Ellen Fontanetta is vintage Roosevelt. One of the school’s many non-traditional students, her history as an undergraduate student at the University spanned a quarter century. Ellen completed her degree in paralegal studies in May 2010, with a concentration on legal research and writing – but she’s not stopping there. “I decided to keep going and get my MBA.”
Born in Chicago and raised in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Ellen graduated high school in 1981, a year early and at the top of her class. She attended Roosevelt on a full tuition scholarship, but she regrets deciding to leave college after just one year. However, in 2006, Ellen returned to finish what she had started more than 25 years earlier. She was going back to school.
“When I decided to go back, I was a single mom with two teenagers. Roosevelt had an online program that would allow me to finish school and be with my kids. As a bonus, one of the degree programs offered was paralegal studies. I've always been interested in the legal profession, and I found out all my credits from my first year would apply towards my degree.” So Ellen enrolled at Roosevelt – again!
What prompted her decision? “I was taking my daughter to see colleges when she was a sophomore in high school. I wanted to keep her interested in the college path. I was so excited about it myself that I decided to go back. I thought finishing my degree would be the best way to motivate my children to stay in school, possibly helping them avoid the same struggles I had while trying to establish my career without an education.”
Ellen feels very lucky to have found a great career in the fire protection industry, where she’s worked full-time for 24 years. Now a project manager for commercial construction contracts across the Chicago metro area, she said finding time for school was a challenge. “The most important factor is that it has to fit your lifestyle. Roosevelt's online program was perfect for a single parent situation. Online isn't easier; it's just more convenient. Roosevelt makes it so you can stay where you’re at, be where you need to be and earn your degree. Plus, you can do your homework with your kids!”
College life suited Ellen well. “My program is a small, tight-knit community. I have a lot of people in my classes that seem to be in the same boat as me: an adult in the working world trying to finish what they started. When you go back after being out in the ‘real world,’ you are very focused and dedicated to school.”
Because of her passion for legal studies, Ellen especially liked Roosevelt’s emphasis on critical thinking skills – something she had been learning on the job for decades. “Teaching critical thinking is hard. Having the right professor to give you feedback opens up a new world of understanding.” She also appreciated the attention paid to each student by the University’s expert faculty and staff. “You won't get lost in the shuffle. The advisors and professors keep track of you, guiding you on your path.”
Grateful for being able to give her education a second chance, Ellen hopes her story will inspire others with careers to break out of their routine and pursue their dreams. “I didn’t need a degree to support myself. I didn’t have to do this. This is what I wanted, and it opened my eyes to the world again.”
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