Andrea Burdick has been working for a family-owned landscaping company for six years, but her passion is healthcare. Luckily, her boss is supportive of her future — and likely — career change. Burdick is working toward her Bachelor of Science in Public Health online at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA).
"I chose online because I cannot afford to not work at least 30 hours a week," Burdick said. "My boss is behind me 100 percent. So if the phone isn't ringing or it's a bit slow, I can read for class while I'm at work."
Burdick, who works as an office manager, enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) program at UTA after being waitlisted for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
"I decided to explore my other options, but my name is still on the nursing program waiting list."
She enrolled in the BSPH program because it allows for a path into the BSN program after completion — in fact, students who graduate from the BSPH program with a 3.0 GPA or higher are guaranteed admission to the BSN program. However, now that Burdick is in the public health program, she's unsure which direction she'll take when the time comes.
"It's really absolutely amazing how much the program has opened my eyes," she said. "How much there is to do and the need, and how much public health affects our lives. So it's been a really good experience. I've learned a lot. And it is something that I am interested in."
The Grass Is Greener
After graduating from high school in 1999, Burdick started down the path to a college education. She was in school for a few years, but took a break after becoming a mom.
"I took 12 years off to raise my son, Tyler, and stayed home for the most part until I started working back in an office job," she said.
Burdick, who lives in Garland, Texas, went back to school in 2015 to earn her associate degree from Dallas County Community Colleges. She is now several courses into her online BSPH program, though she had some early struggles with her associate degree program.
"School's been a long and slow process for me. I started off going part time, but it has been faster since I joined the accelerated online program," she said. "It's been a blessing because it does keep you going. I did back out at first in the associate program, when I was finishing out some of my lower biology courses, and it was just taking forever.
"Online has been very new experience, but I would definitely recommend it. I was so nervous at first, because I didn't know if I could do a full course in just seven weeks. I thought, 'I'll never be able to do that.' But it is totally doable. You've just got to dedicate yourself."
Getting Into the Weeds
Now that she has taken a few public health courses online, Burdick is comfortable talking about some of her favorites and why.
"I really enjoyed my ethics course [KINE 4351: Ethical Practices in Health Professions]," she said. "Dr. Kristen Priddy was so engaged. She made me feel like there's so much more to an online course. She always gave feedback and made announcements, too."
Burdick said that some of the early courses gave her a strong public health foundation and helped her better understand the material in subsequent classes.
"It's structured to help you take away from everything, and not just go through the motions," she said. "I really liked the classes that are aren't just focused in the United States. There are global aspects to the courses."
She even enjoyed the only course where she didn't get an A — KINE 3351: Public Health Informatics, a required technology course taught by Peace Ossom Williamson.
"It challenged me. I learned a lot from that class," Burdick said. "Ms. Williamson is also a library data scientist and she gave us all kinds of information. We even learned how to make a website. It was really awesome."
The first course students take in the online BSPH program at UTA is with the program director, Dr. Becky Garner. That course, KINE 2350: Public Health: Principles and Populations, helps students gain a baseline understanding of public health.
"That course with Dr. Garner was really cool," Burdick said. "She did a really great job. She was also very interactive. She was posting all the time and giving us feedback and telling us how everyone did in the class. You felt like you were actually in an in-class course.
"Thinking now about each individual course, I can tell you they have all been great so far. I've really enjoyed all of them."
Burdick, who is taking one or two classes at a time in the online program, has also enjoyed the opportunity to learn from other students. She spends at least 10 hours per week on her studies and puts the extra effort into her discussions posts.
"Almost every course and every week there's a discussion," Burdick said. "Some require a little more effort than others, but I always do everything to the T. So for me, it took a little longer. I always went that full extra mile because I'm striving for an A.
"It also helps to get other people's perspectives and see folks from different backgrounds and cultures."
While Burdick anticipates a May 2020 graduation date, her son, Tyler, is also moving along in his own education — he starts high school in the fall.
"I'm nervous," she said of her 13-year-old's transition to high school. "I'm not quite ready for him to be in high school."
Despite Burdick's busy schedule, she makes plenty of time for Tyler, who is in a robotics club. They also have two dogs that they enjoy spending time with at a nearby park.
Burdick's parents have been supportive of her as she breaks new ground in her education and future career in healthcare.
"My mom and stepdad live in Florida, but they're behind me 100 percent," she said. "They help me financially when I need it. They're recently retired, and me going back to school has been something that they've been waiting to see happen. They've been so patient and supportive, and they're just ecstatic for me and Tyler."
Burdick plans to be on the UTA grounds in May 2020, where she'll walk the graduation stage while her parents and son cheer her along.
Learn more about UTA's online Bachelor of Science in Public Health program.
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