Back at Full Voice

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Liz Pettinger was back on stage to help open Bellevue University’s winter commencement ceremony Saturday, Jan. 27, when she sang the National Anthem. It’s something she’s done countless times before.

LizPvideoscreenshotUntil she didn’t. Until she couldn’t. Until thyroid cancer tried to steal her voice.

Pettinger, a nine-year veteran of Bellevue University and currently the Director of Key Account Management and Operations, was diagnosed in October 2016. Doctors and friends tried to reassure her that thyroid cancer was a “good” cancer with a survival rate of over 99 percent if the cancer is restricted to the thyroid itself and a 98 percent survival rate if the cancer has spread only to surrounding tissues, organs, and/or regional lymph nodes. Pettinger’s cancer fell into the latter category.

She was reassured by the information, but still…

“When I was diagnosed with cancer everyone who talked with me said, ‘oh, you have the good one.’ What does that mean? I have cancer. I still see that as a scary word,” she said.

What it meant was surgery to remove her thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland that sits low on the front of the neck. Complications from the surgery can include damage to the parathyroid glands which can lead to low blood calcium levels and temporary or permanent hoarseness or loss of voice.

Pettinger underwent surgery at Omaha’s Methodist Hospital in November 2016 followed by radioactive iodine therapy to destroy any remaining thyroid cells. The treatment required Pettinger to have no contact with people and pets for 10 days afterward. She did indeed lose her voice following the surgery and wondered if and when her it would return.

“I’ve been singing my whole life. Having cancer around something that I use daily and is a part of who I am was hard to swallow,” she said. “There was a very real chance that I would not be able to speak again.  Although those percentages, they kept telling me, were very low, you never know what can happen.”

Pettinger worried that losing her voice would not only cost her one of the things that gave her the most joy, but also impact her ability to perform her job and to be a good parent to her kids, five-year-old David and three-year old Michael.

“Every day that went by, every week that went by, it was scary thinking my whole life is changing,” she said.

But, ever so slowly, her voice did begin to return. An optimistic attitude helped her overcome those moments of doubt and a strong support system of her family, including husband, Ben, a former admissions counselor at Bellevue University and currently a training specialist at Union Pacific, her doctors and nurses, and her Bellevue University colleagues helped carry her through.

“Bellevue was very supportive.  My team is very much like a family. Everyone supports each other and helps each other whether it is a work project or something outside of work,” Pettinger said. “It does make you want to come back stronger. The support helps you become more passionate about what you do. Now that I have a chance to do it again, I’m excited to do it, I’m ready to do it, I want to change lives and that’s what we do at Bellevue University.”

Today, Pettinger is cancer-free. Her parathyroid glands did suffer damage and she will likely have to take calcium supplements for rest of her life. She also underwent a year of physical therapy to help get the trapezius muscles in her back, which were frozen, back into shape.

She first returned to the graduation stage to sing the national anthem for the spring 2017 commencement ceremony and has been in fine voice ever since.

“As far as my voice, it is basically back. I’m just much, much more aware of how I utilize my voice now,” she said. “It doesn’t sound like anything even happened. To have that back was a big win for me.”


Riverside’s Kodat is Paying it Forward

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

What does paying it forward mean to you? Sometimes, it can be picking up the tab of the customer behind you in the drive-through line at your local Starbucks (never a bad idea, by the way). For Craig Kodat, it means sharing the knowledge he has picked up over two decades spent in the fire service field and through the two degrees he has earned at Bellevue University.

CraigKodatKodat, a Captain with the City of Riverside, California Fire Department, is paying that knowledge forward as an Adjunct Instructor for Riverside Community College District. A position he started in September 2017.

“I’ve worked 25 years in the fire service and gained a lot of experience,” Kodat said. “It’s time for me to share that with the next generation. I teach leadership and ethics, it’s a perfect match with my profession and experience, and, of course, my education from Bellevue University.”

Kodat earned a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communications in 2005 and followed up with a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership in 2007. As a captain, Kodat supervises a crew of firefighters in both emergency and non-emergency situations.

“My job, in its simplest form, is to be a problem-solver,” Kodat said. “The education I got at Bellevue helped mold me into who I am today. Both the communications and leadership degrees are a direct fit into my job roles and responsibilities.”

While the community of Riverside has managed to evade many or most of the major wildfires and floods that have plagued Southern California in recent months, Kodat did assist in other locations serving as a Public Information Officer in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. He spent sixteen days away from home during the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in modern California history

“I met with community members from Montecito and Santa Barbara on a daily basis, and provided them with current fire information and how that information directly related to them,” Kodat said. “I helped organize and facilitate community meetings and conducted numerous live TV interviews for several networks. The education from my communications degree provided valuable skills I was able to utilize for that fire assignment.”

A lifelong Californian, research led Kodat to Bellevue University when he began searching for a school from which to continue his education.

“I shopped around for universities and when I found Bellevue I determined it was a good fit for me and my educational goals,” he said. “I had a lot of college units from a lot of local junior colleges that I was able to get credit for. Bellevue accepted a lot of my transfer units.”

Once enrolled, Kodat found the format much to his liking.

“The platform was perfect for the working adult. I had great instructors who were current on trending topics and made each assignment relate to me and my work place,” he said. “Application of the curriculum made learning it more enjoyable as well as relevant.”

In addition to his Bellevue University education, Kodat has also completed the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy, graduating in 2014.

So whether it is in his role as a Fire Captain or as an adjunct instructor for “Riverside Community College, Kodat is paying it forward.

“For me, it’s about community service and being engaged in my community,” he said. “I work for the city where I grew up and where I continue living. Public safety is something I hold in high regard.”

Rea is First BU Employee to Complete School’s Ph.D. Program

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Call Sharon Rea a trendsetter, an innovator, and, as of Bellevue University’s 2018 winter commencement ceremony, a doctor. Rea is the first Bellevue University employee to complete the school’s Ph.D. in Human Capital Management program. She started as an adjunct professor with the University in 2002 and is currently the Associate Vice President of Analytics and Assessment.

As Rea moved up the ranks at Bellevue University, she was encouraged to pursue her terminal degree. After looking around at other programs and universities, she settled on the degree next door. The first order of business was defining exactly what Human Capital Management entailed.

“It teaches you how to treat people, how to train people, how to support your employees, and how to develop and enable your employees,” Rea said. “That’s what the program is all about — how to provide the best environment for people, so they can do their very best work.”

IMG_0157Graduation marked the end of a 33-month journey through the Ph.D. program for Rea.

“It was a very humbling experience. The professors are very tough, but fair. They’re all very approachable,” she said.

Rea’s dissertation was on “Team Member Humility and Team Performance.” Dr. Stephen Linenberger served as the committee chair for Rea’s dissertation, while Dr. Greg Ashley and Dr. Eric Riley also served on the committee.

“I’ve always been interested, or disinterested, in ego, depending on your perspective. In one of the courses, we discussed leadership humility, leadership narcissism, and the toxic triangle,” Rea said. “If a leader can affect a team so much either positively or negatively, I wanted to see if a team member could do the same thing. From a positive perspective, if you have a team member who is demonstrating humility and showing that kind of care and willingness to learn, will their peers within the group start emulating that as well? My research showed that they do.”

Her professors, colleagues, and the staff of the Freeman/Lozier Library all drew praise from Rea for their support during her pursuit of the degree.

“I know I could not have done the research I did without the great resources, search tools, and assistance from the library staff.  It was invaluable,” she said.

Rea drew particular inspiration from her daughter, Libby, who is finishing up her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

“It’s been just her and I for most of this journey. She’s been a big support,” Rea said. “When she’s doing homework, I’m doing homework. We kept each other motivated. I’ve just recently graduated and she’ll be graduating in May.”

With her Ph.D. in hand, the newly christened Dr. Rea hopes to pick up some additional teaching duties in addition to her AVP responsibilities.

“I wish everyone could teach courses and I know a lot of people here do,” she said. “Our students are so inspiring. They’re trying to make their lives better. It’s so awesome that we can help working adults who have kids, who are traveling, who have life events that are going on. Our professors and instructors reach out to support them. I think that’s what sets us apart.”

As the AVP of Analytics and Assessment, she and her team are charged with building the learning analytics for the University.

“We have all kinds of data, but not as much as we’d like on how students learn,” she said. “Learning analytics are starting to show how students move through a course and how different course elements might assist students.”

Sounds like that Ph.D. will come in handy.


Alorica’s Moss Offers Sage Advice

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Making lives better at Alorica is what Kimberly Moss is all about. As the Vice President of Global Healthcare Learning and Development for the multi-national customer relationship solutions provider, Moss is passionate about her role.

Alorica_logo_FINAL_highres“Every interaction we have with one of our customers makes a critical impact on the well-being of another human being,” she said. “I think the support we provide to our customers when they are making decisions about their health and well-being is one of the most awesome aspects of my job.”

To accomplish those goals, Moss leverages the education she received at Bellevue University. Moss has earned three degrees through Bellevue, a bachelor’s degree in International Business, and master’s degrees in both Business Administration and Management.

“The teamwork that was required from day one of my classes was an invaluable tool that Bellevue gave to us,” Moss said. “We not only got a degree, we developed and refined so many behaviors that have contributed to my success. While the degree itself has given me the credibility to compete with others for opportunities, I think the impacts of the experiences are what have given me the biggest edge.  Collaboration, rapid learning, effective communication, openness for diverse ideas, and the list goes on and on.”

Moss currently works in Chandler, Arizona, but she is originally from Omaha and graduated from Benson High School. After completing a few college credits, Moss joined the workforce before continuing her education at Bellevue University.

“Bellevue University was the only school that was offering an accelerated degree program,” she said. “I really didn’t know if I could commit to a four-year degree as I was invested in advancing my career. I also knew that I couldn’t advance much further without the degree.”

“You just have to start. That is the hardest part.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree in 1997, Moss began pursuit of both her MBA and a Master of Arts in Management (MAM) at virtually the same time.

“I actually started with my MAM and then was told that it would take six additional classes to receive an MBA, as well.  At the time, I was employed in financial services and was exploring other positions in the organization to be a more well-rounded learning professional,” she said. “The MBA seemed a logical addition to my toolbox.  I originally thought I would explore an MBA and then when I spoke with the admissions counselor and discovered this option, it seemed like the most efficient and effective decision.”

Communicating in the digital age is one of the skills that Moss picked up in her graduate programs and is the one that benefitted her most.

“Within my MAM program, the ability to work in groups virtually really helped me understand how to effectively communicate with others in a virtual format,” she said. “I traveled quite frequently, so the group work we did on our thesis was often done via the phone with my other two partners.  I didn’t realize how my overall experience would contribute to my ability to be a more effective communicator later in my career.”

Moss is able to leverage those skills in her role at Alorica and impart some sage advice to other adults considering going back to school.

“Everyone has something that they are passionate about,” she said.  “As an adult, we are juggling a ton of things at one time, so pick something that you want to learn and pursue for you,” she said. “You just have to start. That is the hardest part.  I am very proud of the accomplishment of getting a degree while juggling, work, travel, and family.  It really helped me learn I could do anything I put my mind to.”

Student Speaker Shares Advice On Navigating Path to Graduation

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Leia Baez’s Bellevue University degree has already started paying dividends. The student speaker at the Winter Commencement ceremony will graduate with a Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) and is currently the Public Information Officer for Douglas County. She landed the position just six months into her MPA program.

 “The fact that I was pursuing my MPA and was interested in government operations was impressive to the hiring committee. I absolutely love my career as a Public Information Officer and I hope to continue to grow in this position,” Baez said.

LeiaBaezheadshot2017Baez’s role with Douglas County includes serving as a media spokesperson, writing press releases, arranging press conferences and interviews, and managing social media platforms.

“I love that my job allows me to serve the public and the taxpayers of Douglas County, providing them important information that pertains to the community they live in,” she said. “As a journalist for 14 years, I also enjoy that I get to combine my passion for writing and interest in government operations into one career.”

Baez will call upon some of those skills when she addresses her fellow graduates on Saturday, Jan. 27 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs.

“I hope my story inspires my fellow graduates to never give up — even during the most difficult times in life. My message is focused on embracing the challenges, setbacks and failures in our lives because they force us to grow and teach us the most about who we are.”

After graduating from Bellevue West High School, Baez earned her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and worked as a Deputy Online Editor at the Omaha World-Herald. Bellevue University’s online classes appealed to her as she considered options for pursing a graduate degree.

“That was a huge draw for me as a full-time journalist and a mother. It meant a lot of late nights studying, but the flexibility was key. Pursuing my MPA at Bellevue didn’t take away my time as a mom or an employee,” she said. “I also had many friends receive both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Bellevue so I always knew about the opportunities there.”

Baez’s family served as a support system as well as a source of motivation, especially her six-year old daughter, Estella, as she pursued her degree.

“My family is my rock. I can always count on my parents and my brother and sister-in-law to encourage me to never give up on my goals,” she said. “They would also step in to help with my daughter whenever I needed additional time to meet up with classmates or write papers and study. But my daughter is the real reason I am so driven. I want her to see firsthand that we can accomplish anything we put our minds to. I want her to know that the opportunities in front of her are endless.”

Baez and her fellow graduates will be hitting a significant milestone when they walk across the stage during commencement, and she has three tips for those considering taking those first steps down the same path.

  1. Surround yourself with supportive people: Baez credits her family for lending a hand and for pushing her toward her end goal of graduation.
  2. Get to know your professors and classmates: She encourages students to make a point of meeting some classmates and professors in person, if possible, and believes those interactions help build better relationships and can help with career networking.
  3. Don’t give up: Grad school is not easy, Baez said, but she recommends that students lean into the coursework.

“I am grateful to have learned a lot about public policy and leadership,” she said, “which I use on a daily basis in my career.”

2018 Library Campaign

Let’s Raise $2,018 for the Library!


As we kick off 2018, please consider giving to one of our greatest resources, The Bellevue University Freeman/Lozier Library.

As you know, the Bellevue University Library plays a critical role on campus and serves as an essential resource to our students and alumni around the world.

What you may not be aware of is the cost to fund the various resources that the Library provides to our students, faculty, staff and alumni at no cost.

Make a donation today and help the Bellevue University Library deliver on our promise of real learning for real life!

$10 Buys:

  • Paperback book
  • Refreshments during Finals Week
  • Promotional items such as bookmarks and buttons
  • Ream of copy paper
  • Computer wrist pad
  • Office supplies

$20 Buys:

  • DVD for Library’s collection
  • Books for Library on the Go
  • Book stands for display items
  • Supplies for student engagement activities
  • Puzzles and games

$50 Buys:

  • Book display items
  • 25 protective book covers
  • Audiobooks
  • Raspberry Pi micro-computer, for workshops and special projects
  • TV series DVD set
  • Computer or classroom chair
  • 2 new CLEP study guides

$100 Buys:

  • Kindle Fire
  • A year’s subscription to the Omaha World Herald or Wall Street Journal
  • Unlimited user to a single e-book

$500 Buys:

  • A year’s subscription to a journal
  • iPad
  • Comfy Modular Furniture
  • Individual study carrel

The $2,018 for 2018 Library Campaign runs now-January 31st. Please help fund one of Bellevue University’s greatest resources!    

 Making Your Gift

  • Give online using the University’s secure Electronic Giving Form. Please designate “Library Resources” in the dropdown box.

Or contact us to make a gift:

Please send any questions about the 2018 Library Campaign to


Ingram, Sullivan Seek to Inspire With Cradle to College Program

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Dr. Roxanne Sullivan, Professor in the College of Arts and Science’s psychology department, and Lynette Ingram, Relationship Manager in the Community Affairs department, teamed up this fall to present Cradle to College, a program to aid metropolitan area parents as their child transitions into the education system. This is the second time the pair has collaborated on the program.


“The goal is to help parents inspire a love of learning in their preschool-age children that can continue on, so that the children will be interested in going further than high school, into college or some type of post-secondary education,” Sullivan said. “By starting early, the hope is that parents can continue to engender that love of learning throughout the child’s school years.”

Part of the program is to present higher education as something for which to strive.

“Before we do the workshops, the parents and the kids, take a tour of the area colleges and universities and they end up at (Bellevue University),” Sullivan said. “They play with some of the basketball players down in the gym, and they get an idea what college is all about. They really love it.”

Ingram was pleased with the enthusiastic response she received when approaching potential partners about the program.

“They were really open to hearing about what we had to offer,” she said. “They were on-board with what we were trying to accomplish.”

The program is designed to help parents of at-risk youth inspire of love of learning. The meetings took place at the Parent University through the Douglas County Learning Community in North Omaha. For each class, Sullivan and Ingram stuffed a backpack with a variety of items to keep kids engaged with the learning process. Items included a spiral notebook, coloring sheets, and crayons. This year, it even included a pot, planting soil and seeds.

“We’re planting the seeds of learning and they watch it grow. They’re supposed to take pictures every week to see how they grow. They can decorate the little plant pots,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan and Ingram worked with about four families this fall and, while they would like to see a higher turnout, some early positive feedback indicates they are having an impact.

The next Cradle to College workshop series is tentatively scheduled for March 2018.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Ingram said. “It’s great to see these kids and their parents come to campus – to see people that look like them going to class.”

Donor Spotlight: Ann and Hunt Look

LooksAnn and Hunt Look established the Ann and Hunt Look Scholarship in 1997 to assist Bellevue University students pursuing undergraduate degrees in healthcare management. Their scholarship is specifically designed to help adult female students who are facing challenges in financing their education.

Recently, Ann, who is a 1992 alumna of the program and recipient of the 2003 Alumni Achievement Award, took a few minutes from her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico to answer some questions for the Bellevue University Advancement team.

Healthcare today is such a complex and rapidly changing field. What do you hope the students who are benefiting from your scholarship are able to do once they enter the field?

Our purpose was to give an opportunity to older women who are struggling in dead-end positions the chance to receive an excellent education in the healthcare field.  As our population continues to age, these individuals are needed more and more in senior facilities and assisted living.

Based on your own personal experiences with healthcare, how important is it to have leaders who understand healthcare systems?

It’s has to be difficult to deal with all the changes from day to day in healthcare today.  In New Mexico, we are in desperate need of more doctors; the system is overloaded.  I would hope the educational system would begin to train more “navigators” to help people manage their health programs. It’s very difficult for older people especially those on their own.  It’s frustrating to be waiting six months to see a doctor when you need someone now.

As a graduate of the program, what does it mean that the program integrates business administration skills into courses that are focused on essential healthcare knowledge? 

We need good administrators with excellent people skills. The bottom line is always going to be financial but how good is the care you are providing. It’s a tough field, managing all of the staff. People come and go. Staff look for better hours and better pay. The emphasis should be on a good administrator.

Were you a working parent when you pursued your degree here at Bellevue University? What was it like trying to balance a family and your studies as an adult student?

No, I wasn’t a working parent. I was a military wife with responsibilities. I still remember the workload and the reading assignments. I admired those who were working, some with small children and spouses.  Their weeks had to be really tough but everyone in our class hung in. And I was lucky I had an understanding husband if dinner wasn’t always ready. Hunt was the best!!

Is there one thing that you would say stands out to you when you think back to the time when you were attending Bellevue University? Our instructor, Ernie Stark, was the best. He expected us to get the work done, he graded all of our papers, but he understood the student’s time crunch.

And Alan Medsker, who was on the staff at Bellevue (University), working in the financial department, was the catalyst for me going back to school. He had been stationed years earlier with my husband. He knew I hadn’t finished my degree and he brought the enrollment material (to me) and basically said “get going!”

You are now living in New Mexico. Where are you devoting your time and energy, and your free time, now?

We both grew up in the Midwest but elected not to deal with cold, snow, and humidity. Hunt had been assigned to the Air Force Base here twice, thus we decided to stay.  We both love college athletics and have been faithful to the University of New Mexico Lobos, football, men’s and women’s basketball. We are both involved with our church, taking active roles. And we are still traveling, trying to see more of our beautiful state. Our daughter and her family all live in Virginia now, so we try to get there once a year. We have great memories of Omaha and Bellevue.

What would you say to others who might be considering establishing a named scholarship at Bellevue University? Or even a sustaining scholarship fund? 

Your degree is one of the most important things that you can obtain in life. My husband and I believe in paying forward by giving this scholarship. I was fortunate that I was able to finish my degree without debt. Hunt and I are constantly amazed and dismayed at those who are really struggling and just need a boost to move on. Hopefully, that is what we are doing, giving them that boost. And as I was an older student, that is the age group we desire to aid.

If you know a deserving eligible student who would benefit from the Ann and Hunt Look Scholarship, please encourage them to contact Bellevue University’s Scholarships & Grants Department.

If you are interested in developing a named scholarship to support Bellevue University students, please contact the Bellevue University Advancement Office.


Dogs Dominate Security Management Grad’s Career

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Jason Johnson’s career has gone to the dogs — and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Johnson, who has earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Security Management from Bellevue University, is the founder of Project K9 Hero, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that helps raise donations to offset the medical, food, and death benefits for retired Police K-9 heroes.

After spending my 24-year career in the military, police, and federal law enforcement field, I had the honor of working with nearly 2,000 K-9s and military working dogs at all levels,” Johnson said. “Once they retire from service, the majority of the agencies they worked for do not have programs in place to assist them in retirement. We are growing at a rapid rate with over 8,000 individual donors and 25 K-9 Heroes we are taking care of, and we have an additional 30 applicants (dogs) in waiting.”

Johnson became involved with dogs early in his military career in the United States Army.

20171016_151643When I first enlisted I had no idea you could become a K-9 handler or that it was a profession I could seek out,” he said. “After my five-year enlistment, I left the military to become a civilian police officer. I first started out as a volunteer decoy for our patrol K-9s, then advanced to becoming a handler, then trainer, and eventually an international instructor. Today, I have taught classes to hundreds of students all around the world, and I refer to it without reservation as ‘the most honorable profession in the world’.”

During his military and civilian police career, Johnson accumulated credits from a multitude of schools, but he was looking for a place to bring all those credits together toward a bachelor’s degree.

“I was looking for a school that would take my professional experience, my existing degrees, and allow me to finish my bachelor’s. I was able to use my G.I. Bill toward a degree that I felt would complement my career. Bellevue University checked all of those boxes,” Johnson said. “The accelerated online program in Security Management was exactly what I was looking for.”

After completing his bachelor’s degree, Johnson found that a small scholarship combined with the remaining funds in his G.I Bill would cover a master’s degree as well, so he decided to pursue that as well.

“I really enjoyed that the other students in my cohort were working professionals” Johnson said. “Halfway through my master’s program, I left my police department to take a position in Iraq as an Explosive Detection K-9 Handler for the U.S. Ambassador. Bellevue University worked with me during this transition when I had to take a few months off, and my instructor worked with me to finish my degree from Iraq when I had limited resources and internet access.”

Johnson left government service in January 2017, sold his home and most of his belongings to travel nationwide to promote Project K-9 Hero and his book K9 Flash Becomes A Hero.

This allows me to be flexible enough to capitalize on opportunities with my K-9 Solutions International corporation and my non-profit organization without being tied down to one specific location,” he said.

Note: Those interested in supporting Project K9 Hero can visit or

Visiting Vegas? Drop in on London and the MGM Grand

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Visiting Las Vegas? Luxor and New York, New York are nice, but it’s London that makes the MGM Grand Las Vegas the place to be. And, as the Vice President of Casino Operations at the iconic Vegas hotel, it is London Swinney’s responsibility to ensure your stay is the best it can be.

Swinney, a 2009 graduate of Bellevue University with a Bachelor of Science in Management, is in charge of gaming operations at the resort, including table games, the race and sports book, and poker.


“I oversee about a thousand employees and really a lot of things from guest service to employee relations to analyzing profitability of customers,” Swinney said. “I spend a lot of time with guests and employees.”

In addition to those responsibilities, Swinney contributes to overall direction of the organization and offers input on the latest in casino and hotel trends.

A native Las Vegan, Swinney attended the University of Nevada-Las Vegas out of high school, but was itching to move out of the house. However, she recognized that paying rent on top of tuition would be a stretch.

“I knew I probably couldn’t get a nice apartment on what I was making,” she said. “I told my dad I wanted to learn how to deal cards just to make some extra money. He tried to get me not to do it. He said, ‘you’re going to make too much money and then you’re not going to finish your finance degree’.”

Father knows best.

Swinney did indeed take fewer and fewer classes. It was somewhere around 15 years later before she began thinking about school again.

“I was Director of Casino Operations at New York, New York,” she said. “It wasn’t about advancing my career; it was more about my own self-satisfaction. I had young children at the time and wanted to set a good example. I never wanted to give them a reason not to finish their education.”

Still, fitting in classes around her work schedule was going to be tough at a traditional school. Bellevue University, which Swinney had learned about through a colleague, offered an online Management program. The cohort format in which students take one class at a time with the same group of people, was also attractive to Swinney.

“I went online, started looking, and I was amazed,” she said. “They had a plan. You know you’re going to take this class, this class, and this class. I just methodically went through the program and was able to complete it. They just made it so organized and easy. Counselors were there that would answer any questions as well.”

Once enrolled, Swinney engaged with students from around the country and even around the world.

“We had students in the military in Afghanistan. There were students in Connecticut; there were students in Texas,” she said. “That’s what I found the most fascinating about it. I was organizing a chat room with students from all over the world.

“The program was so comprehensive. They really have it designed very well. Bellevue was one of the first ones to the market with a really good, comprehensive, online program.”