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Kelsey Kreke Balances Motherhood, School, to Earn Bachelor's Degree Online


NKU online Integrative Studies graduate Kelsey Kreke

Kelsey Kreke has spent a lifetime helping children develop and grow. When her full-time job went away three years ago, she did some additional development and growth herself.

"I was a nanny for three-and-a-half years, which was what I wanted to do with my career," Kreke said. "When the mom got pregnant with her third child, nanny care became too expensive. So, she stayed home with them, which left me out of a job. I said, 'I might as well go back to school and get a bachelor's degree.'"

That's exactly what Kreke did. She graduated from the Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies online program at Northern Kentucky University in December 2018. Kreke also became a stay-at-home mom when she had her first child, Oakley, 16 months before graduation day.

"Talk about having to have time management," Kreke said. "I didn't have child care options, so I did a little bit of schoolwork here and there. I only took one or two classes at a time. I had to pace myself, but the online format worked out great. Plus, the school is still local so if I needed to go there, it was an option. "

Kreke says that she stumbled into the BA in Integrative Studies program after a friend, Gina Shenefelt, told her about it as a graduate of the program.

"I laughed at myself because, at first, I said, 'I'm just getting this because it's an online degree, and I just want something,'" she said. "But employers are looking for people with diverse backgrounds. I didn't realize how many job opportunities there were with this degree until I was in the program. The BA in Integrative Studies will help you with your career."

Natural Caregiver

The nurturing instinct Kreke developed never subsided after her mom, Elaine Carol, passed away when she was nine years old. In fact, Kreke's first job at age 16 was in a day care center.

"That's why everyone tells me I'm good with children," Kreke said. "I feel that way, too. I love children. There's something special about having a part in their development and their growth.

"I worked in the infant room at the day care. I was also involved in church, so I did some classes there with the kids and spent time in the nursery. That all pushed me into child development."

Kreke worked as an assistant preschool teacher for one year before becoming a nanny. She graduated with an associate degree in early childhood education from Gateway Community and Technical College in 2013. After a one-year break, she enrolled at NKU.

"I was going to be done after my associate degree," Kreke said. "At first, I didn't have any desire to get a bachelor's degree. I transferred to NKU in 2014, but I didn't declare my major until 2016."

Family/child education and psychology were Kreke's areas of focus in the online BA in Integrative Studies program, which allows students to choose three focus areas instead of a typical major. She especially enjoyed the IST 397: Interdisciplinary Inquiry and IST 497: Capstone in Integrative Studies courses.

"Those were the best classes I have ever taken," Kreke said. "You learn so much about what you're doing in the program. The instructor, Rhonda Davis, was amazing. She is the best instructor at NKU."

Kreke said it's important to carefully consider which areas of focus to pursue because the versatility of the program allows students to customize their degree to meet their desired career options.

"You need to know what you want to do first and how the areas of focus would integrate with each other," she said. "Also, save all of your coursework. That's one problem I ran into — I didn't have some of my coursework. Save it all."

Oh, Baby

Integrative studies graduate Kelsey Kreke with her family

Kelsey with her husband, Jason, their son, Oakley, and their therapy dog, Nyla

Now that Kreke is the first person in her immediate family to earn a bachelor's degree, she is looking for new ways to combine her passion for child development and her love of writing.

"I applied to be a mom reporter for Cincinnati Family Magazine," she said. "I would get to go around the area with my son and write about our experiences. Earning this degree helped me prepare for this opportunity because the magazine looks for a child education background since that's what you're dealing with. Of course, with psychology, you're always writing blogs on child development. It goes hand in hand with that, too."

Outside of school and work, Kreke, her husband, Jason, and their therapy dog, Nyla, volunteer at colleges, nursing homes and other organizations.

"My dad, Ron Robbins, and my husband were very supportive of me," she said. "They pushed me through and were very excited for me. I was really hard on myself. I strived to get all A's and graduated summa cum laude. Graduation was a fun experience."

For now, Kreke is keeping all future career options open while she enjoys being a mother and spending time with her family.

"I would like to eventually do something a little different," she said. "I absolutely got more out of the BA in Integrative studies online program than I thought I would."

Learn more about the NKU online BA in Integrative Studies program.


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