May 07, 2013

Graduate reaches goal through online program

by Pete Rosenbery

Florence Simpson

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- In spite of an already hectic schedule, Florence Simpson of Fairfield realized she needed to earn a bachelor’s degree to continue in her career as a travel agent and consultant.

So along with raising her family, serving on the local grade school board, being executive director of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, and working part-time at a local antique mall, Simpson added Southern Illinois University Carbondale student to her already crowded schedule.

Through her perseverance and the University’s College of Business online undergraduate degree completion program, Simpson will receive her bachelor’s degree in business and administration during commencement ceremonies for the College of Business at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11, at the SIU Arena.

“I’m really excited about the fact that I did it and I have the degree behind me,” Simpson said.  “In the travel industry no travel supplier will consider you as an outside sales representative or consultant without a bachelor’s degree.”

Simpson learned a few days ago that her dedication paid off.  She will be returning to the travel industry with Travel Masters and moving to the Tyler, Texas, area this summer.

She earned an associate degree in computer science from Kaskaskia College in 1984, and later took additional classes at Frontier Community College, an Illinois Eastern Community College in Fairfield.

Simpson began her online undergraduate degree-completion program at SIU’s College of Business in summer 2011, and her hard work did not go unnoticed. She earned the Outstanding Senior in Business and Administration Award during Honors Day ceremonies last month.

“Flo is an exceptional student,” said Ann M. Pearson, the online undergraduate program coordinator in the College of Business.  “She has successfully balanced work, family, and her own college education.  Flo was unusual because she focused on understanding material and gaining the knowledge from the courses in the program rather than merely aiming for a grade.  It was not unusual for her to interact with the TA (teaching assistant) or me in discussing topics that were challenging or confusing.”

At SIU, there are about 2,900 online course enrollments and 159 courses offered this spring.  In the College of Business, there are approximately 110 active undergraduate students in the degree completion program, and more than 325 on-campus students enrolled in online courses with the college for the upcoming summer semester.  An online accounting program begins this fall, and the college also has an online MBA program.

While an online education can be challenging, it is rewarding, Simpson said.  One advantage is that even with assignment deadlines, there is some flexibility available.

“It takes motivation and I think a lot of desire to do an online program because you have to really want it,” Simpson said.  “I knew I had to work; there was no way around going to school.”

Pearson finds that online degree-seeking students are very committed to their goal.

“They are masters of time management,” she said.  “They are determined and committed to completing their degree.”

Simpson said working toward the degree helped her gain greater confidence in her own abilities.  Understanding and knowing how to do business plans is important, and the courses increased her confidence, she said.

Simpson and her husband, Keith, an SIU alumnus in horticultural science, have two children, a son, Charles, a senior at Fairfield Community High School, and Lauren, an eighth-grade student at Jasper Grade School.  Keith Simpson is a legislative assistant for state Rep. David Reis, R-Ste. Marie.

“With two children, a family and expenses, I knew I had to work full time.  I made it a point I was going to get it done,” she said.

In fact, this week is going to be another extremely busy time for the family even with Simpson’s graduation.  Son Charles, who ranks seventh in his class, graduates from high school on Sunday, May 12.  Meanwhile, daughter Lauren, the class valedictorian, graduates from junior high on Thursday, May 9.

Simpson has had strong family support throughout her educational journey, even joking that her husband learned how to cook, “sometimes.” Her family “was a major part” of her own success.

“Without their support none of this would have been possible,” she said.