a problem for me. I know that’s a downfall for a lot of people, but I am able to do it.”
Litwin manages to squeeze in schoolwork any time she has a few minutes to spare.
“I literally have books in the car right now so when I go pick the kids up, I can read while I’m in line,” she said. “It just works for me. I don’t want to be bogged down with a certain time you have to be in class. At night, after everything is quiet and the kids go to sleep, I can sit here and go to class. I don’t have to leave the house; I don’t have to find a babysitter. I’m here, and I can do it all at once.”
Although the English courses have been the hardest ones for her so far, Litwin learned the most from them.
“Crazy enough, I despised English, but I absolutely loved the history classes,” Litwin said. “The English classes were so, so hard for me; I would literally cry I was so aggravated. But, they ended up being some of my best classes in the end. I learned so much. I write for several different blogs and other things for my MS now.”
Litwin has also found some spare time to write a blog about her online education experience with UTPB.
Litwin said her husband has been very supportive of her desire to earn a bachelor’s degree, which has helped her stay focused.
“I wish I could say everyone was supportive, but then you have a lot of people say, ‘Well, what are you actually going to do with that?'” she said. “To me, it’s a big deal.”
Even if it didn’t pertain to her jobs, the marketing degree would have still been the perfect option for Litwin.
“The position you’re looking for doesn’t have to be marketing,” she said. “There are so many other things you can do. Sometimes you look at the degree plans and you’re like, ‘Marketing. I don’t want to do marketing.’ Don’t be overwhelmed by that and think, ‘Oh, I’m going to be stuck in this.’ Just be aware and be realistic with your time.”
Of course, a little extra inspiration never hurts.
“I like gardening and going to state parks,” Litwin said. “I was told I was never going to be able to walk again. Now, if I get the opportunity to go do it, I take advantage of it whenever I can.”
Learn more about the UTPB online BBA in Marketing program.
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