Brandon standing in front of a bookshelf wearing an "Alabama alumni" tshirt and an Alabama hatBrandon Turnage grew up in Phenix City, Alabama. When he completed his secondary education, he began his career in the health care IT field and worked his way up to project coordinator, which has taken him all over the U.S.

“I’ve lived in Nevada, Florida, Missouri and California, and even though I’ve been settled in Florida for a while now, I’ve still traveled a lot for work, including jobs in Delaware, Michigan, Virginia and Georgia,” he said. As a young professional in 2016, Brandon had earned a number of professional certificates related to his career – he was a Certified Professional Coder with the American Academy of Professional Coders, a Microsoft Office Specialist for Office 365, a Microsoft Technology Specialist for Windows 7, a Cisco Certified Networking Associate, a CompTia Certified Health Information Technologist and an A+ CompTia Certified Computer Technician. However, even with all of these credentials and nearly a decade of experience in the field, he was having trouble advancing because he hadn’t been to college. “Lots of companies wouldn’t even look at my resume because there was no degree on it.”

When he asked around for professional advice, a few people suggested that he look at online degree programs. “Since I’m from Alabama, I wanted to see if UA had any programs that were online so I could keep working. And they did!” Brandon began his bachelor’s in Commerce and Business Administration in a 100% online format from UA in Summer 2016.Brandon as a child with his family wearing Alabama gear

“I’ve always been an Alabama fan and I know it sounds cliché, but growing up, we just didn’t have much, so I never thought I’d be able to go to The University of Alabama.” UA’s online and hybrid degree programs through Bama By Distance are charged at the distance tuition rate, which is lower than the tuition rate for UA’s traditional main campus programs. This allowed Brandon to earn the same degree at a lower price, even though he was living out of state, and because of the online modality, he could keep working and maintain his income.

When Brandon began the program, he was traveling every single week for work. “On Monday, I’d board a plane to wherever I was working that week, and on Thursday, I’d fly home.” Since he was traveling so much, he started with just one course per semester and gradually increased by one class every semester until he was steadily taking four classes at a time. “UA did a great job of giving me tools I could download on my laptop or iPad so I could study and complete classwork on a plane or in the airport,” he said. “I wrote papers and did a lot of my homework in the air.”

Brandon standing in front of a mountain scape in AustriaThanks to the flexibility of online coursework, Brandon also did plenty of leisure travel during his time in the program. While he was a student, he saw Maui, Kauai, much of Europe and went on two Caribbean cruises! “I even did some of my homework on a bus in Europe, passing from one country to the next,” he said.

Beyond stamps in his passport, Brandon also gained a skill set from his bachelor’s that was beneficial to his career. “I learned a lot about how to run a business and manage a team,” Brandon said. He added that the finance courses helped him on a personal level with investment planning, but that the best thing the program did for him was making him a better communicator. “The classes teach you how to communicate concisely and articulate your ideas more clearly. When I look back at old emails and other work documents from before I was in the program, they look like jumbled nonsense to me now! It really elevated my communication skills.”

Brandon graduated in May 2020 and got to take another trip when he traveled to Tuscaloosa for graduation in August (delayed due to COVID-19). With only four guests allowed due to social distancing measures, Brandon celebrated in T-Town with his mom, grandmother, niece and his then-fiancé (now wife), Jasmine.Brandon and his wife in front of a large, silver script A at graduation

Since graduating, Brandon has been able to apply the skills he learned in the program to his career. In June, he accepted a new role as a testing coordinator and touts his UA degree as the reason for success in his career. “I’ve been able to apply what I learned to coordinate activities so they run more smoothly. It definitely helps my resume stand out more, too. Fellow UA graduates have reached out to connect because we have that alumni connection, so that has helped me to consider opportunities that I might not have known about otherwise.” He looks forward to how his business degree from UA will continue to help him in his journey to the executive level of health care IT so he can have a greater influence developing the future of electronic medical records.

“Having my degree from UA has given me more confidence in my career. I used to be self-conscious around peers at work that had degrees. That’s no longer an issue for me since I graduated from an outstanding university.”

Published: January 14th, 2021