Jessica Vincent has been working with children since she was 17, and it’s work she’s passionate about continuing.
In the Spring of 2020, Vincent was working in early childhood education and looking for a way to complete the bachelor’s degree she’d begun some years before.
Going back to school would resolve the unfinished business of her degree and she would become the first in her family to graduate college.
She knew she would need online courses she could fit into her life as a teacher, wife, and mom.
“I'm a mom, I'm a teacher, so I needed something that was really flexible,” she said.
Some Google searches later, Vincent found — in her own backyard — the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Bachelor of General Studies online and got the ball rolling.
Leap of faith
Vincent felt a certain skepticism looking into the General Studies program. What if the curriculum was too broad? However, delving into the behavioral science concentration curriculum assured her she was in the right place.
“You can really personalize [General Studies] through the concentrations,” she says. "You can zero in on what interests you."
While her favorite and most applicable class was child psychology, she was enthralled by courses in geology and criminal justice.
“I actually – surprisingly – enjoyed the geology classes. I expected to go in there learning about rocks, but you learned so much!” she says.
The criminal justice course included a special interactive project for the students: after reading an academic article on motherhood for women in prison, the author of the paper joined the students on a video chat and answer questions about her field research and experiences.
Vincent says speaking with the author directly was thrilling and made the reality of field research feel within reach.
Connecting the dots
Vincent went full-steam toward her degree, taking a full course load — 12 credit hours — each term. Steady support from her husband and family was invaluable throughout her journey.
“My husband has been really great at picking up some of the slack. At times when maybe I wouldn’t have time for this or that, and he’d just be like ‘I got it,’” she says.
In her approach to online classes, Vincent found the structure of asynchronous learning allowed her to customize her study pace around what her daily life demanded, such as doing more readings and assessments in her online classes before a week of standardized testing at her job.
"I really liked being able to work ahead," she says. "It gives you more control over when you want to do things, so when you're in a better headspace and you're producing better quality work."
Vincent says even with the tremendous support she had, earning a degree is hard work and it can get discouraging at times.
“If you start thinking you can't do it, you won't do it,” she says. “Try to stay positive. Try to remember what the end goal is.”
Big plans ahead
Vincent did not set out with long-term academic plans. She just wanted to finish her degree. Now — with an infusion of drive and faith — she is preparing for her next step: Graduate school!
“There was a period in my life when I just felt that maybe a bachelor’s wasn’t in the cards for me, but once I made the leap of faith and began to continue my degree, I realized that I was flourishing,” she says. “My self-confidence bloomed, and I knew that I could really do something to change the world with my education.”
She next plans to study social work and ultimately hopes to work in child and family advocacy.
Thriving through online learning helped Vincent imagine what possibilities she could achieve in her lifelong passion to work with and help children.
“Advocacy and compassion are my most treasured aspects of working with kids. It is what brings joy to my soul,” she says. “Social work will allow me to experience all my favorite aspects of educating and give me the best tools to aid, assist, and fight for those in vulnerable or crisis situations.”
Find out what doors and opportunities you can unlock by finishing your degree in General Studies online at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette!