It’s Never Too Late to Return to College

Kristine SmootKristine Smoot possessed all the attributes of a successful job candidate – she had 20-plus years of experience in sales and marketing, and served as president of her own company. But when a tough economy sent her back to the job market, she discovered a void in her resume.

“When I began sending my resume to potential employers, I couldn’t get it past their electronic sorters because I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree,” Smoot said. “That’s when I decided to go back to college.”

At age 42, Smoot enrolled in the Reach Higher Adult Degree Completion Program at RSU, working toward a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Organizational Leadership. The degree program, which is available completely online in an accelerated format, was developed for working adults who began college but didn’t finish.

When she was younger, Smoot completed three years at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Like many college students, life intervened and she wasn’t able to finish her degree. “I had some financial obligations so I left school and began working,” she said.

She spent most her adult life working in sales before founding a successful company with her husband. The company, Fit Tech, installed commercial-grade fitness equipment at health centers in a 14-state area. Then the recession changed everything.

“Health clubs, which are mostly small businesses, began to have a difficult time securing financing,” she said. “So they postponed buying new equipment.”

After a productive and prosperous career, Smoot found herself back in the job market. But she was passed up for several good positions because she lacked a degree.

“It was pretty disheartening,” she recalled. “I had 20 years of sales and management experience and was applying for positions that required two to five years of experience.”

So she made the difficult decision of returning to college. She researched several online degree programs and found the most suitable program right in her own backyard.

“I live in Claremore and was surprised to find the degree I needed right here,” she said.

She began taking classes at RSU last spring, and as luck would have it, was hired two weeks later as an account manager at Cox Communications in Tulsa.

“So now, I work full-time and pursue my studies online during evenings and weekends.”

To qualify for the program, students must be 21 years of age or above and have completed at least 72 hours of college credit with a minimum grade point average of 2.0. Classes toward the degree are offered in five convenient, eight-week “mini-semesters” each year.

The degree is part of the Reach Higher program, a statewide initiative to increase the number of state residents who have earned bachelor’s degrees, coordinated by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

The broad-based degree prepares students for a wide variety of careers including education, government, corporate and non-profit environments.