Student Spotlights: Grand Pacific Resorts’ Elaine and Sabrina

Text: 'I am more open to trying new platforms for communication and excited to integrate them into my work life. Elaine Plasse, BA in Communications. 

Competency-based education boosts confidence in using technology for adult learners.

Elaine Plasse spent many years thinking she was too old to go back to school. Sabrina Neria didn’t think she was mature enough to go to college when she was younger. But both women now work for Grand Pacific Resorts and took advantage of their employer’s partnership with Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America program to earn their bachelor’s degrees.

Plasse has worked as the resort’s learning and development manager for two years. She earned an associate degree in the mid-1980s and then began a long career in the travel and merchandising industries. Once she had a family, she said she focused on saving for her son and daughter’s educations. “I didn’t feel like I deserved to spend money on MY education,” she said.

“Earning my bachelor’s degree (especially at this stage in my life) has pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It has disrupted my life in a good way and made me realize that even old dogs can learn new tricks.”

That changed when she learned about Grand Pacific Resorts’ partnership with CfA. The program allowed Plasse to take on a degree program that let her study online and at her own pace. The CfA program is self-paced and uses competency-based, real-world projects to ensure students can immediately apply what they’re learning to their jobs.

Neria, who has worked at Grand Pacific for 12 years as a service representative and administrative assistant, said she was motivated to go back to school when her niece was accepted to college. The fact that she was in charge of when she completed the projects was empowering.

“You don’t feel pressured at all because you don’t have anyone telling you what to do,” Neria said. “I believe I pushed myself harder because of this and that is why I was able to complete the program in nine months.”

Both women said the challenges they faced have paid dividends at work. Plasse said she often struggles with technology and long questioned her technical abilities. Since the projects she completed were online and often required her to produce video and audio content, she’s developed more skills she can use in her work.

“My writing skill and my willingness to experiment with technology have improved,” she said. “I am more open to trying new platforms for communication and excited to integrate them into my work life.”

Writing skills were also a primary benefit for Neria. She often felt that she was a poor writer, she was recently asked to write about her experience with CfA for a company newsletter and used her improved writing skills to produce an article she felt good about.

“I was proud of the article that I wrote and couldn’t have done it without the program,” she said.

Another benefit of the program for Plasse is that it has lit a passion for learning that continues to burn. While she’s done studying – for now – she continues to find new subjects to learn about and research. “I have an incredible hunger to keep on learning,” Plasse said. “I can’t get enough of reading books, TED Talks, podcasts, webinars and blogs.”

And Neria isn’t stopping anytime soon. She said her bachelor’s in accounting is her next goal, one she’s working on now. She encouraged her fellow employees to at least give the CfA program a chance. They might be surprised to find how it works into their lives.

“I didn’t know if I was going to have the time or like the program,” she said. “But after the first few projects, I actually became intrigued and wanted to see what the next project would be. I took a chance and had nothing to lose.”

The College for America programs are offered exclusively to employees of Southern New Hampshire University’s partners. Ready to earn your degree? Find your employer to get started today: https://collegeforamerica.org/apply/

Workforce Development

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