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Student Stories

Working full time and meeting family commitments while also pursuing an education to move your career to the next level can seem daunting. A little encouragement and a few tips from people who have been through the same experience can be reassuring. The following students and alumni discuss why Whitworth's evening degree program was the best fit for them.

Jeff Mitchell stands in front of an airplane.Jeff Mitchell '21

When Jeff Mitchell decided to return to college to finish his degree, he researched all of his options. "My initial interest in Whitworth was its reputation of excellence," he says, "which was confirmed by recent graduates."

Mitchell's position at the Spokane International Airport gives him ample opportunities to apply this excellent education in the workplace. "This education allows me to fill the gaps in professional development and helps me be more successful at my position," he says.

Mitchell was recently promoted to a management position, and he uses the knowledge and skills from his evening business degree in his work, daily.

Nikki Belyea '20

Nikki Belyea is a professional photographer and mom by day, and she added college student to her evening routine. When she started classes at Whitworth, she worried that adding class time and homework to her already full load wouldn't be doable. With the help of a supportive academic advisor, compassionate instructors and loyal fellow students, she not only persevered but also grew and developed. 

"One of the life-changing benefits I had by being a student again was becoming a more critical thinker. Rather than just going through the motions in life, I noticed myself wanting more information and answers. I now feel more comfortable with the questions I don't have answers to because I know that it's OK to still learn as an adult," Belyea says.

Belyea's infectious curiosity is now contagious to the children she teaches as an elementary art teacher.

Ralph Allan '21

Ralph Allan is dedicated to preserving and restoring the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's natural resources. Once a week, instead of going home to his family after work, he hopped in his truck for the nearly one-hour drive from Plummer, Idaho, to Whitworth for class.

For Allan, the drive to earn his bachelor's degree was worth it by helping him advance his career. But, the degree wasn't simply a professional goal; it was also personal. He wanted to show his son, his grandkids and everyone in the Tribe that since he could do it, they can too. He hopes to inspire generations of tribal members to complete four-year degrees and be able to move into leadership positions unattainable without a degree. "It's never too late to make a difference," Allan says.

Jeff Roberts

After a 27-year hiatus from the college classroom environment, Jeff Roberts began to take another look at education options in the region. With a career that would require a bachelor's degree, he started looking into options that would allow him to continue working while going to school. That's when he found that Whitworth's evening degree programs met his needs: an in-person college experience, exceptional instructors and a format that worked with his busy work schedule. 

His favorite course so far? Transitions to Adult Learning. The course, which is focused on helping adult learners transition to returning to school, gave Roberts the confidence to continue forward with a growth mindset. "The class gave us the tools to succeed. The professor gave us the confidence in ourselves to achieve our best," Roberts says. "At first I was overwhelmed and anxious about going back to school, but now I love it."

Val Cook '19

Val Cook's passion for helping people led her to Whitworth's human services program. As a first-generation college student, she worked hard every step of the way, navigating and overcoming barriers that threatened to keep her from continuing her education. When she reflects back on the experience now, as a graduate of the Class of 2019, she says it was all worth it.

Cook started her college journey at Spokane Falls Community College and transferred to Whitworth with her associate degree in social services. She completed her bachelor’s degree in just two years while working a full-time job as a rehabilitation coordinator at Bellevue Healthcare. In her current position, she cares for elderly and disabled clients with long-term mobility limitations. 

When Cook started the human services program at Whitworth, she knew she wanted a degree that would allow her to continue serving Spokane's vulnerable populations, but she wasn't sure exactly what she wanted to do long term. Now, after exploring different career paths in college courses and learning about the needs of the Spokane community, she hopes to find a position working with victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.

Cook has plans to continue her education and study at the graduate level in the future; after finishing her bachelor's degree and graduating magna cum laude, nothing stands in her way.

Brian Holland '20

Going back to school at 40 years old with a family is a tough decision – one many of our students face. "The decision wasn't easy," Brian Holland said, "But it was well worth it.” With a two-year degree and a career opening in front of him that required a bachelor’s degree, Holland decided to take the plunge and apply to Whitworth’s evening program.

"My educational track at the community college was almost entirely technical," Holland said. "My time at Whitworth introduced me to many fascinating subjects that have changed my worldview for the better. Who knew that baroque and renaissance art history would be so interesting?"

Jocelyn Whitfield-Babcock '11

Jocelyn Whitfield-Babcock had watched friends "go back to college" elsewhere and quit. She was expecting to burn out, but the accelerated format fit her schedule and kept her attention.

She took every writing-intensive course Whitworth had to offer; it helped with her ability and confidence to become a writer extraordinaire. And, Whitfield-Babcock was able to set the example for her children that college and a degree are important.

Chana Fox '16

Chana Fox chose Whitworth knowing she'd receive a more personalized experience than at another university. What she didn't expect was to have so many resources and support from Whitworth professors and staff. She says, "My experience at Whitworth changed my life. It showed me how much the right support can help a person. I really enjoy being able to help others now." The encouragement from her professors, classmates and family made earning her degree easy and the results profound. "I got hired six days after I finished at Whitworth."

If you've got questions about how Whitworth's evening program will fit with your schedule and commitments, we encourage you to connect with a student or alum from Whitworth's extensive local and global community network.