Karen Nieberding isn't dwelling on the past while paving the way for her future.
After spending 17 years as a stay-at-home mom and going through a divorce, Nieberding is on track to graduate from the NKU Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies online program in Summer 2019.
Nieberding, a part-time middle school substitute educational aid in Cincinnati, has two sons, Jacob (17) and Matthew (9), and a burning desire to finish what she started.
"To get a job that is going to be financially good for me and my kids, or to move anywhere within a company, I felt that a degree is necessary," she said. "On top of that, it's been weighing on me for 25 years that I don't have a degree. I felt like if I can accomplish this, I can accomplish anything."
Nieberding is spending the last six months of the BA in Integrative Studies program deciding which career field to pursue when she enters the workforce full time. Her three areas of focus in the program are psychology, business and leadership.
"I have not narrowed it down completely," Nieberding said. "I might focus more on the psychology part when looking for a career — not necessarily teaching but more working with families. My oldest son has autism. Jacob is a good motivator for me as to where I'm going to head."
Nieberding completed an associate degree in Integrative Studies in December 2018. All of the psychology courses Nieberding took piqued her interest in pursuing a career in that field.
"I want to be in a field where I am helping people," she said. "When I am inspired, I am able to discover creative solutions. I always find myself wanting to understand the 'why' behind decision-making and why people are the way that they are or act the way that they do. Putting myself in another person's shoes comes easy to me and helps me to understand people better."
NKU, Part Two
Nieberding already had some experience at NKU before enrolling in the online Integrative Studies bachelor's degree program. After starting college at Eastern Kentucky University in 1990, she transferred and spent a semester at NKU as an undeclared major. Her three brothers — Greg, Mark and Ray — also attended school at NKU.
"I liked the convenience," she said. "NKU is right across the river. I can go to the campus if I need to. I can go to the library, which I have taken plenty of advantage of. If I need to talk to my adviser, Sara Caldwell, it's a convenient place and a well-known university."
Choosing NKU for her online education was a no-brainer for Nieberding who shortlisted schools based on their reputation and "how legit they are."
Although Nieberding knew where she wanted to attend school, she still wasn't sure what major to study before enrolling at NKU again in 2017. The Integrative Studies program was the right fit for her because of its versatility and flexibility — two must-haves for any stay-at-home mom.
"After talking with Sarah about what I wanted to do and accomplish and not being able to narrow it down to one specific field, she suggested integrative studies," Nieberding said. "I had never heard of it.
"Having her give me that explanation helped with my decision-making process. Being able to choose three areas of focus really helped. I'm able to integrate all three areas, and I'm focused on trying to decide where I'm headed with that."
The flexibility of the online format is also essential for Nieberding as a single mom with a part-time job. Her son, Matthew, also plays several sports, so she is often at his games with Jacob.
"I find the online program easy because I'm so organized," she said. "It's a very important key to be organized. With an online program, you can't wait until the last minute. If you do, you're bombarded with all of this information and work to do.
"Time management is extremely important with it being online. It's been very helpful with being able to do things with my kids and subbing here and there. I don't have to take time out of class to work on my job."
Worth the Wait
Nieberding, who is originally from Fort Thomas, Kentucky, looks forward to achieving her goal of earning a bachelor's degree and embarking on an exciting future and a brand new lease on life.
"I want to attend graduation because I want my kids to see me up there and walking," she said. "My friends and family are very excited, proud and supportive of me. The program is completely worth the value. It will absolutely open doors and pave a way for me."
In addition to time management and organization, interaction is another key to Nieberding's success in the online BA in Integrative Studies program.
"Being organized with your material will help a lot," she said. "All teachers say, 'If you need help, don't hesitate to ask.' I completely encourage that. Interact with your fellow students and interact with your teachers — that's why they are there. Even though they're online, they are still there to help you."
Most of all, Nieberding is happy to show her sons not only that education is valuable but also that one closed door can always lead the way to an open one.
"Matthew likes sitting at the table with me and doing his homework while I do my homework at night," she said. "It has become a family thing. It shows that hard work and dedication will get you going. "
Learn more about the NKU online BA in Integrative Studies program.
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