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JCCC Stories

Retired. Returning. Ready.

May 27, 2016

After successful corporate career, business leader Cassie Nelson continues learning in JCCC classroom

Cassie Nelson could be enjoying her retirement in various ways – taking vacation, relaxing or spending more time with family. Instead she’s at Johnson County Community College to get her degree, finishing what she started years ago.

Beginning again 

Nelson is a non-traditional student, but at heart she’s traditional. It’s been many years since Nelson attended college because she focused on her career and family. Now she is retired from a great career in corporate America and looking for something more.

“Now I am back to finish what I started years ago and get my degree,” she said.

Even though Nelson had a successful career, she still feels that learning is an ongoing process.

Describing her experience at JCCC as “intimate,” Nelson develops relationships with professors and fellow students through class participation. Her studious nature always shines as she sits in the front of class, contributing as much as possible. Nelson gives traditional students a professional perspective by pulling from the knowledge she gained in her career.

Professors tell Nelson that her involvement in class discussions helps students see things through a different lens, not just the professors’ perspective. Her professional experience and advice seems more palpable coming from another student like them.

Andrea Broomfield, English professor, said Nelson, like many non-traditional students, brings a lot of substance because of her maturity and career experience. Nelson participated in a learning community class that combined Composition I and U.S. History.

Because the combined class focus was family history, group discussions centered around people's backgrounds, ancestry and experiences against the wider backdrop of national history. Broomfield pointed out that Nelson was always prepared and engaged.

“Her application of business and corporate principles to the world of the classroom made her stand out as a role model,” said Broomfield. “Her time management, commitment, high level of professionalism and generosity was always something students – and professors – noted and emulated.”

Adapting nicely

If others are benefiting from Nelson in the classroom, she’s benefiting just as much. She loves to engage in conversation with her professors because she prefers face-to-face exchange when she has questions. Interacting with students inside and outside the classroom also means something to Nelson.

In fact, one of Nelson’s favorite things about campus is seeing her classmates outside of class. They’ll wave at her from down the hall or say hey. She says “Hi” in return and continues to her next destination.

“It makes me feel like I’m a part of this big JCCC family,” Nelson said.

Contrary to what some might think, Nelson doesn’t feel that age is a barrier for her when conversing with other students. She said it’s about having conversations, sharing different perspectives and having a willingness to learn from both sides.

Being able to identify with others on campus makes her feel like a traditional student. Plus, during this day and age, going back to school after having a successful career is normal.

Although Nelson has a large amount of professional experience, she still was nervous about coming back to school. She didn’t know if she could keep up with homework. She didn’t know how she would fit into the environment.

“For sure I thought I was going to be the oldest student on campus … not just in class, but on campus,” she joked.

However, all her fears were squelched the first day of class because of the atmosphere, learning resources, diversity and the immediate connection with her professors, she said.

“Everything that you need is right here on campus,” Nelson said.

Moving forward

Looking ahead, Nelson said her business experience helps her to better appreciate her college experience.

“I don’t think of JCCC as something extra I have to do,” she said. “It’s become a part of my daily routine.”

Based on her work experience, she knows what she’s capable of doing. A college degree, however, will enhance her value for employers because she’ll have a better understanding of technical concepts. Nelson eventually wants to belong to an organization where she can contribute and feel good about the environment.

“I just want to be somewhere where it is a win-win,” she said. “A win for me being in a great environment and a win for the employer getting someone like me with my skill sets, enthusiasm and energy.”

Story written by Jalen Harris, student intern for Marketing Communications, fall semester 2015.