Northwest Arkansas native
NWABWC speakers committee co-chair
NWABJ "40 Under 40" honoree
For Mandy Hougland, the JBU Degree Completion Program wasn't a way to return to college to finish a degree she started right after high school, but the opportunity to transfer to a local university after completing an associate's degree.
"Because of family circumstances, I was not able to attend a four-year university immediately after finishing high school," Hougland said. "My parents were very hard working, responsible individuals, but they were unable to help me with college. So instead, I went to work, married young and eventually started my own family."
A few years later, as a newly-divorced single mom, she decided it was time to take responsibility for her own education, and enrolled at a local community college. "At the time, I only set out to earn an associate's degree. I never dreamed I would be able to transfer to a school like JBU and earn my bachelor's," Hougland said.
Continuing to work full-time, Hougland took classes for about 10 years before graduating Magna Cum Laude with her Associate of Arts degree. She then took a year off to evaluate different programs in the area and to do a little soul searching to make sure she was on a career path that could sustain both her interests and her financial needs long term.
After doing her research, Hougland found the JBU Degree Completion Program to be the perfect choice for her situation. "As a non-traditional student, I needed a program that would accommodate my full-time work schedule," she said. "As a single parent, quitting work in exchange for full-time campus life just wasn't an option for me. With classes being held only one night per week, I was able to manage my career, schedule business trips and continue to juggle my daughter's extracurricular activities without having to give anything up. I had researched nearly all of the post secondary educational institutions in Northwest Arkansas before settling on John Brown. In the end, JBU's exceptional reputation, affordable tuition and tailor-made program won me over.
"The Degree Completion Program is challenging," Hougland said. "It will stretch your mind and grow your spirit. The instructors have high standards and high expectations for all of their students. They encourage questions and class participation. You will be prompted to think, engage and interact. Like anything, you will get out of it what you are willing to put into it."
The structure of the program was a big factor in Hougland's school choice. "I was very impressed by the way the entire program was laid out," she said. "One of the best things about the program is that JBU understands that we are busy, working adults. You don't have to run around and find your textbooks or make special trips to the main campus to sign paperwork and do other things. Everything is handed to you in an organized, efficient way.
She also enjoyed the relationships with faculty, staff and students. "Our academic advisor was with us all the way," Hougland said. "The chaplain made every effort to build personal relationships with the students he served. And Carol, the office administrator at the Rogers Center, was always extremely helpful, as well. My cohort became very close - like an extended family."
Hougland received her JBU diploma in 2010, and has discovered the benefits of finishing her degree to be far-reaching. "Receiving my bachelor's degree has done wonders for my self-confidence," she said. "Traditional college was never an option for me. I've had to work my way through. It's made me a better person."
It's also given her some job security. "I now have a better sense of security in this volatile job market," Hougland said. "More importantly, I have that coveted 'piece of paper' to go along with 12 years of experience in my industry. Employers can draw a lot from that: tenacity, dedication, and commitment. And I know that I have what it takes to advance my career to the next level."
Hougland is glad she chose the Degree Completion Program. "There are so many things that set JBU apart," she said. "I think they all stem from the fact that it is a Christian-based school. The Degree Completion Program offers an incredible support system for students. The chaplain, the instructors, the academic advisor, the office administration - everyone is eager to help you succeed. JBU is run by exceptional people who genuinely do care about the students who attend the university. It shows in everything they do."
An Arkansas native, Hougland was born and reared in Rogers. She's been a member of the Northwest Arkansas supplier community for 12 years and used employer tuition assistance, student loans and funds from freelance writing to help fund her dream of finishing her degree. A big proponent of education, she currently co-chairs a committee for the NWA Business Women's Conference and is a member of the NWA Retail Link User Group (RLUG) Planning Committee. Hougland was named to the 2012 Northwest Arkansas Business Journal's "40 Under 40" class. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with the NW65 organizational management cohort at the Rogers Center.