She enrolled as a lifelong learner. She emerged as a difference maker.

Felecia Washington

Online Master’s in Cybersecurity, 2019

Felecia is a Renaissance woman: She has a fashion degree, has taught Air Force cadets, and currently works as a data administrator. But even with all her accomplishments, she’s not done. Felecia is on a lifelong pursuit to make a difference in society.

“You can never learn too much, and you have to be relevant and to know what’s going on in your society,” she says. “I switched to an IT career about five or six years ago. And for me, the sky is the limit. So why not get a better education and see what happens?”

This driving motivation was what drew her to the enrolling and graduating from the Online Master’s in Cybersecurity at Maryville University.

Checking all the right boxes for an adult-learner

Felecia found that calling in IT security — which represented a niche where she could build skills as well as make a positive difference. Still, to reach her full potential, she needed to find the specific program that could accommodate her busy professional career and home life. She wasn’t alone.

“My daughter and I both were researching master’s degrees at the same time,” she remembers. “We’d compare schools and share what we found, and my daughter was the one who actually found Maryville for me.”

Felecia and her daughter found that there were many colleges that provided the courses she sought, but few with the same hands-on training and flexibility. After having taken a year of technical school before, she wanted to make sure she’d get exactly what she needed.

“There are colleges out there that offer some of the same courses, but they don’t offer the training, and I didn’t want theory,” she admits. “I wanted something that I could use when I walk out the door. Something that I could use now. That’s what Maryville courses are.”

“I wanted something that I could use when I walk out the door. Something that I could use now. That’s what Maryville courses are.”

Photo of Felicia Washington
Photo of Felicia Washington

Her favorite experiences while earning her degree all involved practical use of her new knowledge and skills. She particularly enjoyed working with the Cybersecurity Center of Excellence to help nonprofit organizations, and directly applying what she’d learned in class at work.

“My program actually helped me perform better at work,” Felecia says. “My coworkers at my job would approach me to ask about security aspects and what I knew about certain subjects. I saw the confidence in me rise — and then an increased level of respect from my peers at my job because of what I was learning.”

Navigating work-life challenges with a supportive faculty

Felecia is a go-getter and naturally finds a way to juggle it all, but she never expected to deal with health issues — both hers and her mother’s — during her degree. Adding to that, she still worked full time. The stress was building.

So she reached out to her Maryville instructors, and they fully supported her.

“My instructors were able to work with me and allow me extra time when I needed it to turn in assignments,” she says. “They just understood. There was no trouble.”

Felecia doubled down on her relationship with her instructors not only to get through challenges, but also to maximize her efforts in every area of her life. “That has made the difference,” she says. “As a working adult, I had so much to handle. There’s a lot going on. But the support has been great. The instructors are always available. There are no such things as dumb questions.”

Felecia’s keys for success: positive thinking and strong communication

Felecia learned through experience that showing up with the right attitude and communication created the best routes for success — in her program, family, and career.

“Before I even enrolled in Maryville, I looked at their curriculum, I looked at what it offered as far as the certifications that you can get after you take the classes,” she says. “I looked at how long the classes were. I looked at how many hours they say that it takes to do well in the class. I took all of that that into consideration.”

Next, Felecia had a meeting with her family to be very clear about the commitment she’d need from herself to earn her degree. “This meant less time for the family, less time for fun, but it was temporary. Just one year. That’s how I got through it.”

“I know there are probably students are facing similar situations, but if you have the right attitude and you communicate with everyone, you can get through it.”

But Felecia didn’t stop there. She also spoke with her manager at work to relay the same message — who also extended full support.

“I let everybody know what I was going to accomplish. And it’s just been a remarkable experience,” she says.

Felecia also found strength in her faith as motivation to be her best self and to believe that the challenges and sacrifices would be worth it. All of this played into her daily attitude of positive thinking and communicating what she really needed.

“I know there are probably students are facing similar situations,” she says, “but if you have the right attitude and you communicate with everyone, you can get through it.”

“Don’t give up. Don’t stop.”

Before the ink could dry on her master’s degree diploma, Felicia made her mind to get four more security certifications to enhance her current role — and prepare for any future opportunities.

“There are hundreds of thousands of positions open right now for cybersecurity professionals. There’s no reason why I can’t fill one of those needs,” she says. “Whether it’s to stop a security breach at a major corporation or whatever, that’s just part of what people like me are here for: to make a difference.”

Felecia says it all starts with being honest with what you want in order to reach your goals, whatever they may be.

“First, figure out what it is that you’re looking for. How do you want to make a difference, and what is it going to take for you to do that? For yourself, for your family, for our society? What can you do right now?” she says. “Whatever you decide, make up your mind, come up with a plan, and execute the plan. And when you’re having struggles, talk to somebody that you trust. Don’t give up. Don’t stop.”

If you’re ready to see how Maryville Online can help you be brave and pursue your educational and professional goals, we’re here for you. Check out our online bachelor’s degreesmaster’s degrees, and doctorate degrees, or schedule a call with an advisor today.

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