Barbara O’Connell, one of this nation’s biggest success stories, decided late in life that she wanted a college degree. When I first heard that she enrolled in the University of Phoenix’s online Bachelor of Arts program, it came as no surprise that Barbara was going to undertake another huge challenge.
I know Barbara for almost 30 years. Her husband Frank was our client several times during his brilliant career: Twentieth-Century Fox Video, HBO Video, and Skybox trading cards. Barbara, in my opinion, was the perfect wife. She was a natural beauty, had a great shape, always ready to move when Frank got a bigger, better job. She devoted countless hours to charities, hosting exciting dinner parties, became in charge of their extensive real estate holdings, raised two very industrious sons and was instrumental in keeping close contact with her husband’s older children. She also skis, rides a Harley, and hikes. I am sure she has many other interests and hobbies but I think you get my point. Barbara is no sloucher.
It seems that all through the years, Barbara has had a nagging desire to get her college degree. Much like many women her age, she got side tracked by excelling at her first few jobs and raising a family. About eight years ago she decided to do something about it. Without any fanfare, she started taking online courses at the University of Phoenix. The school is known as the pioneer in online, long distance learning. They have all of the same courses and degrees as many major universities.
Since the future of our lives is now going virtual, I wanted to know more about Barbara’s online school experience. It took her five years to complete her B.A. That was three years ago. Her journey should give us a glimpse of what to expect as more of our dealings are being conducted through the Internet.
Barbara: The biggest difference for me was that the competition between the students was gone. You are taking classes with people from all over the world. There is a sense of camaraderie and maturity. Everyone helps each other to achieve. Some students excel in one area while they need help in another. No one was a genius all the time. It was a great feeling to know you were a part of a team.
Q: What kind of discipline do you need to get a degree online?
B: You really have to want to do it. No one is forcing you. You have to be committed. You can’t be wishy-washy. You are either in or out. You are taking classes with others who are very serious. You can’t hold them up. The class has assignments, some of which is divided up. You can’t move forward unless certain areas have been completed. There are deadlines. You can’t be missing in action.
Q: How did you find time to do all this work with your busy schedule?
B: There is an old saying, If you need something to get done, give the job to the busiest person. The busiest person knows how to manage time. You just have to allot the hours. You basically work at your own pace but you must meet the deadlines. For example, all work was due each week at 11pm on Sunday nights. It doesn’t matter if you did your assignments in the middle of the night or early in the mornings. It just had to get done. I remember many a night that I would sit down to work on an assignment after we would get home from a movie or night out with friends. Frank would look at me and say, “You are getting obsessive about your work. Go to bed.” I never paid attention if I was inspired or had the energy to get a few things done. I liked the fact that I was able to manipulate the hours for when it suited me.”
More Q and A With Barbara O’ Connell tomorrow.