Kristen Philipps, Brandi Foster, Candra Heindselman & Linda Wade: Accelerating Achievement

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Kristen Philipps never dreamed that pursuing an undergraduate degree would impact the lives of so many around her, but it did, and now three of her co-workers will forever thank her for taking the first step.

In December, Kristen graduated with her business administration degree through the Accelerated Instruction with McKendree (AiM) program after a 19-year hiatus from college life. Although she expected to gain much knowledge from her studies, she did not expect three of her co-workers to as well.

All employees of Pacific Cycle Inc.’s financial department - Brandi Foster, Candra Heindselman and Linda Wade - saw how rewarding Kristen’s endeavor was, and how easy she made it look. They wanted to do the same – together.

As a credit specialist for Pacific Cycle Inc., Kristen loved her job, and still does, but she realized career advancement would require her to advance her education. Then, one day, two years ago, a McKendree flyer stapled to a work bulletin board caught her attention, and she knew it was time to finish something she had started but never finished.

“I wanted to complete the education I started back in 1993, and be a good role-model to my teenage daughters,” Kristen said. “I also want to provide the best possible life financially for my daughters, especially when it comes time for them to go to college.”

Kristen’s three co-workers were considering going back or were already enrolled elsewhere. She shared her positive McKendree experiences, and they all decided it would be a “sisterly experience” to work for their business of administration degrees together.

The first year, they took the same classes, studied together during lunch breaks, and carpooled to campus.

Candra, a product liability administrator, changed her mind about her selected college at the last minute because McKendree offered a flexible schedule, and she’d have her co-workers as support.

“We could support one another,” she said. “Kristen was the first to begin and get through this program, and she assured us it was possible even with work and family.”

Linda, a single mother, made sure her son graduated from college, but she had finally run out of excuses herself.

“This was an item listed on my ‘Before-50 Bucket List’,” she said. “I didn’t miss it by much. All jokes aside, I see what education does for salaries, and I was reaching my peak. I had to either be content with that, or make a change.”

She called for a change, and mastered it while working as a payroll supervisor for Pacific Cycle and as a Wal-Mart sales associate.

Brandi, a junior accountant, wanted to go back for some time, but raising children and working put that idea on a back burner. “It wasn’t easy diving in,” she said. “It can get tough, but we remind one another not to give up; Kristen is a reminder of that. It is going to be well worth it in the end when we are standing there with diplomas in our hands.”

Although Kristen finished two semesters before the other three, they will all walk at the May 2013 commencement ceremony, which will forever continue the “Pacific Cycle.”