Two in School, Managing Life + Love While Completing Our Degrees

In a different season of life, this week would mark the beginning of finals for Dominic and I. The mad rush of studying, exams and final projects before we could exhale and finally enjoy the Christmas season. Truly, it feels like a different lifetime, but in actuality our “school days” were just a few years ago.

I’ve yet to write much about my pre-mama life, but education was a HUGE part of it. Not only was I completing my Master’s, but Dominic was finishing his Bachelor’s and I was working in the education field as well. We ate, slept and breathed school most days. Now that life is filled with parenting responsibilities, we look fondly back on those homework dates at Panera and late nights of paper writing – they almost seem, dare I say, easy. In the least, a different kind of busy. What I would give now to delve into a book for a few hours … even if it is a textbook!

Our pre-baby days together began in 2007. That January Dominic decided to take a term off which in his case was NOT a good idea. In my opinion, schooling builds and grows until completion and it’s so hard to gain momentum again when you get a taste of a school-free life. While he worked, I finished my senior capstone, known simply as “410”. That winter and spring if you needed to know where I was, the answer was most likely, four ten … and everyone nodded in understanding. We began to toss around the idea of marriage, but as I heavily considered rolling straight into my Master’s program after graduation, Dominic put the kibosh on any wedding plans saying I needed to focus. It was an intense 18 month program and he didn’t want wedding preparation derailing my goals. Little did I know he was playing devil’s advocate and had plans to propose in May.

On a cold May evening, the 18th, Dominic proposed on the Portland Waterfront with a generational diamond he had arranged into a solitaire setting. I was in shock, literally. He had to prompt me to call family and friends with the happy news. I was just so stunned. Especially after all his convincing that we needed to wait until I was done with school.

A few of my most favorite engagement photos

I launched into both my Master’s studies, Management and Organizational Leadership, and wedding planning that summer. I was working too. It was a crazy season of life. Dominic returned to school to complete his Business degree, but this time, rather than a traditional format, he enrolled in an adult degree program where classes met one night each week for four hours. Each class lasted five weeks and had mountains of both group and individual homework, research and projects in between each class meeting. My Master’s program was in a similar format and we found this evening, intense schedule to be ideal for juggling school with our day jobs.

We married on August 24th and took off one week of class (the maximum allowed for each 5 week session) and hopped a cruise bound for the Caribbean. 

Cruisin’ is the life!

Then it was school, school, school! We balanced two moves and a few job changes (all good ones!)  while balancing school from 2007-2009. I presented my thesis, The Nonprofit Leadership Deficit, in October 2008 and Dominic finished his coursework in early 2009. We’ve never breathed a bigger sigh of relief than when we both had our diplomas in hand. It was like the launch of a new life for us!

And truly, it was. Our degrees opened so many doors for us personally and professionally. I accepted a wonderful job in the midst of my Master’s. One that I was eligible for because I had my Bachelors. Even more, they were encouraging of my Master’s coursework and I was eligible for tuition reimbursement which aligned beautifully with our debt freedom plan. My position was at a college and my day to day work focused on sales, marketing and enrollment. I learned a bounty of transferable skills from the training and mentoring I received, many things I still use today. But most of all, I was blessed with the opportunity to play a small role in helping other students achieve their dreams. I calculated credits and helped walk the maze of financial aid, I cried and cheered with my students, many of whom became friends.

But the real game changer was for Dominic. I heavily credit his degree completion for his fast-paced progression in his career. This is the true blessing because his career changes allowed me to more quickly fulfill my goal of becoming a stay at home mama. Get this …

  • June 2007 – Working in the shop doing manual labor at a cabinet company
  • September 2007 – Promoted into sales (an office and travel position) at the same company, received frequent raises, promotions and new responsibilities
  • September 2009 – “Scalped” by a competitor for an engineering job in building industry
  • March 2010 – Started his own financial consulting business on the side
  • July 2010 – Moved into a human resources/admin management job at his former company
  • January 2012 – Promoted in sales management which prompted our move in mid-2012
  • April 2013 – Laid off, but just one month later was working again
  • June 2013 – Accepted an admin manager role at a new (much better!) company
  • November 2013 – Promotion discussions underway with talk of even building a new position just for him because multiple departments want to utilize his skill set
So, as you can see, many of the big changes in his career happened while he was in school and could list “anticipated degree completion – early 2009” on his resumé. Then, once his degree was done a whole new world of positions opened up because he fulfilled the “must have Bachelor’s” benchmark.

Diploma finally arrived in the mail! A mark of hard work!

Schooling is a lot of work no matter when it’s done, but it’s worth it. No one is joking when they say that. Education opens doors, it broadens horizons and it truly changes lives. My experience testifies that and I’m forever grateful for the professors, classmates and college employees who played a role in my and Dominic’s success.
Since I worked at a college I feel like I have a few tidbits to share for those of you considering continuing your education, from both my personal and professional experience. So, later this week check back for “Five Things Every Adult Should Know About Returning to School!”


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  1. says

    I love this story, and what a great message it will send to your kids. You certainly didn't go about it the easy way but both of you have benefited so greatly from your incredibly hard work! I also love the flashback pics :)