Students enrolled in accelerated degree program want bachelor's degree for job security

In this most unusual of academic years, more than 150 adult students have committed to pursuing a bachelor's degree through a new accelerated, online program at Grand Valley.

For most students, it means pulling out textbooks and computers after putting their kids to bed. Dearborn resident Christina Mireles had a conversation with her young family before beginning the program.

"As a parent, education is something I push with my own kids; they know how important it is to me, finishing my degree," said Mireles. "I told them I will not be as available as usual. They know what my educational goals are and are very supportive of me."

Christina Mireles and her family outside near picnic table
Christina Mireles, school and community coordinator for the Charter School Office in Detroit, is pictured with her family. Mireles is enrolled in the accelerated online degree program.
Image Credit: Metro Parent

Mireles has worked for GVSU's Charter Schools Office in Detroit for more than a year. She enjoys her work and said earning a bachelor's degree fits with her career goals.

"For many years, when I worked in different settings, I've seen younger people promoted. It was difficult for me to compete with them because I didn't have a bachelor's degree. Now my professional goals will be met."

The flexible and customizable degree program allows students to shape a bachelor's degree in integrative studies, while, at the same time, earn a certificate in a high-demand area (leadership, applied data analytics, project management or global communication). Students can also choose to enroll in a certificate program only.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was on GVSU's campus in February for the launch of the program. Whitmer said the program fits with an educational initiative she announced during the 2019 State of the State address: 60 percent of Michigan adults will have earned post-secondary credentials by 2030. There are 2 million residents in Michigan who have some college credit but not a bachelor’s degree.

Living in metro Detroit, Mireles had her choice of colleges and universities. She chose GVSU, she said, because of the attention she received from advisors and faculty members. "From the minute I inquired to now, all my questions have been answered quickly. That was very important to me — the communication. The program is designed so students will see good success," she said.

Fikret Mecavica and his wife, Elmedina, have a 1-year-old son at home. Busy caring for a baby and working full time in IT for Farmers Insurance, Mecavica said the last thing on his mind was returning to school. He was enrolled at Indiana University South Bend until the couple moved to Grand Rapids last year.

"I have a good job, I thought, 'I don't need to finish my degree,' but my wife kept pushing me to think about it," he said, adding earning a bachelor's degree keeps him competitive in the job market.

In addition to a bachelor's degree, Mecavica will earn a certificate in applied data analytics. 

In Traverse City, LeighAnn Endres is finishing a degree in allied health sciences and the leadership certificate program. Busy with work as a nurse assistant at Munson Hospital and homework, Endres said the leadership certificate courses provide her tools to prepare for graduate school and succeed.

"My classes are making me accountable and I'm learning about leadership qualities, which will help me in the workforce," Endres said.

Registration is open for the accelerated degree program and certificate courses that begin January 21, 2021. Visit gvsu.edu/complete to learn more.