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Mastering The Juggling Act of Work And Graduate Study

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You could say Jessica DeSantis, Admissions, bleeds brown and white. She earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing here. She spends her professional life recruiting high school students to come to Lehigh as undergraduates. And now, she has a Lehigh master’s degree in Environmental Policy Design. 

If all of that doesn’t convince you that Jess is a Lehigh woman through and through, consider this: She even sported a brown and white pedicure at commencement.

In all seriousness, Jess’s love of learning motivated her to pursue graduate school. “I really enjoy being in a classroom,” she said. “I wonder when I’ll miss it now that I’ve finished my master’s degree.” 

After taking a few years off from studying and establishing herself professionally, Jess wanted to take her education further. She knew that Lehigh’s tuition benefits included full tuition remission for graduate study at the university.

“The Environmental Policy Design program seemed ideal,” she said. “My nature is interdisciplinary, and it combined so many of my interests – science, business, social justice.”

In her role as assistant director of Admissions, Jess is frequently on the road. Her job is hardly the typical 9 to 5. Add to that the fact that she was a newlywed, and Jess found balancing work, school and marriage a juggling act.

“I put a lot of hours into work, it’s very time consuming to travel,” she said. “Making time for all of the reading was difficult. Still, I made a point of spending time with my husband. Sometimes that meant sitting next to him on the couch while I was studying for class.”

Jess sees connections between her course work and her professional work, particularly in understanding how information flows and is transformed by people.  “I’m constantly thinking about ways to communicate effectively,” she said. “In my master’s program, we asked ‘How is it that messages reach us, how do certain things reach us while others don’t?’”

***

If you’re looking to reach Rich Haas, you might have to meet him on a softball field. As a member of the Athletics Department staff, Rich works behind the scenes making the sales and marketing of Patriot League tournaments and high stakes basketball games come off without a hitch.

Like Jess, Rich also did his undergraduate work at Lehigh, having earned a B.S. in accounting. He decided to add an MBA to his list of credentials, capping off three years of work with an international experience in London just a week before commencement.

With a high-intensity job, two young children and wife who works nights and weekends as a physician’s assistant, Rich’s life was already complicated. He set a graduate school pace that he could live with. “I took one class at a time,” he said. “You have to get creative to manage it all. But with a good routine and a supportive family, I was able to accomplish my goal.”

“While the accounting courses came naturally to me, the finance aspect was more challenging,” Rich reflected. “The professors were great, though, and our team projects taught me a lot that I can use in my day-to-day work. For instance, I saw first-hand how important it is to have a team made of people with varied skill sets and strengths.”

***

Get married, buy a house, earn an MBA . For a lot of people, taking on three of life’s biggest events at the same time might seem daunting. But Katy Cronin, Advancement, wasn’t fazed by the challenge. In fact, graduate school was something she’d always planned on after receiving her B.A. in management and writing at Gettysburg College.

“I was working in Philadelphia when I saw a position advertised at Lehigh that was a great match with my writing and business training,” the Bethlehem native noted. “The tuition benefit was a big draw for me when I was considering the opportunity.”

Not long after arriving at Lehigh, Katy started Lehigh’s MBA program. Surprising even herself, she decided to concentrate on supply chain management. “ I thought I’d focus on marketing, but I was really enamored with the operations side of things,” she said. “The skills I’ve learned in data analysis, efficient use of resources, these have turned out to be huge for me in my current position.”

Support from her supervisor has been a key to growing in her current role, “I told her that I’d like to work with the skills and tools I’d gained through my graduate work. She has been mentoring me and helping me find ways to use what I’ve learned. It’s nice to know that my hard work and initiative in getting a graduate degree is recognized as an asset to my department.”

***
As usual, Amanda Fabrizio, Industrial and Systems Engineering, is smiling widely. She’s just picked up her cap, gown, and hood. This is the regalia that signifies she will hold an M.Ed. – a master’s degree in Educational Leadership –  after she completes her final course this summer.

It has taken her two and a half years, studying through summers and finishing projects during the hectic work schedule of what she likes to call “Higher Ed in April.” “It was totally worth it,” she says. “Having the chance to work with faculty like Floyd Beachum and George White and get your graduate education for free? You can’t beat that.”

If working and studying weren’t enough to keep her occupied, Amanda also just finished a term as president of the Rotary Club of Saucon/Center Valley. She says her master’s program gave her knowledge and skills she could instantly put into action in every aspect of her life. “I gained tools that I used in Rotary and I can use in my career at Lehigh,” Amanda said. “It’s given me the confidence that I can lead, I can manage through change.”



Editor's Note: Lehigh's Graduate Tuition Benefit provides for free on-site graduate study for all full-time benefits eligible staff. There are fees for distance learning that are not included in this benefit. In addition, there are some tax implications that you should be aware of if you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree. Consult the Lehigh HR website for more details. You can also contact Alice Sikorski or Betty Konczyk in the Human Resources Office at extension 83900.

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Spotlight is published monthly by Human Resources. Please address any comments to Hillary Kwiatek, Spotlight Editor, Human Resources, 428 Brodhead Avenue, send email to hik210@lehigh.edu, or call extension 85165.

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