Second chance

The first thing she noticed was the class size, nearly 50 students filling a room far larger than she expected. The professor’s lecture went on and on, never halting in case there were any questions. She grew anxious about the prospect of raising her hand in the middle of such a sizeable group. She began to struggle with motivation, saw her GPA drop to 1.3, and ultimately, she stopped going to class altogether.

That was Brianna Shelby’s experience at a community college. She could only wonder how intimidating a huge state university setting might feel. So, she put her higher education on pause, the type of move that most students never recover from. And indeed, five years passed, after which Shelby found herself working in a hospital, thinking that perhaps she wanted to become a nurse, but not yet on the path to get there.

Then she heard a radio ad for Campbellsville University Louisville. That’s when everything changed.

“They were talking about how it was adult-focused education, and a place for second chances,” Shelby recalls. “It mentioned how maybe you started out in college, and it didn’t work out, and now you’re looking to come back and finish a degree. And I was like, ‘That’s me.’”

It was a transformative moment for Shelby, just as it’s been for countless other adult learners throughout Louisville. While it serves students of all types, Campbellsville University Louisville is designed to accommodate those who put their higher education on hold and never returned, who never pursued a degree in the first place, or simply had life events get in the way of their college education. People like Shelby — who was married and looking to buy a house when she heard the ad that coaxed her back to school.

Designed for student success

“First of all, I had no idea that they were in Louisville,” Shelby says. “I was working at the hospital, and I was wanting to do something different with my life, but I was unsure of what that was going to be. I heard this commercial, and I called them and said, ‘I don't know if I have a chance. I did community college, and it didn't work for me. And I know that this is university level, so I'm not sure how well I would do.’ And from the very first phone call, there was so much direction and empowerment to pursue my degree and to give myself a second chance.”

They didn’t try to rush her into classes. They didn’t dismiss her because of her GPA or previous experience in community college. Shelby recalls being asked about herself and her passions. A plan was formed to get her GPA up to the point where she could enroll in the school’s social work program. In 2018, she received her bachelor’s degree. Two years later, she received a master’s in clinical social work. She thrived in an atmosphere that was tailor-made for her success, right down to the classes of 17 students or fewer, and professors who always had time for a question.

“At Campbellsville University Louisville, because of the small classroom sizes, the professors can stop and say, ‘Hey, does anyone have a question?’ They see you as an individual, they see you as a person, right? You're not just another student ID number in seat No. 36. Because of the small classroom sizes, they know your name,” Shelby says. “They say ‘Brianna, you have a look of frustration on your face or something. Do you need some clarification?’ And they develop that relationship with all the students in the class, so you're not afraid to ask questions.”

She found a career path built around her interests and passions. She went on mission trips to better herself and the community she served. She flourished to the point where she began to recommend Campbellsville to friends and family members. And ultimately, she discovered a career in that advocacy — as a senior enrollment counselor at the Louisville Education Center, a post that entails sharing her story with future students.

Overcoming the odds

“I think by sharing my story with them, adult learners gain confidence knowing they’re not alone.  Whether they had an unsuccessful first start to college like me, or other obstacles that have kept them from starting or finishing college, they start to see they’re not alone and CU Louisville does fit their lifestyle and can help them overcome obstacles and be successful. The majority of our students come in and their No. 1 concern is not what they should study. The main thing is hearing someone tell them they can do this. You can do this, and your time is now. You've got to do this for you,” Shelby says.

“They look to find answers and resources that help. That's what I'm doing. They come in, and I figure out what pieces are broken and why they didn't get the degree the last time, why it didn't work out at the last school. And then we put together a plan to help them be successful here at Campbellsville University Louisville.”

Adult learners who are pursuing college after an absence have the odds stacked against them. They often don’t have family members cheerleading them on, they often have to find time for school amid work and kids, and they fight statistics that indicate most people who pause higher education never return. Places like Campbellsville University Louisville, and counselors like Shelby, are there to help them beat those odds — and show them what’s possible.

“I've been working here for five years now doing for students what somebody took the time to do for me,” Shelby says. “Campbellsville did more than just offer me a degree. It changed my whole life, honestly.”

Are you or a loved one interested in a second chance at higher education? Contact Campbellsville University Louisville online, at (502) 753-0264, or visit the campus at 2300 Greene Way in Louisville.