Monday, March 12, 2012

How an adult learner made his education make sense for his career

We posted our podcast interview with Post University student Carlos Nunes on our blog the other week. He'll be graduating from Post University's Online Master of Science in Human Services program this May. Per our usual schedule, here's the transcript of our interview if you've been watching out for it.

Read on for Carlos' story of why he went back to school as an adult, how he rediscovered his passion to become a college professor, and how he's making his career dream a reality as he prepares to enter the University of Hartford's doctoral program. "There's no age limit for learning," as Carlos says, nor is there an age limit to achieving your life goals.



Janelle: Greetings, everyone. Janelle Kozyra here for another Post University podcast. Today we are joined by Carlos Nunes, who is a graduate of Post's master's in human services degree program. Carlos, it's good to have you with us today.

Carlos: Well, thank you for having me.

Janelle: So when did you graduate with your master's degree in human services?

Carlos: Well, I'm actually graduating this coming May. I'm actually walking this coming May. I finished all my academics and I'm just waiting for the great moment.

Janelle: Great. So we want to capture your story about where you were before Post came into your life, the impact that Post has made on your life, and where you're going next. So can you tell us about where you were living and working before you got your masters degree from Post?

Carlos: Well, basically I have a previous degree, a previous master's degree in theology, and I did work in several areas related to theology. I even worked abroad. I worked in Brazil, which is my native country, and on coming back to the U.S., I found myself having to explore other avenues for several reasons, like economics and family growth and things like that. And that's when I came to Connecticut. I found a job here in Connecticut that is human-services-related -- drug and alcohol counseling. But the thing that I needed was the drug and alcohol counseling contents. And I was told that I would be hired with the requirement that I would be going back to school and preparing myself to have the content that they required. And that's pretty much what made me search out for school. I tried several other schools, but Post was the one that really had an open door for me and the bureaucracies were not there. They were very open door, and that's how I learned at Post.

Janelle: So what was the organization that gave you this job offer?

Carlos: It is called the Morris Foundation in the Waterbury area of Connecticut, and I'm still working for the Morris Foundation as a drug and alcohol counselor.

Janelle: So they said to you that if you got your master's degree in human services that you would have a more advanced position or the position that you're in right now?

Carlos: No, basically the requirement was that I, because I already had a degree, I was qualified to get the job. But I needed to gain the content, which would be drug and alcohol content. And that's what motivated me, practically made me go back to school because I needed that content. And, of course, after the schooling, after graduating, then I become eligible to be licensed and things can grow from there. But in order for me to keep my job, I needed to get the content.

Janelle: So you knew that you had to get a degree in human services and get the education in drug and alcohol counseling. So what happened next? What was your next step?

Carlos: Well, basically, like I said, I tried some other schools. But, as I mentioned, I'm a native of Brazil and I had some difficulty getting into some other institutions because I came into this country as a foreign student many, many years ago. Because of that I was met with a lot of bureaucracies and a lot of difficulties and all that. But Post allowed me to transition very easily and very quickly. I didn't have any problems getting into Post and that's pretty much where I landed, and I've enjoyed my experience at Post without any other major issues that would bar my education.

Janelle: How did you first hear about Post?

Carlos: Well, I don't live very far from Post. I live very close, about five minutes, five to 10 minutes. But I have heard about Post from coworkers. Several people mentioned Post. When I did my search, I tried to check into Post, and that's pretty much what happened.

Janelle: What helped make your decision to go to Post?

Carlos: Well, let me tell you specifically what happened was when I first came as a foreign student. I was not aware that I had to register with Selective Service, and I did not. Years later when I went to a college close to where I live and I tried to register in that drug and alcohol program, they told me that I could not, and I never understood the reason why. And I had some other people come in and try to find out for me, and it was crazy. It was kind of complicated. Well, when I went to Post, they simply told me, "You take these steps, and they'll tell you the reason why and what you can do. And when they give you this documentation, you bring it here and you'll be registered at Post." And that pretty much opened the door for me, and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the fact that they simply did not close the door on me. They told me what steps to take in order for me to enroll and attend the classes. So they opened the doors. They didn't abide by the bureaucracies that were in place at some other places. They opened the doors for me. They informed me what I needed to do, and that was a good experience from the beginning for me.

Janelle: For the listeners who might be unfamiliar with Selective Service, what is that?

Carlos: Well, the Selective Service is a requirement that states that every male -- it could be a foreign-born or an American-born -- but every male in the United States needs to register for the Selective Service, meaning that he should be at the disposal of the Armed Forces if they deem that he needs to serve as a military personnel, as a soldier or whichever. They can call on him to serve or not. But every male has to register with the Selective Service until the age of 26. I was a foreign student until about that time of 26, but I had failed to register with the Selective Service. And that is pretty much what barred me from getting into higher education from that point on.

Janelle: So, like you said, Post opened the door for you, then, to pursue that higher education.

Carlos: That's correct.

Janelle: When did you enroll in Post's master's in human services program?

Carlos: That was 2010. 2010 exactly, the spring of.

Janelle: Great. So tell us what your experience was like then.

Carlos: Well, my experience has been wonderful. I can pretty much summarize my experience at Post like feeling like I am the only one there. It feels like the services, the attention of the staff and professors has been geared toward me. It's almost like, if I need anything, I can contact the advisor, I can contact the professors, and they write me back immediately. They call me immediately. They send an email immediately. It's almost like I'm the only one, and I know I'm not the only one. But their services, their attention, the culture of breaking the bureaucratic ways have been tremendous. I've had a wonderful experience as far as getting the attention that I need, getting the contacts that I need when I have some difficulties here and there. It has been a tremendous, wonderful experience.

Janelle: What did you think of the courses and the curriculum?

Carlos: The courses, I believe they are to the point. To the point, very practical, very real-life-related, even the ones that do not relate directly, like the electives and stuff like that. They co-relate and they're very practical to what you need to know. I believe that the program is extremely well-designed for professional adults, and that's basically where I categorize myself. So I haven't had any problems. Like I said, the professors have been great, the staff has been great in answering and being there for the adult learner.

Janelle: So you continued to work, then, while you earned your degree?

Carlos: Yes, I've been working since beginning at Post, and I am still working at the same organization that gave me the condition of hire and continue my employment upon getting the content. Yeah, I'm still working with the Morris Foundation.

Janelle: So did you take any online classes or did you primarily go on campus?

Carlos: No, I did both. I did both. There were some courses that required me to be on campus and there were some courses that were offered online, and I did both.

Janelle: And did you like either better, or did you think that both had their merits? What was your take?

Carlos: Well, originally in the beginning as an adult learner, I was a bit intimidated by the online possibility. I was fearful. I didn't know anything about it. I had never done it before, so I was intimated about it in the beginning. I preferred and I even asked that all my classes be done on campus. And slowly I took one class and did another. I began to get used to the online experience, and I've enjoyed it. I noticed that at the end of my studies I was just breezing through the classes. I was doing whatever was required of me and the impossibilities pretty much disappeared. So I enjoyed both, even though I was a bit fearful in the beginning of the online experience.

Janelle: So now you think taking classes online is a great way to pursue a degree?

Carlos: I believe so, because as an adult learner -- working and having family -- I pretty much did work my own schedule, my own hours: when I would check in for the online projects, the online grouping; sending the correspondences; and interacting with the other students. I pretty much had control over the timing and the scheduling of my classes, so I think it is a great experience.

Janelle: Was there anything in particular about Post's online program that stuck out at you as something that really helped you absorb the material or really helped you understand the concepts that were being presented?

Carlos: Well, since we're talking about my content of drug and alcohol, my classes related to my field of activities, they were especially informative because the professor gave us access to sites on the Internet and some other documentation also online, like videos and TV programs that we could download and could watch and then interact. So the experience was fantastic because it was not only lectures per se, only reading per se, we had a whole gamut of media involved, like the Internet, television, documentations, articles, and all of that. So I think it was a fantastic experience because it brought the subject matter in a very, very interesting and captivating way for me as a student. So I think it was a great thing. I think it was fantastic.

Janelle: What would you say you liked the best about your entire experience with Post?

Carlos: The fact that most of us were adults, we were pretty much focused on what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. And also the fact that the advisors and the staff and the professors were all present. You never felt like you were at a loss for information, for help, and trying to find your way around. Information was at your fingertips, and I think those two things, those two characteristics of the experience were tremendous for me as an adult learner.

Janelle: Would you recommend Post to colleagues or family and friends?

Carlos: Definitely. In fact, I do that almost every day at my work experience. Post is always in the front of my mind. I tell them Post has been a great experience for me. I'm graduating from Post and I recommend it to you. I've had some of my clients be really attentive to that, and some of them have tried and are trying to get into Post and go on with their education. I have one right now that I'm very proud of, and I was instrumental in getting him into Post. So yes, I always recommend Post.

Janelle: Throughout your education at Post, were you able to apply what you were learning right away to your job?

Carlos: Yes. Since I was already pretty much in the field as I started Post, what happened was complementary. My experience at Post helped make sense of what I was seeing at the workplace as a new employee. The professors were explaining, showing, for instance, how to develop a case study. And all of those things that I was seeing in practice and pretty much not understanding at the workplace, I was able to bring it straight into the classroom and the professor would be able to show me or explain to the whole class how it was done and what was done about it and how to do it. So, yeah, it was complementary to my work experience with my academics. So it was fantastic that way.

Janelle: For other working adults out there who are interested in getting a college degree, whether it's their first college degree or whether it's in addition to other degrees that they already have, what would you tell them to help them succeed in their studies?

Carlos: Well, basically the thing that is very, very important is to not lose the coolness and don't be overly anxious about anything. Try to take one day at a time. Organize the schedule, organize the matters, organize the personal life, because you need to have your own personal life. But the most important thing is to step in there, and as the challenges come, be very careful in planning and organizing, and don't be nervous. Don't be overly excited about it. Just take one day at a time and try to always be organizing your own time, your own personal time, your work time, your family time, and your school time. By doing that, you will be able to know when it's time to stop, when it's time to invest in your family time, when it's time to devote time to your work, and things like that. It's a matter of time management. And if you can do that, if you can develop and work on your time management, you will be doing OK. You will be doing alright at Post.

Janelle: So, Carlos, you have your master's degree in human services. What's next?

Carlos: Well, as you probably already know, I have applied to the educational leadership at the University of Hartford at the doctoral level. I have just received notification that they have accepted me from that. And my goal is to complete that program and my hope is to obtain professorship one day, to teach at the higher-level education.

Janelle: Well, congratulations on that acceptance.

Carlos: Thank you, thank you.

Janelle: So you plan to start, then, this fall at the University of Hartford?

Carlos: Well, I actually plan to start in the coming June.

Janelle: OK, great.

Carlos: Thank you.

Janelle: So how do you think your education at Post has prepared you for the doctoral program at the University of Hartford?

Carlos: Well, my close contact with the professors. They pretty much allowed me to not only dream of the possibility of going further in my education, but they opened those doors for me. And let me tell you why. Because I began to believe that since I already had my degree before and because of my age and because I have a family and because I have a job, I was beginning to feel like, well, I guess this is it. I guess I just need to struggle through professionally and see where that's going to take me and stuff like that. When I went to Post and I began to see the professors and the encouragement that they were giving me, and even by close to graduation, they were encouraging us to continue to study, continue growing, continue, continue, continue. That pretty much encouraged me and motivated me to say, you know what?I think I can do better than I've done thus far. I think I can continue. I think I can grow. I think I can invest more of me into this thing that I've started here, which is gaining knowledge to impart knowledge. And pretty much that broke a major barrier in me, because until that point I was thinking that I just need to stay where I am. But no, not now. Now I plan on studying. I plan on growing. I plan on imparting knowledge. I plan on moving forward.

Janelle: Did you ever think or want to be a professor in this line of work before, or was this sort of a new idea that was sparked because of Post University?

Carlos: No, I've had several teaching positions before. I have taught some theological courses and things like that. But the professorship was something that I had pretty much relegated to a past possibility. I never thought that I was going to get to that point, or I didn't have the motivation to think about that anymore. So I pretty much had left it behind, the possibility of obtaining professorship. And by coming to Post and by talking to the professors and being encouraged to continue, that dream was made alive again in me. I guess I could do it, I guess I could go ahead and do it. So I decided to go ahead and try.

Janelle: Carlos, what do you think you've learned about yourself overall throughout your experience at Post and now being accepted at the University of Hartford? What have you learned about yourself?

Carlos: Well, as an adult learner I have learned that there's no age limit for learning. There's no age limit for learning. There's no obstacle if you want to learn anything, you want to grow. And Post pretty much allows you to dream and allows you to have the motivation to move forward, to go on. I've had nothing but encouragement from the people that have surrounded me, and, like I said, being an adult learner, being at my age, I mean, I think it was a fantastic thing. And Post has shown me that independent of, regardless of what your age might be, you can continue learning, you can continue imparting knowledge. And that's pretty much the conviction that I've got now, and I got it from Post.

Janelle: Great. Well, thanks, Carlos, for joining us on Post's blog. We appreciate you sharing your story with us.

Carlos: Well, thank you. Thank you. Any time.

Janelle: Everyone, that was Carlos Nunes, who will be graduating this May from Post with a master's degree in human services and will be shortly moving on to the University of Hartford for their doctoral program. So congratulations and best of luck to you, Carlos.

Carlos: Thank you.