When Autumn Albright, 33, first enrolled at American InterContinental University (AIU) Online for an associate’s degree, she was a single mom with three kids, working full-time and feeling burned out in her job. Today, she's earned three online business degrees at AIU - an Associate of Business Administration (2010), a Bachelor of Business Administration with a Marketing concentration (2011) and a Master of Business Administration with a Marketing concentration (2012). She’s currently working as a marketing and sales coordinator at The Citizens Banking Company in Sandusky, Ohio. Her next goal: to become a vice president.
We spoke with Albright about how she came to attend AIU, what kept her from stopping when the going got tough and how studying online contributed to her success.
What were you doing before you attended AIU?
I just went through a divorce and I had to find a job that was better than what I had. I worked at a technology firm … I did a lot of sales support and telemarketing. I fell in love with marketing and thought, "This is what I want to do. But I was getting burned out with telemarketing. I just wanted more and to advance. I wanted to get a degree. One of the women I worked with went to AIU and told me about it.
Have your degrees helped you advance in your career?
My degrees got me the position that I have today. When I found this job, a bachelor’s was needed. I was just about to graduate with one. My goal was to just keep moving up in positions. But my ultimate goal is to reach vice-president status someday.
Were there obstacles that you had to overcome to earn your degree, and if so, how did you overcome them?
I couldn’t do anything [for school] at work. I had to do my homework and studying at lunch. Taking vacation became challenging. My [current] husband got really sick and almost died. I didn’t want to leave him, so I brought my work to the hospital.
I spent time with my kids on weekends and did my [school] work during the week in the evenings. It was better to do it online because I could pace myself. I didn’t have that schedule that I had to be at class at any time. It was challenging, but rewarding in the end.
What were the other benefits of attending AIU Online?
There are a lot of benefits. Being so late to going back to school, I was able to use my real-world experiences and compare that to the classes I was taking. I had been there and done that.
Was there a time when you considered giving up going to school? If so, what kept you going?
I wanted to reach my goals, and having that higher degree made me feel like I’ll be able to achieve those goals. I don’t want to be stuck. I want to just keep moving up.
Between my bachelor’s and master’s, I was contemplating not going further. But the more I thought about it, I kept talking myself into it and saying, “It’s just another year.” I would keep on going if AIU had a doctorate program.
What tips would you like to share with people who are considering going back to school?
Research what you want to do and make sure the school is the right fit. Choose a path that will give you the most opportunities. AIU was the right fit for me. AIU was there for me, and I wasn’t just a number. They cared about what I wanted to do.
What do you love about marketing, and what are the challenges of the job?
The challenges – being in a community bank, we have a pretty small footprint and a lot of competitors. It’s challenging to get our brand awareness out there. Keeping up with technologies that the young kids like is also challenging.
I get a lot of satisfaction from being part of the process of creating print advertising, billboards, TV commercials, artwork and updating the website. I like getting feedback from the customers -- good and bad. You learn from the bad feedback. And I like doing community service ads and being a part of the community.
I’m happy with the choices I made to go back to school and being in the position that I’m in now. But I still want more. I want to try to give back and would like to become an online instructor for AIU. I love the learning experience online.
Interview conducted May 2013
Pam Parseghian is a freelance writer based in the New York metro area.