Gary Starr, a 34 year old father from Marion, Indiana, is a busy man. He and his wife have 6 beautiful children, aged from 2 to 10 years old. Between working, parenting, and coaching, Gary doesn’t have much time to spare, so we caught up with him at a t-ball game around the 4th of July Holiday.
Gary graduated High School back in 1996; Carrington College California was his first college experience. He started the online Business program in August 2010 and graduated in April 2012 with an associate degree.
He wanted to study a degree that could give him a solid basis on which to build his family’s future. Gary chose the online Business program at Carrington because he believed it could give him the firm foundation he was looking for.
“I’ve always had an interest in business. I’d like to be promoted in my current company, and I’d like to have the skills to maybe open up my own business one day. I figured that this program would be a good way to learn all the different aspects of business, instead of focusing directly on a specific field.”
It’s clear from our conversation that Gary put a lot of thought into selecting an education that would match both his ambitions and lifestyle.
“In High School I took 3 years of accounting, but I wanted to study a degree program that would give me a little bit of everything. My plan going in was that if I discovered I liked one particular subject, like Finance or HR, I would move forward after graduation and continue my education in that field.”
Gary wanted to find a program that could help him meet his education goals and ambitions. But he also wanted a program that was flexible enough to allow him to also continue a normal family life, meeting his obligations to his wife and kids, and enabling him to still work 40-50 hours a week.
“I coach football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and this past year I was helping my son with wrestling. The reason I chose Carrington was unlike other online programs, I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with 5 or 6 courses a semester, I only had to worry about 1 or 2 courses over a 6 week period. It offered me the right kind of balance. That’s not to say it was easy, but I didn’t have to worry about studying for 5 or 6 tests at a time. I was able to spend time with the family, take a vacation, coach football, go camping and not have to worry about falling behind with my school work.”
Adjusting to online study was not easy for Gary because in a classroom environment you have a teacher sitting out front, trying to motivate students and get them involved. As an online student you have to self-motivate and make sure you have a support network to help you. The difficulty he found when he started the program was establishing what he called ‘my time’.
“I won’t lie to you – it was difficult. I didn’t know when I would find ‘my time’. I’d want to play with the kids, or something would come on TV that I’d want to watch, and my wife would say to me ‘don’t you have school work that you should be doing?’ “
Gary’s wife is a perfect example of why it’s so important for students to have a support system while studying a college program; someone who can provide motivation, or a kick in the pants when necessary!
“I have to thank my wife because she was very supportive of me; she kept me on the right track. She would say to me ‘you make sure the kids do their homework when they get off the bus, but you don’t do yours!’ What could I say to that? She was like my teacher – sitting there motivating me to get it done.”
Gary has his career planned out, which is something we encourage all our students to do. A career plan gives you goals to strive for and Gary’s immediate goal is to progress within his current role. Although his choice to go back to school was a purely independent decision, the company was supportive of his decision to further his education. They even gave him some personal time for his finals.
“I work for a Fortune 500 company. I’ve worked for them for nearly 5 years, and I’ve done pretty much every job in the distribution center. They are expanding rapidly; they want to double their size in the next 10 years and the positions are going to be there. I’m looking at the next level now I have my degree – Do I want to be a supervisor? Or do I want to go into the front office in HR, or accounting? By getting this degree I’ve put myself in a position to grow with the company.”
When thinking about a career plan it’s always good to break it down into bite-size chunks. First focus on the next 3 years and take it from there; 3 years is short enough for your goals to be attainable and measurable, but long enough to allow you to achieve something on the path to your long-term plan.
“In 3 years I’d like to be a supervisor and working on my next degree. If I decide to stay with Business I want to be working on my bachelor’s; if I decide to spin off and focus on a particular business related course, then I want to be working on another associate degree. I’m leaning toward doing another associate degree, probably in Accounting or Finance as I’ve always loved math, and then continuing one of them onto a bachelor’s degree in the future.”
Aside from the technical skills and soft business skills that he picked up on the program, Gary discovered something very important about himself during his time at Carrington College California, something that could benefit him in his professional life moving forward.
“I’ve always been very observant, very hands-on when it comes to training, and an outside-the-box thinker. I always try to come up with ways to do things better. But I was the type who would say – ‘I know I’m right – don’t tell me no!’ – I would sit there and argue with someone, even my manager at work.
Carrington taught me that I needed to listen more, and it helped me to improve my verbal skills. I don’t get so aggressive when I get into conversations now. I’ve learned to think before I speak a little more – to word things the right way so people don’t think I’m coming after them with a confrontational attitude.”
When I joked that those skills might benefit him at home, Gary proved his new diplomacy skills…
“At home I let my wife do all the talking!”
Thanks for your time Gary, and good luck with your continuing education and your future career.
For comprehensive consumer information on our online Business program, please visit carrington.edu/online/business-degree/