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Gaining Confidence, Perspective through Online General Studies Program

UL Online -- Tue, 02/07/2023 - 8:55am

Melanie Fontenot watched her husband graduate from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, then watched two of her three children graduate from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — all the while knowing she was only 18 credits short of her bachelor’s degree.Melanie Fontenot earned her bachelor's in general studies online at UL Lafayette.

At the age of 55, Fontenot could no longer ignore the call to complete her degree.

“I had been talking to my boss about it, and he had gone back to UL Lafayette through the online General Studies program, because he only needed six hours to graduate,” Fontenot says. “He said, ‘Look, if I can do it, you can do it.’”

That encouragement came back to Fontenot when her position as a retail merchandiser went away in 2018.

“That's when the idea started creeping up that this might be a great time to finish that degree because I'm retired, and I'm too young to just sit here.”

(Re)Starting Slow

After being out of school for 37 years, Fontenot was intimidated to jump into 100% online courses. 

“I started with one class because I was nervous about testing; I was nervous about proctoring; I was nervous about the technology now — all of that,” says Fontenot.

Melanie Fontenot with her husband and biggest cheerleader.Soon, Fontenot began building momentum, taking advantage of the program’s 8-week terms to knock out the sixteen courses that now stood between her and her degree.

"I could get a lot of hours completed by enrolling in A- and B-term classes,” Fontenot says. “So, I started adding on classes as soon as I realized it wasn’t as hard as I feared; you just have to stay on top of the reading and do the things they tell you to do.”

That’s not to say Fontenot didn’t struggle. Earning a degree is a challenge, and she felt that. But her family was usually waiting in the wings to give her perspective and support her. She credits that support for getting her through the rough times.

"When I thought, ‘There's no way I can do this,’ my kids would say, ‘Mom, you got this.’ My niece would come over and help and say, ‘this is what you have to think about...’ or ‘think about it like this...’,” says Fontenot.

Finishing Strong

That support came through on graduation day, as well.

Fontenot’s cheering section was substantial. We-can't-all-fit-in-the-photo substantial.Melanie Fontenot's husband cheers her on during commencement, Spring 2022.

Children, nieces, nephews, sisters, neighbors, and friends came to celebrate Fontenot and her achievement.

“It surprised me because I didn't know a lot of those people were coming. But it was neat, and it still warms my heart because they came from Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, all over.”

Shortly after she graduated, Fontenot started a new job as a Branch Office Administrator with a local Edward Jones office. Earning her degree — especially learning online — gave Fontenot more confidence to take on her second act and taught her more about herself.

“I love my job. I'm using everything that I was taught in online classes, especially the computer class. When I walked in, I wasn't intimidated by the computer. I wasn't intimidated by learning. Had I not gone back to college, I would have walked into this job very differently,” she says.

“I’ve realized I can be independent. I can support myself. I can continue to learn. You know, it doesn't stop. There's no age where you just stop learning, and I'm capable of doing it a lot more than I thought.”

Melanie Fontenot with her cheering section during commencement, Spring 2022.

Find out what you can do with your bachelor’s degree. Request information today about the online Bachelor of General Studies.