She worked first in insurance and then real estate, and was successful enough to own agencies in both. But then the market tanked, and at 55 years old, Deborah Thomas suddenly found herself in a new world without the necessary professional skills to navigate it.
“I couldn’t afford to continue on that path, and I had to make a decision,” Thomas says. “It was one that caused me to pull back for a little bit and not earn as much, because I needed to focus on education and on a degree. But I knew at the end of the day, if I did that, if I took time out to invest in myself and my future, it was going to pay it off.”
It’s a story Thomas shares often now, in her role as assistant director of Campbellsville University’s Louisville Education Center. She helps students who, in many cases, are a lot like she was—a little older, with family and work responsibilities, who need to learn the skills to become essential in a changing workplace environment. And just as Thomas did, they often find an ideal fit at Campbellsville University in Louisville, where they offer affordable tuition, flexible class times, and relevant educational opportunities that returning students need.
College “is a desire and goal they’ve carried with them,” Thomas says. “They just did not have the opportunity to fulfill it when they were fresh out of high school, but now they do. Maybe their children are adults or are graduating from high school. So now they're in a position where they can think about themselves and about that dream and that goal that they've carried for years, and it’s time to pursue it at the right place.”
Designed for student success
When Thomas discovered Campbellsville University in Louisville on the recommendation from a friend from church, she found programs that offered classes in the evening to accommodate working adults. It remains that way today, with students averaging between 35 and 40 years old and infrastructure in place to support students who perhaps haven’t experienced a classroom setting for years—if not decades.
“One of the great things about Campbellsville University in Louisville is they understand that our demographic of students is different from those who are coming directly out of high school. We have to understand that we are reaching a student that is interested in starting all over again. It may have been years since they’ve been to college,” Thomas says.
“So the preparation period is very important in building the confidence of the student as they approach moving forward to obtain that degree. Our professors and faculty are very strong at mentoring. They build relationships with students to ensure they’re going to be successful. So it won’t look like they’re just being rushed through the system.”
Professional skills, that at one point proved to be useful, have become obsolete with an ever-changing job market. During these uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have closed, layoffs have occurred, and the economy has been altered for perhaps years to come. A career path that seemed essential four or five months ago may have suddenly reached a dead end.
“During this COVID-19 period, many of our adult learners have discovered that what they’re currently doing is not essential. It’s not making a difference. It’s not in demand in the marketplace,” Thomas says. “Because of that, they've lost their jobs. Their jobs have become irrelevant. And so they feel the desire to refocus, to launch into something different, to find an opportunity or a position that causes them to be more essential in this period.”
Programs relevant to today
What stands as an essential field today? Thomas points to certifications that Campbellsville University in Louisville offers in the medical field, such as Medical Assisting, Phlebotomy, Medical Billing and Coding, and Pharmacy Technician. The school’s Social Work program produces graduates ready to help with the fears and anxieties many people feel during this turbulent time.
Similarly, the Theology program at Campbellsville University in Louisville provides avenues for family and marriage therapy. Criminal Justice is also popular among returning students, who are never too old to learn. “If I can reposition myself at the age of 55 and start all over again,” Thomas says, “then anyone can.”
Interested in learning more about the educational opportunities available at Campbellsville University’s Louisville Education Center? Call (502) 753-0264, peruse the nearly two dozen academic programs available or visit their website for further information.