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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Online student finds his stride…and strength

March 10, 2014
After his own construction business back in Texas had fallen on hard times, Lathan needed to make a change.

Lathan Murdock had his own construction business in Texas for eight years, but things were not working out the way he had hoped. He knew he had to make his move pretty soon to get out of the hole that kept getting deeper for him, his wife Cherie, and their four children, ages 3 to 10 years old. They were barely holding on.

“I’d been jobless for brief periods, homeless, we’d moved twice and had to home-school the kids,” says Lathan. “But my job was to not give up.”

At 36 years old, Lathan had not been in school for a pretty long time, but he knew that education held the greatest hope for change in their lives. In July he found a Construction Management program on SJVC’s Online division and “the price, duration and the way it was set up – it was a no-brainer for me,” he says.

“I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” says Lathan. “I needed to do something to improve myself, something I would admire someone else for doing, and improving my own character, my own goals, my own life.”

Lathan was not at all certain he would do well in an academic environment, especially in courses in which he did not have a particular interest. Could he push himself hard enough to make the grade?

“I’m a sit back kind of guy; it’s not really in my nature to be determined,” he says. “But once I make a decision I stick with it.” Lathan enrolled…and hit the ground running.

Things got worse before they got better. Finding himself out of work again, their family had to rely on help from others.

“I wasn’t able to take care of my family, I am ashamed to say,” remembers Lathan. “We lived with family or friends for a while; people just took us in, which was nice.”

Under these stressful circumstances, no one was more surprised than Lathan to find himself on the Dean’s List and hitting and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. He found lots of support from Online instructors and the Career Services department. Then, when a Construction Foreman position in Massachusetts opened up, Bryan Campbell in Career Services coached Lathan through the interview process, well before the intended time for students who are about to graduate.

“Bryan was by me every step of the way,” says Lathan. “He supported me through my decision to take a new position in how to negotiate, refine my resume, and mock interviews. I don’t think I’d have this job without him.”

One of the greatest surprises about his online program was Lathan’s budding friendships with so many staff and faculty. “I didn’t expect to get to know these people as well as I did,” he says. Their admiration and respect grew for Lathan, as well.

“Along with being liked and respected by fellow classmates, Lathan is an excellent and very inquisitive student who enjoys learning from both his peers and instructors,” says Michael McGuire, instructor. “While he continues his current success in the construction industry, he is developing the skills, knowledge and abilities to achieve his full potential.”

Things are finally starting to stabilize for Lathan and his family. He has a full-time, steady job, the kids are in school, and “It’s nice to be normal for a while,” says Lathan.

Lathan admits that experiencing this kind of difficulty as a family has brought them closer together.

“We’ve learned a lot about one another, this last year and a half, that’s for sure,” says Lathan. “We’ve been through hell, to tell you the truth. But, my wife has always been supportive and wants me to do what I want to do, and the kids are troupers.”

Lathan graduated in January knowing that he would get to take a full breath, finally. He will not pause for long, however and intends to, at some point, push for his Bachelors…maybe even his Masters degree. His success at SJVC has ignited his confidence, as well as his ambition. It has also reaffirmed his feeling about where it all begins and ends.

“I’m a very spiritual man and I look to God for my ultimate inspiration and success,” he says. “I know He wants better for me…to be the best I can be. So that’s been the biggest strength; knowing there’s something more than me out there. That’s what really helps.”


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