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Published June 01, 2020
When Sarah Szewczyk finished her associate degree at Casper College in 2014, she was ready to continue her studies in criminal justice with a goal of earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming at Casper.
But with the demands of a full-time job and two children, the then 35-year-old found that the program was more than she could handle. A bachelor’s degree might be a hill too steep to climb.
After meeting with Rosalind Grenfell, UW-Casper’s academic advising manager, Szewczyk learned about UW’s Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in organizational leadership degree program. She enrolled in the online program and found it provided the flexibility she needed.
She graduated in December, one of 46 people around Wyoming receiving degrees from UW’s BAS program this academic year. With her UW bachelor’s degree diploma hanging on her office wall, she now feels equipped for career pursuits and success.
“This degree program is something that worked very well for me and my career advancement. I now can leverage my education in discussions with my employer so there are opportunities to advance,” says Szewczyk, who currently works in policy and contract management for Casper’s Wyoming Medical Center. “At this time in my life, my educational goals are different from when I was 21, and this program was well rounded. The flexibility was very important for me, especially because I work full time, and some of the classes were more catered toward actual work situations.”
UW’s BAS in organizational leadership degree program, now administered by UW-Casper, allows students to stay in their home communities to earn bachelor’s degrees. This year’s graduates come from Casper, Cheyenne, Evanston, Gillette, Lander, Laramie, Pavillion, Rawlins, Riverton, Rock Springs, Saratoga and Wheatland.
The program’s enrollment has more than doubled over the past five years, with students coming from industries including fire science, police, radiography, paralegal studies, government, hospitality, business, computer science and agriculture.
“This program is ideal for people who are looking to reach that next step in their careers, obtain a degree at their own rate, and who work full time,” says UW-Casper Dean Brent Pickett. “The organizational leadership degree track provides an opportunity for nontraditional students across Wyoming and the United States to earn a bachelor’s degree that is completely online. The only requirement is an associate degree in any field.”
The program also works well for some traditional-age students. Slade Becker, 20, of Riverton, just received his BAS in organizational leadership while living and working in Fremont County.
After two years attending UW in Laramie, he was struggling and had determined he likely wouldn’t earn a bachelor’s degree. But Grenfell let him know how he could complete the BAS program online, and he found the experience to be the best for him.
“I was in a degree program I wasn’t happy with, and the move to the BAS program gave me classes I was interested in and that I could apply to real life,” Becker says. “I would recommend it to anyone just graduating (from high school) right now. I enjoyed the professors and my adviser. It was a really good experience.”
To complete the degree, Becker worked as an intern for T&A Supply Inc., a wholesale distributor of flooring products based in Kent, Wash. His father, Mike, owns flooring stores in Riverton and Lander, and that connection helped secure the internship.
“I traveled in Washington, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming with a sales representative checking with accounts, and I worked on product development with luxury vinyl planks for flooring,” Becker says. “I learned a lot.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made Becker’s future employment prospects uncertain, he expects that his bachelor’s degree will give him a leg up in the job market. He also believes he has developed leadership skills that will help in all aspects of his life.
Szewczyk also says the organizational leadership curriculum was useful.
“I needed a higher understanding of how HR works in general; of business affairs in general; and how government agencies and corporate offices differ in financial and personnel handlings,” she says. “The interpersonal communication classes were great, too, in showing how leaders and supervisors see things differently from their employees.”
Szewczyk and her family celebrated her graduation at home in December. While she would have enjoyed participating in commencement celebrations this spring, the home celebration was particularly meaningful -- especially for her two school-age daughters.
“It was important for them to see how committed I was to it, even though it was really hard,” Szewczyk says. “It encouraged them to do well in school, and I think they now appreciate what their studies are all about.”
For more information on the BAS in organizational leadership degree program, email BAS@uwyo.edu.