When I was younger, I didn’t know what lifelong learning meant; I just knew I enjoyed being in school. To illustrate my love of school — I was the kid who cried about missing days because I had chickenpox in elementary school. I wasn’t sad because I was sick – I was sad because it meant I couldn’t go to school. If we attended school together, yes, you would have called me a nerd – I’m good with that and fully embrace it.
For some background about my education, I have completed a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree, all in the field of psychology (I earned both of my graduate degrees at Walden). Most people would say they’re done at that point, but my love of being in a classroom has pushed me to do more, so now I’m pursuing another master’s degree, right here at Walden, this time in the area of higher education.
Through my journey, I’ve learned that being a lifelong learner is beneficial in so many ways. Of course, it has helped me to add important skills to my curriculum vitae (CV) and improved my standing professionally. But it’s much more than that. I find learning something new to be fulfilling and fun. I’ve also found that it helps me to feel more confident, motivated, and engaged with the world around me.
I’ve spent the bulk of my educational experience at Walden because the mission has resonated with me right from the start. I have always felt supported by peers, faculty, and staff, and I am regularly in awe of the social change efforts of those around me. This might be why, when given a chance to return to Walden, my answer is always yes! If you’re interested in being a lifelong learner at Walden yourself, there are many ways to do that.
Complete Another Degree — You can, of course, pursue another degree like I am, and how Walden’s own President, Dr. Ward Ulmer, did. Remember, though, being a lifelong learner doesn’t mean you need to be pursuing a degree. It just means you’re interested in learning new skills, exploring different topics, and expanding your worldview.
Complete a Certificate – If you’re not ready to commit to another full degree, you could pursue a certificate option, which would not require as many credits. But, you might be able to apply credits from a certificate toward a degree if you decide later on you want to do that.
Flexible Options – If you’re looking for a really flexible option, you could check out Walden’s Tempo Competency-Based Learning programs or review the catalog for individual courses you’re interested in taking. Tempo Learning provides you with a custom based way to complete a full Walden degree, whereas choosing to register in one regular course doesn’t require you to enroll in a program.
Apply for a Student Position – If you’re a current student, and you’d like to develop some skills, you can also look for student positions at Walden. Student positions become available as needed by the university’s centers and departments. I held a graduate assistant position while pursuing my doctoral degree. That experience taught me so much about working in higher education and allowed me to increase my skills in technology, teaching, and research.
Apply for a Fellowship – Walden also has fellowship opportunities for recent doctoral graduates. This program might be a great option if you’re looking to build your knowledge and skills in the areas of research and teaching.
As I come close to the end of my second master’s degree, I can tell you that I’m already thinking about and exploring what comes next. Yes, I might consider yet another degree, but knowing that I have some flexible options that will allow me to continue to grow and expand my CV while staying at a university I enjoy and I’m proud of is incredibly satisfying. As a lifelong learner, I find joy in the process and the act of learning – I plan to continue that, no matter the path I take.
Dr. Christy Fraenza is the Coordinator for the Doctoral Peer Mentor Program. Dr. Fraenza regularly hosts the Tips to Overcome the Imposter Syndrome webinar in the Academic Skills Center (ASC). She is also contributing faculty for the Center for Academic Excellence (CAEX).