When Craig High School graduate Deanna Reddell decided she needed a bachelor’s degree to advance in her profession, it was tough finding a program that worked with her schedule. Advisors from area universities all had a similar question for her, “How are you going to go back to school and work full-time?”
“I knew that if I ever wanted to make more money, a bachelor’s degree would help me get there. Now, at U-Rock, I take classes with those in the same boat as me.” Reddell expects to complete her bachelor’s degree in fall of 2018 – eight years after earning her associate’s degree at University of Wisconsin-Rock County. She works 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, as a medical biller for Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville. Her traditional work schedule is a common roadblock for most adults returning to school, but there are others. “Scheduling can be difficult and needs to be flexible, and, often, students need a program that they can pursue part-time over a longer period,” UW-Rock County Senior Student Services Coordinator Karen Greenler explains.
At UW-Rock County, Reddell’s situation is not unique. "The UW Colleges campuses really serve a distinctly different segment of students than our four-year institutions in the UW System," UW Colleges Chancellor Cathy Sandeen says. "Fifty-eight percent of the students in the UW Colleges are the first in their families to go to college. Twenty percent of them have dependents, either young children or older adults, that they're taking care of. And 81 percent of the students are working as they go to school; and 16 percent are working full-time. So, this is a very important segment to continue to serve."
A number of collaborative degree programs with four-year University of Wisconsin campuses allow students at UW-Rock County to complete a bachelor’s degree program without leaving Janesville. Reddell readily admits that her first semester, heck, her first year, was rough. Looking back, she offers some advice to working adult students, “Ease in - take core classes first - get them out of the way. Now I can take more classes that interest me.”
Reddell fulfilled an internship requirement working with Rock County Parks. Her first reaction to the internship requirement went something like this: “How can I do that? I don’t want to be in an office…not everyone wants an intern.” It made her nervous. Then, in stepped Community Coordinator for Rock County Parks, David Hoffman, and the Friends of Beckman Mill in Beloit, Wis. “Dave needed volunteers for the Beckman Mill Park Heritage Garden. When I arrived the garden plot was full of weeds in late May – it just needed a miracle. I was raised by gardening parents…I have always been interested in sustainability. It was a perfect fit,” Reddell explains.
The Heritage Garden was started by a Friends of Beckman Mill volunteer, Dave Konowal, who has a passion for all things gardening and growing heirloom seeds and plants. “Since the Beckman family once had a garden with a variety of plants and vegetables in front of their homestead, Dave installed this rustic heritage garden to showcase one more example of how the Beckman’s lived in the early 1900’s. It’s been a great addition to the park for eight years and is also part of the Beckman Mill tours that take place May – October,” Hoffman tells us.
Reddell got right to work, preparing a written plan including goals, expected benefits, outlining organic pest control, time management goals and more. She identified heritage plantings, developed the layout of the space and secured necessary resources. “I weeded, hoed, watered and maintained the garden and was proud to present it to Beckman Mill visitors during Heritage Sunday in October, an annual event hosted by the Friends of Beckman Mill,” she recalls. Hoffman adds, “Heritage Sunday is like travelling back in time. There are horse drawn carriage rides, classic cars and tractors, historic demonstrators, working blacksmiths, examples of early 1900’s machinery, and, of course, tours of the mill, cooperage, museum, creamery, and heritage garden. Deanna was there to discuss what a heritage garden is, the role it plays at Beckman Mill, and her work on the garden throughout the summer.”
“It’s been an absolute pleasure working with such a devoted student to this project. Deanna, from the start, was very excited about working on the Heritage Garden and it helping with her studies at U-Rock. This is easily noticed through her enthusiasm while working on the garden and sharing new and creative ideas to help improve it,” Hoffman elaborates. “There are great opportunities for UW-Rock County’s students to participate in the Park and Rec world. I’m currently looking for interns or volunteers in the business/marketing fields to work with our newly formed Friends of Rock County Parks to help with the promotion of this group,” he adds.
Looking back, Reddell appreciates the effort required by the bachelor’s degree program and credits her advisor, Karen Greenler with guiding her toward a fall 2018 degree completion. “U-Rock is helping working adults to succeed,” Reddell concludes. For more information about collaborative degree programs available at UW-Rock County, visit rock.uwc.edu.