Business Administration program helps give student boost up the career ladder
Marissa Gonzales’ employer made clear to her the path she would need to take if she wanted to get into higher management: Additional education and the degree(s) and certification(s) she might earn to blaze that path.
She knew there was an Operations Manager position coming up at Holiday Inn Express, where she currently worked in guest services. “They told me, ‘If you get the education, we’ll give you the opportunity,’” she says.
Marissa’s front desk position had already earned her several Employee of the Month awards, and she loved the interaction with guests and being part of the hospitality team. But her eyes were always on the next higher area of responsibility she might hold.
To meet education requirements for career advancement, she enrolled at the university nearest her Turlock home. But classes were crowded, course wait-lists were long, and she sometimes had to wait two to three hours before her next class started. She felt she was in the slow lane, barely inching her way toward career goals.
Slow-motion did not fit Marissa’s “chop-chop” mind-set…especially when she had her husband Isaiah and their two preschool girls Tiara and Faith to consider. Time could not be misspent.
She started to scout other education opportunities and ask friends for recommendations. San Joaquin Valley College Modesto (Salida) popped up in her search. She made an appointment to talk with an admissions advisor and tour the campus. The Business Administration program caught her attention.
“I was looking for something that would pertain to what I was doing, and the accounting [portion of the Business Administration program] was more of the direction I was looking to head,” she says.
SJVC made a good first impression. “The campus was beautiful, people were very friendly; they had big smiles and were eager to answer my questions,” says Marissa. “They took care of me until I didn’t have any other questions.”
Then Marissa heard the bell. When someone enrolls at SJVC, everyone comes into the lobby to acknowledge that important first step they have just taken to pursue their career dreams. “It’s kind of like the Hall of Fame,” Marissa laughs. Then, it was her turn. “I love the spotlight, but I wish I would have curled my hair a little better!”
Shortly after enrolling, Marissa was launched into a new and demanding schedule. An intense juggling act began.
Isaiah had to change his work schedule from days to a night shift and take care of the girls when Marissa was in her morning classes. “His sleep schedule almost didn’t exist,” says Marissa. “He might sneak in a nap when I got in but learned to survive on maybe 4 hours a day.” Occasionally Marissa’s mom, grandmother and even great-grandmother would cover a gap when their schedules couldn’t line up.
This kind of pace wasn’t foreign to Marissa, who started working two part-time jobs when she was a junior in high school. She also managed to be part of the cheerleading team and Leadership Club while earning a high GPA. Driven is probably a fair way to describe her.
Her drive didn’t let her down now. And SJVC’s Business Administration program gave her the framework to put her metal to the pedal.
“I loved the formula of the program,” she enthuses. “Your weekly assignments are all outlined, and we always had the same thing to do, just different topics. It helped me to plan my schedule because I knew how light or heavy every day of the week was going to be.”
The stability and predictability of the assignments gave her a clear road map from which she could plan her time. “With everything I already had going on in my life, I didn’t need the unexpected.”
Even with the no-surprises coursework, it was a demanding time. “The hardest part was the sacrifice of family time,” says Marissa. “It was, ‘Mommy can we go to the park?’ and I was, ‘No, mommy has to do this.’ That’s still the difficult part for me now.”
Marissa knows she is also setting an important example for her children. “I have to strive to be the best I can be, whether it’s a job, being a wife, a mother, a daughter or a student. I kind of stay on that high speed. Sometimes I wish I could turn it down a notch, but it’s like the switch fell off.”
Marissa had a lot of support that enabled her to go all out. Her husband and family at home and her instructors at school were always ready to step in.
“The instructors were fantastic,” she says. “Mr. Lewis is a resource like no other. He is always willing to assist any student that needs additional help on understanding materials. He would provide us with study guides and chapter quizzes to study before exams that helped us tremendously.”
Marissa maintained a 4.0 GPA and found time to run the campus’ Student Store with other Business Administration program students. “She was in charge of the Finance Team for the Student Store and applied what she learned in class,” says Chris Lewis, Business Administration program instructor. “She was juggling school, kids, and a career. She exemplifies what is possible if you set goals and live intentionally.”
Even before Marissa finished her program, her employer promoted her to the Operations Manager position where she is in charge of accounts payable/receivable. They had complete faith in her ability to successfully complete her Business Administration program. Since then, she has received several employee recognition awards, including Manager of the Year.
Marissa graduated from the Business Administration program last summer and hasn’t looked back. In fact, her eyes are straight ahead…and slightly upward.
“I want to move forward toward my ultimate goal of General Manager,” she confides. “It’s the responsibility (not the title) that I enjoy.”
New hotels are always in development, and Marissa is tracking those plans against her parallel trajectory. “I will learn as much as I can so that when that time comes, it will be my turn to run the show.”
Does anyone doubt her?
Important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended SJVC can be found here.
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