Employees Find Success Going Back to School
Shortly after the Great Recession and several years of work in low-paying jobs, Silvia Ramirez made herself a promise: she would get her degree, which would give her the opportunity to advance in her career.
Ramirez, a lifelong Oceano resident who joined Cal Poly Corporation in 2012, was taking courses part-time at Allan Hancock College. Now a Campus Dining unit manager, Ramirez received support from CPC’s Educational Fee Reimbursement Program to cover some of the cost of her degrees — two associate degrees from Allan Hancock and a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Phoenix.
But she wasn’t done.
“Soon after I was accepted into the master’s program at University of Phoenix,” Ramirez said. “Fifteen months later, and here I am a proud recipient of an MBA.
“It has been a tough road, yet ‘nevertheless (I) persisted,’” she added, quoting Maya Angelou.
The Corporation offers its employees the opportunity to pursue additional schooling and be reimbursed some of the cost of the degree through the Educational Fee Reimbursement program.
Over the years many CPC staffers have taken advantage of this program to complete a bachelor’s degree that they started years prior, get an advanced degree to enhance their skill set, or to pursue a lifelong passion.
For Conference Coordinator Emily Locher the opportunity has meant that she can go back to school to pursue a goal that she cares deeply about.
“I have always had a passion for psychology, and with this I can help make my workplace better, and I can do a better job working with clients,” Locher said.
In 2019 she started a master’s degree program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology through Capella University.
“My intention is to help make the workplace better,” Locher said “Not only for the organization but for the employees. There are so many things that can be done to increase morale and general happiness, and that in turn affects productivity.”
Marketing Manager Sarah Gerkins will wrap up her studies for a master’s degree in Strategic Marketing at Bellevue University at the end of July. She started the program in February 2020.
“I learned new concepts and practical tools that I was able to use immediately in my job,” Gerkins said. “It was extremely relevant and helped me grow, and what I learned has also added value to our department and the departments we work with.”
For Ellen Curtis, director of marketing and communications, the Educational Fee Reimbursement Program allowed her to complete grad school — something she had put off for years.
“My graduate studies helped round me out as a marketing and communications professional,” Curtis said. “It also reminded me of what students go through on a daily basis. Let’s just say it had been a few years since I had to worry about homework or studying.”
While in grad school Curtis was able to add to her skillset and apply what she was studying in class directly to her work at the Corporation.
She and other Corporation employees recommend their colleagues take advantage of the program.
“It is a very valuable benefit of working at the Corporation,” Gerkins said. “If anyone is considering using the program, definitely take the first steps to check it out.
“It is especially nice that the program is flexible and allows schools outside of Cal Poly so employees can choose a program that fits their field of interest and their lifestyle,” she added.
Full-time employees are eligible to take courses at Cal Poly, or other accredited institutions with approval, after one year of employment. The program aids employees in furthering their education while simultaneously becoming better equipped for their positions at Cal Poly.
“I am grateful that CPC values furthering their employees’ education, as it gives people the opportunity to continue to learn and develop,” Locher said.
Added Curtis: “For those who think you are too old to go back to school, I am proof you can do it.”