Back in business: UF employee goes back to school for business degreeGAINESVILLE, Fla. – Cynthia Tillman took a 33-year hiatus in her education before returning back to school for her bachelor’s degree via UF Online. The Gainesville native graduated in May 2018 with a degree in business administration.
When Tillman first earned her associate’s degree in 1985, she had planned to continue pursuing higher education. But as she married, moved to Georgia, and started a family, she decided to put that dream on hold. Coming back to Florida years later to work as the account manager for UF’s Division of Continuing Education, Tillman heard about UF Online and decided to enroll.
“This was always a long-term goal,” Tillman said. “Life’s twists and turns ended up taking longer than anticipated, but I’m thankful I finally did it.”
Virtual coursework was a challenge for Tillman. She had never used online resources like ProctorU to take remote proctored exams before, or MATLAB, a software for computational mathematics. The last time she was in school in the 1980s, students only had one option – to physically attend class and fill out paper scantrons for exams. But Tillman learned to adjust to the online format and to become familiar with new methods of learning.
“There was a thought that I may not be able to do it,” Tillman said. “I wasn’t sure if I was too old to do it again, but the drive to do it overrun the fear.”
Whenever she felt the self-doubt creeping in, Tillman said she also relied on her faith to get her through it. She always reminded herself to trust that if God had brought her to it, He would bring her through it. She knew that if she put in the work and studied hard, it would pay off in the end.
“Now that I’ve done it, that’s one goal that just gives me more drive to go after my other goals,” Tillman said.
Tillman liked the fact that online classes gave her the ability to work at her convenience. She could watch lectures when she got home from work, take notes at her own pace, and rewind the video if she missed something the professor said. She enjoyed learning about entrepreneurship and international law specifically, as she loved to understand why things work the way they do, she said.
Looking back, Tillman attributes her success to her family’s support. She remembers times where she would come home after work to a long night of studying. Her husband would cook dinner and make sure everything else was taken care of. Her other family members constantly reminded her that she was smart and capable. Without their encouragement, she wouldn’t have been able to do it, Tillman said.
Tillman now aims to pursue a master of business administration degree. She considers it a second long-term goal after having achieved her bachelor’s degree. .
“I take pride in being a Gator,” Tillman said. “It means I’ve accomplished something a lot of people haven’t. It’s a goal, a wish, a dream fulfilled, but now I’ve got one down, one to go.”
Story by Alexandria Ng. Photos submitted by Cynthia Tillman.
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