Online Graduate Leaves Comfort Zone to Continue Her Education
NC State’s Online and Distance Education programs give students the opportunity to pursue their dreams of achieving an education no matter where they are in life. Former student Melanie Lewis did just that when she decided to enroll in the online Leadership in the Public Sector degree completion program during an unprecedented time in her life in which she made a huge career change. We caught up with her to hear her story and experiences in the program.
Lewis completed her associate degree in 2007 and had no plans to continue her education. “I had a successful career; my family and I were happy and content. In the back of my mind, the thought of transferring to a university was there. However, it was not something that was pressing; I was comfortable right where I was,” she says.
When she completely changed her career from 11 years in the banking industry, Lewis moved into education. “My daughter was quite active in school, and I knew I needed to find something that would allow me to attend her activities,” she says. “It is funny how the puzzle pieces of life all come together. Making this huge career change sent me to exactly where I needed to be and where I found my passion working within a community.”
She was encouraged by friends and colleagues to apply to NC State in 2018 and was accepted into the Leadership in the Public Sector (LPS) program. “My colleagues supported me to continue my education,” she says. “They saw my potential.”
She found the LPS program to be flexible in allowing herself to support her family, work full time and continue her education. NC State’s program gave her the freedom to decide how many courses to take each semester depending on her other responsibilities.
In addition to the accommodating nature of the program, Lewis was drawn to LPS because of the way she could apply skills she was learning directly to her career. “It felt like a good fit for what I want to pursue in my future endeavors,” she says. “I am passionate about helping people. I see myself leading and supporting members of my local community.”
She’s already seen how her degree has impacted her current work. “The leadership skills and traits learned in the program will flow over to my current position and onward into my future career choices,” Lewis says. “The LPS program has given me the confidence to take on leading roles in my current career that in my past would be challenging.”
The program is led by faculty who have experience and knowledge in the public sector and share their personal experiences to support students. “All the professors that I have encountered have been a joy to interact with and learn from,” she says. “Each one of the LPS faculty brings a wonderful mixture of backgrounds to the program. The leadership experiences they share give a clear picture of how public, non-profit and private sector leadership work together to achieve goals that support the citizens of communities, states and our nation. Through my coursework, I have realized that my goals, after graduation, will be focused on helping my community by sharing what I have learned from the LPS Program.” Lewis also appreciated the structure of the coursework as she was able to listen, communicate and collaborate with her peers on a regular basis.
Throughout her experience in the program, she pushed herself to enroll in unfamiliar and challenging courses in order to develop a broader understanding of leadership topics. “After completing the LPS program, I have a much better understanding of the kind of leader I am personally,” she says. “Now moving forward, I will know the best ways to interact with followers and other leaders to have the most successful outcomes.”
Lewis strongly encourages other working professionals who are considering continuing their education to enroll in NC State’s program. “Take the challenge,” she says. “If it were not for my colleagues pushing me out of my comfort zone to further my education, I would still be pondering the idea, getting older, and wishing I had gone on to complete the goal. Life is short; push forward toward a life-altering goal.”
She made the four-and-a-half-hour drive from Western Carolina to Raleigh to attend the graduation ceremony in May, accompanied by her mom, dad, husband and daughter.
Are you interested in pursuing your online degree in Leadership in the Public Sector at a distance? Visit the program page or online.ncsu.edu/programs for a full list of degree and certificate programs.