Becca Paholski graduated high school in Dallas, Texas, and most of her friends went to college in-state. She applied to The University of Alabama at her dad’s insistence, and the whole family was pleased when she was awarded the presidential scholarship for her academic success. With four years of tuition covered, it was a tough offer to pass up.
“My parents were sold. They put that letter up on the fridge and it stayed there until May 1 when I made my decision,” Becca said.
Following in her mom’s footsteps, Becca pursued an education degree at UA, and her studies kept her busy! “There were semesters I was taking a full 18 hours, so I would be in class from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then I was in the classroom completing practicum requirements the rest of the week.”
As demanding as the education program was, she still found time to plug in to campus life. Becca joined a sorority and made the most of her time as a student, calling it “an awesome experience.” She said, “It’s a beautiful school. UA is what you picture college is like from the movies.”
However, because Becca was such a high-achieving student and came to UA with 39 Advanced Placement credits, she finished early, graduating with her bachelor’s in Elementary Education in May 2019. “I wrapped it up in three years, but I wanted my senior experience, and I wasn’t ready to leave all of my friends – and I didn’t want to miss out on my senior year football season!”
She also had that fourth year of scholarship funds left. What to do? Earn a master’s, of course!
Becca’s dad encouraged her to earn a master’s outside of education so that she could diversify her portfolio. “He really wanted me to get my MBA, but I found the master’s in Human Environmental Sciences (HES) with the graduate certificate in Conflict Resolution was a good middle ground for us.” Becca’s father works in labor relations, so he saw unlimited potential for his daughter to put the master’s and certificate to good use in her future.
The master’s in HES and Conflict Resolution certificate are available 100% online. Becca was hesitant at first about completing an online program but said, “It actually was amazing. I really loved it!” Kym Reddoch, director of the Conflict Resolution graduate certificate program, made it easy for students to work ahead. “She set all her classes up where everything was available at the beginning of the semester, and it was all due at the end of the semester. That was a great way for me to ease into the program.”
Since she wasn’t spending her time in a classroom on campus every day, Becca was able to take advantage of other opportunities as well. “I was the computer teacher at Cottondale Elementary, and I worked there three days per week in a certified teaching position.” In addition, she worked evenings for the Capstone Center for Student Success. Even with two part-time jobs, Becca was able to finish the master’s with the graduate certificate in one year, and she credits the faculty and advisers of the program for helping her succeed at a faster pace. “Everyone in the HES and Conflict Resolution programs was so flexible and accommodating to a level I wasn’t accustomed to in my undergrad. With the online program, they are really willing to work with you to help you reach your goals.”
One thing Becca didn’t do in her time at UA was study abroad. So in her final year, while she completed her master’s, she also applied to the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program to teach in Spain as an English Teaching Assistant. “Since Spain has one of the best bilingual education programs in the world, I thought it would be a great way to go abroad and give me valuable experience for my career teaching in Texas.” Becca was selected for the highly competitive Fulbright program, but with complications and delays due to COVID-19, she decided to forgo the opportunity and continue teaching.
Becca graduated in May 2020 and celebrated from home due to COVID-19. In August, she began teaching fourth grade reading, writing and language arts at “the best school in the world,” Newman Elementary in Frisco, Texas. “It’s a dream job,” she said. From settling playground disputes to communicating with parents, every day there’s an opportunity to use what she learned in the coursework. “I would not be thriving in my current role without it. The skill set I gained through the program has been tremendously helpful.”
Becca plans to pursue a leadership role in administration and one day earn a more advanced degree in education, but she has no regrets about pursuing the master’s she did. “I’m a much better teacher because of my master’s program, hands down. The background I gained in conflict resolution and emotional intelligence has given me so much confidence, and I’m able to pass those strategies on to my students as we navigate conflict together.”
Published: December 17th, 2020