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Meet Dana Jones, a management major in the Romain College of Business

Dana in the BEC atriumMany people talk about returning to the classroom, but you actually took the steps to do it. What made you decide to return to the classroom?
My oldest child is a freshman in college. We went on a college visit and sat in a classroom. I saw how so many of the younger students in the class were taking the experience for granted, and “phoning in” their participation, and in a way, that made me angry. Circumstances and bad decisions kept me from finishing my degree and it bothered me that these students weren’t treating the teacher and the class more seriously. It was in that moment that I realized nothing was stopping me from completing my degree except me. I enrolled at USI the next semester.

Do you remember how you felt the first time you stepped back into the classroom?
The first time I stepped into a class of my own, I was apprehensive. I knew I was more than double the age of the average student, and there was no way of hiding it. I wondered how they would react, and what my teachers would say. My worry was unnecessary though. While it’s obvious that I’m a non-typical student, most people have been welcoming, and no one has been overtly rude. 

Why did you choose to major in management?
I have spent my career in tech as a software engineer. At this phase of my life, I have transitioned from programming to management, so the degree is more relevant to my life goals.

When do you expect to graduate?
December 2020, if all goes well. Just three more semesters!

Overall, has your experience in the classroom been what you expected or is it different–and how so?
It has been easier than I remember, which I attribute to time and experience. The challenge for me is not the difficulty of the work, but balancing work, school and raising a family.

How do you manage work/life/school balance?
It’s tough! I have kids that are in middle school, high school and college, and they still come first. I also have a job that requires a lot of travel from me. My husband is a huge supporter, and he helps me make it all work. Keeping my teachers informed when I have a trip coming up is a necessity, and means they know where I’m coming from. I have more or less dropped having a social life while I complete my degreeit’s just one thing too many to fit in.

How do you stay focused and prioritize when the demands for your time seem overwhelming?
I triage the way a nurse does: what is the most pressing demand? I also have learned to never procrastinate, and to start on assignments as soon as I can. That way, if there’s a sickness, injury or other unforeseen emergency, I have a little wiggle room. Focus is tough thoughno doubt about it. I have to hide away in quiet rooms a lot so that I can be productive.

What advice do you have for adults considering returning to college, whether to finally finish that degree or to acquire new skills?
Commit, and stay the course. A million times, I have thought that I should abandon my plans to finish my degree. That would be the easier route, but I know I would end up regretting it for the rest of my life. Be proactive, and convince yourself that you belong even if it feels like you don’t.

As an adult learner, what do you bring to the table/classroom?
Experience, wisdom, patience and access to resources (software, people) that the average student may not.

Here’s your chance to give shout outs to anyone who has helped or supported you in your USI journey!
Professor Beutler-Jones was the first teacher I had when I returned to school. She is an inspiration to students of every age, and her classroom is a special place where ideas and discussion are encouraged.

My husband Mike and my children have been patient, understanding and forgiving. Pursuing my bachelor's degree would not have been possible without them. I love you guys!

Published April 11, 2019