Discipline, motivation and execution - three words many athletes live by, and The University of Alabama's Head Hockey Coach John Bierchen is no different.
“If you're going to be successful at anything in life, you have to be disciplined,” he said. “No matter what's going on in your life.”
Like most adult students, John's life was filled with responsibilities when he began earning his Bachelor of Science in Commerce and Business Administration online from UA.
Between coaching youth hockey, playing junior hockey and interning with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he managed to squeeze in a class or two at UA. He also struggled with medical issues that kept him in and out of the hospital; however, he remained focused on the ultimate prize - earning a degree from The University of Alabama. For John, that had always been a lifelong goal.
“I constantly tell people the degree isn't different. I even sent someone a picture of my degree to prove that it was exactly the same as one earned on campus. It doesn't say online. It doesn't say distance. It doesn't look any different. It's the same exact degree,” he said.
As John launched his coaching career, the online BSCBA program gave him the flexibility he needed to earn his degree. He soon relocated to Tuscaloosa, after accepting a head coaching position, and finished his degree.
“The University sets a high standard for the way things are done - from sports to academics. I've been at other places and other universities where building that elite culture is a challenge.”
“When you see that script A, you're reminded of all the UA organizations doing great things, and you're reminded, ‘I have to hold up my end,' and that takes discipline,” he said. “UA's culture motivated me to hold myself accountable so I didn't let my fellow students or my University down. The elite culture is an intangible that you don't think about when you earn a degree from The University of Alabama.”
His advice to students considering a degree program at UA is this:
“Just because you're online doesn't mean you can't go see your professors or advisors when you have a problem. I bothered mine all the time!” he joked. “They don't see you as a distance learner or an online student. They see you as a student. So if you need additional help or you don't understand something, make an appointment and go talk with them. Everyone here is phenomenal.“
Many people believe online learning means struggling through coursework alone, but two online business students prove that is not the case!
When Krysia Adamczewski from Chicago, Ill. and Gwen Youngblood, from Birmingham, Ala. enrolled in the online undergraduate business degree program at The University of Alabama, neither imagined what was in store.
Both women enrolled in the program for similar reasons. As working moms they needed the convenience of online learning. Little did they know, one class would completely change their experience.
“In GBA 300, like other online courses, we had to introduce ourselves to each other. The difference was we had to tell the class why we would make a good teammate. I read through all of the posts and knew that I wanted to be on the same team as Gwen, but was unsure about approaching her,” Krysia explains.
So Krysia waited until Gwen signed up for a group and then joined the same one. Krysia's “stalking”, as the women jokingly refer to it, gave them the opportunity to get to know each other and soon a friendship was born.
“We hit it off immediately and bonded over being moms who worked full time while taking courses,” Krysia said.
They also discovered they had a few interesting things in common — like birthdays one day apart, which neither one believes is a coincidence.
“One thing that I regretted about not finishing college in the traditional way was missing out on lifelong friendships and sharing those experiences with someone. We may not have been on campus and living together, but with the help of technology we do have memories and a friendship to endure distance, and there is no regret,” said Gwen.
Krysia said, “Gwen has been the best thing to happen to me during my journey in distance learning. It's not an easy feat, but having a partner in crime who thinks just like you is such a blessing. I can't tell you the number of times we were both sending a message at the same time to each other and it was the exact same message! The connection and the friendship we have is one of a kind and one that I treasure! I wouldn't be the person I am today without her in my life.”
As they progressed through their coursework, both Gwen and Krysia leaned on each other for support. In Krysia's case, she even took five courses in one semester to be able to graduate with her newfound best friend — a goal that she achieved.
The women met in-person for the first time at their graduation. Six months later, they still talk daily and are planning future trips together.
"People say that it's hard to make friends in an online class, but if you try to connect with someone you might surprise yourself and come away with a lifelong friend! My advice is to stalk ‘em!” Krysia said with a laugh.
Note: We don't condone true stalking; however, strategic team planning is encouraged!
“It wasn't easy, and it took a lot of time, but I am incredibly thankful that I was able to gain my business degree from The University of Alabama,” said Rose in a recent interview.
Rose began her search for a degree program when her children were 18-months-old and five-years-old. She knew she couldn't leave her Texas town or quit work, so she searched the Internet to find programs that would fit her schedule. She discovered the Bama By Distance website, and, after researching programs, decided the online BS in Commerce and Business Administration at UA was for her.
“The school's reputation had a lot to do with it. I originally selected three schools offering online degrees that interested me. I did research on all three and UA came out the clear winner,” she said.
Rose described her classes as challenging, interesting and unique. She said she often references her classes when making business decisions. One of the highlights of her experience was that she was able to connect with other students and make a lasting friend.
“Being a distance student, sometimes you don't make the connections with other students like you would in a traditional school setting. Through a project I made a great friend – one I still communicate with often.”
Rose faced questions about the quality of her degree, but she was able to easily dispel their doubts.
“At UA, all of the major exams were proctored – something that made the experience feel more real, but that also gave the program more credibility. This, along with the numerous papers and projects, helped to dispel the thoughts of others that I was getting ‘less of a degree' because it was online,” she said.
Her favorite thing about the experience was that she felt like a member of the UA family from the start.
“I was never labeled as ‘distance' in email, on transcripts or otherwise,” she commented. I liked that the degree I received is the same as that offered on campus. It made me feel like I was an actual student and not someone sitting in Texas taking classes.”
The classes even inspired Rose to pursue a new career venture.
“When I decided to finish my business degree I had intended to do so to assist in advancing in my current career; however, after taking International Business and Retail Marketing I found myself interested in pursuing something greater. A little more than one month after graduating from UA I began the process of launching my own business, Du Monde Furnishings – a home accessories boutique that only offers high quality imported products. I truly believe that a spark was lit by both of those classes and it has resulted in the creation of my own business venture.”
Jill works full-time as Director of Photography for Now Magazine and launched Du Monde Furnishings in 2014.
University of Alabama student Stephen Walker tells us about his pursuit of an online degree in business. Hear his story by clicking play below.