Kids’ Bedtime, then Homework

Michele Whelan lives in Eatontown, just 30 miles from Rutgers–New Brunswick, but when you’ve got kids and a career, you don’t necessarily want to hop in your car to get to class. Every minute counts, and if there’s any way to cut down on a commute—and have flexible options for taking classes—you grab it.

Which is just what Michele did. She got her degree—from Rutgers—without ever setting foot on the Rutgers–New Brunswick Campus.

Well, with one exception: In her last semester, she took a 1-credit course at the Labor Education Center, just off of Route 1 on the edge of campus, to complete the requirements for a bachelor of science degree in labor and employment relations from the School of Management and Labor Relations. She took all her other Rutgers classes online and at the Western Monmouth Higher Education Center in Freehold.

“It was the perfect scenario for me returning to school,” says Whelan, who received an associate’s degree from Brookdale Community College in 1985 and wanted the bachelor’s degree in order to further her career goals.

The flexibility offered by Rutgers online courses and satellite campuses was a mix essential to Michele, a mom of two school-age kids who works full time as a customer service and accounting representative at Jersey Central Power & Light.

I could do work after the kids went to bed, or before they got up. It was up to me. As a working parent, it was a great fit.

Michele Whelan

“The online experience was wonderful,” she says. “I could spend my lunch hour working on my homework or reading assignments, which meant freeing up hours with the family at the end of the week. When you take a class online, you have deadlines for everything, but the beauty is, as long as your work is completed on time, you can do it anytime.”

Initially, when she returned to school, Michele was taking two courses a semester in Freehold. She would look forward to the summer, when she “wouldn’t have to feel bad about walking out the door to class after arriving home from work.”

Then, looking for a science class to fulfill her degree requirements, she learned about Rutgers’ online course offerings. “I thought this was great,” she recalls. “I can meet a requirement without having to feel bad about leaving my kids. I was hooked.”

And the timing was great, too, as Rutgers was offering additional courses online. “I could now take three classes a semester without any additional guilt,” she says. “It was like an answer to my prayers.”

Now, with her degree, Michele is hoping to advance her career and move into a management position.