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Serendipity Leads Jennifer Gentry Back to College to Complete Degree

NKU BAOrgLead Grad Jennifer Gentry

When Jennifer Gentry took her daughter, Mackenzie, to freshman orientation at Northern Kentucky University, she was looking for quality time. Before they left Highland Heights that summer day, however, they were both enrolled at NKU.

A lunch encounter with NKU advisers and other staff led to conversations with students in the adult learner program that sealed the deal for Gentry.

"I decided to sign up myself," she said.

Twelve months later, Gentry, 43, graduated from the online Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership program in August 2020. She had previously enrolled in college twice and was excited to return.

"I was already a business management major when I left school," she said. "I got my license for stocks and bond trading, so it was a natural progression to get that degree."

While Gentry completed the bachelor's degree program, she worked full time in client services for Great American Insurance Company in Erlanger, Kentucky. She and her husband, Tony, also have a son, Anthony, who is taking classes at NKU as a high school senior. He will attend NKU full time next year.

"Without my family and their love and support, I wouldn't have been able to finish this degree as quickly as I did and decompress after long study hours," she said. "Family is special to me."

The flexibility of the online format gave Gentry the freedom to do schoolwork any time of the day while working full time and being with her family.

"The online format was amazing. The Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership is such a good program. I could do it on my own schedule. I could look at the syllabus and the weekly assignments and do them before and after work and on weekends," said Gentry who also volunteer-teaches at her church.

Happy Homecoming

Gentry enrolled at Xavier University straight out of high school, but she left before graduating and started a family. After she had kids, she enrolled at NKU as a business management major in 2003.

"I like to help people grow, whether it's in finance or insurance or any aspect. I like to coach. I also like compliance. I like to investigate and find things that are missing and correct them," she said.

Although Gentry had never taken any online courses before her second stint at NKU, she took to online learning quickly.

"It was a super easy adjustment," she said. "It took a little bit to maneuver Canvas, but luckily, I had my kids to help me figure it out. The faculty members always got back to me quickly when I had a question. It's amazing. They were personable, too. A lot of them did videoconferencing and personalized it."

LDR 460: Leading in Diverse and Global Contexts and PSY 340: Social Psychology were Gentry's two favorite courses in the B.A. in Organizational Leadership curriculum. She found the information she learned in the program applicable to her career.

"Both of those courses were interesting," she said. "I like meeting people and seeing where they are in life — that's why those interested me. I also enjoyed the capstone course because it brought everything I learned from the program together provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my future and how I will use all I learned."

Mission Accomplished

Since Gentry finished what she started by completing the bachelor's degree program, she is considering another return to college for a master's degree. She also believes the B.A. in Organizational Leadership will create more career opportunities for her.

"You're going to learn a lot about yourself and ways you can grow in interacting and leading people in this program," she said. "Just because you don't have a leadership title doesn't mean you aren't already leading people."

Gentry, who enjoys working out and spending time with her family, is proud that she never gave up on finishing the degree. She's especially glad that she took her daughter to NKU orientation, with fate stepping in to give her a nudge.

"I got more than I expected out of the program," she said. "I also didn't expect to finish this quickly. I was able to do full-time online classes while working full time, be a mom and a wife and volunteer. I was so excited.

"The organizational leadership program itself is so good. It's robust enough that you can go in different paths and make it work for different areas and job opportunities. This degree will help elevate you."

Learn more about NKU's online B.A. in Organizational Leadership program.

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