Utah Tech Online

Student Success Stories

Are you thinking about an online class, but have reservations about how well you’d do? Or maybe you’re a returning learner who hasn’t been in a formal school setting for years? Perhaps you’re juggling a job and family or other responsibilities, and you’re wondering if education is even an option for you right now? One of the great strengths of online classes or an online program is the flexibility it can offer you as a student.

Read about some of our former students, and the success they found studying online at Utah Tech.


Students Succeeding at Utah Tech Online

Heather Osness: Coming Full Circle
Name: Heather Osness

Program: BAS Healthcare Administration

Graduation Date: May 2021

Advice to someone considering the BAS Healthcare Administration program: “Make a schedule and keep [it]. Be your own boss … Make sure that you’re doing the things you need to do, and staying on top of stuff … If you get behind, it’s really hard to catch back up, and you don’t learn as much … [It’s not just] doing assignments for assignments’ [sake]. I want to learn this information, and I want it to make me a better employee, a better boss, a better manager. And I’m not going to do that if I don’t set the time aside to really absorb it.”

Heather looks perfectly at home in her pristine office in the Taylor Health Science Building, calling out an occasional welcome to stray passersby—more like a friendly front-desk employee than the Program Director of the Utah Tech University Surgical Technology program.

In 2015, a month before graduating with her associate of applied science in Surgical Technology from UT, Heather was hired by the St George Regional Hospital. But a few years later, the addition of another child—their fifth, and an unexpected caboose—made the long hours and on-call duties less feasible. In 2019, she started teaching part time in the very program she had completed, and not long after was named interim program director. But to cement that role, she required a bachelor’s degree. It made perfect sense to turn to Utah Tech again for her degree, and the BAS Healthcare Administration—a completely-online degree competition program—was the obvious choice.

“That’s the beauty of the BAS—it’s for professionals … It’s all online, so it’s attractive to people that are working in the field because they can continue to provide for their family … and do this to … get themselves where they want to be in their career.”

Three months after Heather began the BAS program, the COVID-19 pandemic hit with a vengeance, sending her school-aged children home for remote learning and pulling her shifts at the hospital way back. While there were a lot of balls to keep in the air, Heather made it work. Her homework time was from 8pm to midnight each day, after the kids were in bed and the house was quiet.

“Because it’s all online, you really have to be self-disciplined … [you] have to set aside the time, tell yourself this is what’s going to happen, and this is what I’m going to get done … You can’t let other outside distractions get to you because you will get behind really quickly … A key for me in being successful was that I knew how to self-discipline and get things done.”

Even if your ultimate goal is not management in a healthcare field, Heather notes that the BAS Healthcare Administration degree still has great worth:

“This degree absolutely made me a better program director because I learned how to … manage [the adjuncts under me], and manage my students, and manage my time, and do projects and all kinds of things … This is a degree that I will use in everything that I do … Even if you didn’t go into healthcare administration—which I really haven’t—[it] has helped me manage other aspects of my life.”

Heather finished the BAS with honors and graduated as student of the year, to boot. She reapplied for her job—now with a bachelor’s degree on her vita—and was rehired, all while juggling the process of program accreditation. Now she recommends the BAS program to her students finishing associate’s degrees in the surgical technology program,

“Day one, I was like, okay, when you graduate with this, I highly encourage you to start right away into the bachelor’s because I wished that I had. I wouldn’t have had to be doing it, you know, with everything else … It’s no big deal, very easy to fit that into your life and get it done. I highly encouraged it and you know, some of them took me up on it.”

Published 3/2022

Mark Foster: A Bumpy Path
Name: Mark Foster

Program: BAS Healthcare Administration

Graduation Date: December 2021

Advice to someone considering the BAS Healthcare Administration program: “I would tell them, make sure that they have enough time to do the assignments per week. You probably need—per class—a good two hours to do what’s needed. Two to three hours—so make sure to not overdo it. … It’s tough to balance out your life, but balance out the harder classes with easy classes so you’re not over encumbered with too many hard classes. … I can still work and still do school. I still have family time. You’ve just got to balance it.”

There have been bumps in the road for Mark Foster. He worked hard to earn a degree in physical therapy, and he notes that “the board entry exams were rough”, but he passed and loved his time practicing. In 2019, changes in the Affordable Care Act led to Mark being laid off, and the competitive field left him wanting more security for himself and his family.

“…The jobs [I was] finding weren’t true, full-time jobs. They were good paying jobs, but they weren’t career building jobs. … So I said okay, my options at this point are find a part-time job, or get my bachelor’s and have more of a secure job. … It’s extremely competitive in this area and I have a lot of family here, so I was like—you know what, I’ll go to school.”

He chose the BAS Healthcare Administration because it was a program he could complete online and at his own pace.

“It was all online, which meant I could … move [at] my own pace … For example, I’m going to finish two of my classes here in about a week and the rest of my classes won’t finish for another month, … so I have to wait for them [to] do discussions and group assignments. … I liked it because [Utah Tech] is cheaper than other places. … It just was the right fit. And I felt like if I got this done, I could work with more of a career job.”

Just as he began the program, Mark’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. His first two semesters were a balance of caring for their two children, doing some part time PT work, and supporting his wife through treatments. He was able to take a lighter load; the kids were homeschooling thanks to COVID-19; and though he was on the prowl for a new job, the pandemic had virtually frozen the job market. His in-laws helped with the kids and assisted with medical appointments, and Mark laid out a schedule to get assignments and readings completed.

“What I … tried to do is [study] between eight and noon. I work as hard as I can on my homework so that if I’m needed on a job or anything … I just tell my wife, ‘I’m not available this time of the day,’ … and I’ll do discussion question answers at the end of the day for half an hour … That way I can still work and still do school. I still have family time. You just got to balance it.”

Because physical therapy is less of an option for Mark now—with a bad knee and a bad back—he is more interested in administrative roles as a career. He has considered HR, higher education, or becoming an academic advisor, and has really enjoyed the process of helping fellow classmates figure out programs and problems on group projects:

“We’ll typically do zoom discussions or phone calls. We’ll say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do these three topics, break it up. And then we’re going to do a Google docs and when you’re done with your project, submit it.’ … We all go through and edit it together … Students are really great about it and by the time we’re done the product is really, really clean and good looking. So yeah, no problems with it. Very cool.”

Mark has high praise for his experience at Utah Tech:

“Honestly, all the instructors have been amazing. I mean, they will give you their true feedback. They’ll go out of their way. They will allow you to kind of work at your pace. The instructors have been amazing. … So [a] very professional staff …”

Overall, Mark feels like the BAS isn’t a hard program, though it has had some rough moments for him. But, as he says, “If you do the work, you get your grade … It takes out the bias … which I actually love.”

Published 3/2022

Fatima Mariscal: Learning to Thrive Online
Name: Fatima Mariscal Enriquez

Major: Accounting

Graduation Date: Fall 2021

Advice to someone considering an online class: “I would tell them—if they’re going to do it—make sure it’s something they feel won’t be too hard on them, and that they feel like they can actually learn from it—not just do the work and get it over with. It can be kind of hard to keep up and … if you have too many classes and you try to add this other one, you’re not going to have enough time for all the workload that comes with it. Even if it’s online, it is still a 3-credit class and you have to do three hours of homework.”

Fatima Mariscal wasn’t really interested in attending Utah Tech University. A native of Jerome, Idaho, Fatima was looking at the University of Idaho or something a bit nearer to home, but the glowing recommendation of a friend—combined with her distaste for snow and desire to try something new—tipped the scale in Utah Tech’s favor.

“I love it here. It’s a great place. I’ve had some pretty awesome professors, so that helps a lot. It’s an 8-hour drive to home, but it was nice to be away for a while and know what it’s like to experience things on my own.”

Fatima got a jump start on college, thanks to dual enrollment in high school. Even while working a job (occasionally two) during her university career, Fatima has opted to load up with 18 credits nearly ever semester. Squeezing in one more class was the reason behind her choice to take an online course, despite being a traditional on-campus student.

“It fit a lot with my schedule, because I work. It was the best way for me to have that one extra class that I needed.”

Thinking that an English class would be relatively easy, Fatima now laughs as she reflects about how wrong she was.

“I underestimated it! It was a little hard, but the professor was very helpful and very specific with what she wanted, so when it came to turning in assignments, there weren’t really any questions for me. Everything was clear and set.”

Ironically, one of the things Fatima enjoyed least about her online course—the awkwardness of completing group projects with strangers in a wholly virtual environment—turned into one of her best experiences in the course.

“It really helped me get out of my comfort zone. When I’m in class I really don’t talk—I kind of keep to myself … And having to just meet people online that are already in your class—get to know them and talk with them and work with them—it really helped me because that’s what the real world is like sometimes. I really think that … helped prepare us for the future: for what we should expect when we graduate.”

Now nearing the end of her degree with graduation set for December 2021, Fatima is looking ahead to next year. After one—possibly two—internships, she will start a master’s degree in the fall, likely in northern Utah or Idaho. But looking back, Fatima couldn’t be happier with her unexpected time at Utah Tech.

“It is a great institution. It has so many good options of what career to go into and it’s also in a very nice area … It’s really inexpensive for a lot of people, especially with WUE, and I just feel like there’s a lot of help around here, whether it’s mentors or professors or anybody. It’s just a nice place to be.“

Published 4/2021

Update June 2022: Fatima graduated as planned, and feeling full of energy and momentum, moved directly into her master’s degree here at Utah Tech. She is now slated to graduate with her advanced degree in December 2022. 

Autumn Nguyen: An Unexpected Journey
Name: Autumn Nguyen

Major: Business Management with an Accounting Minor

Graduation Date: Fall 2021

Advice to someone considering an online class: “I would say, plan ahead. You’ve got the whole class schedule laid out for you at the beginning of the semester, so you could just designate certain days to do certain assignments. Once you plan, you know what to expect and there are no surprises. And once you start, if there is any issue, you still have some cushion time to talk to the instructor—ask and see if you’re on the right path or not.”

Autumn spent years doing her best to avoid becoming an accountant—the same career her parents pursued. After earning a BA in International Relations in her home country of Vietnam, Autumn realized she couldn’t see herself in that field for life. She expanded her career hunt by completing a year-long hotel management internship at Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon, where she discovered her interest in business. Autumn considered business schools in both Europe and America, but ultimately landed at Utah Tech University, thanks in part to her familiarity with the area. Even then, her original goal of business shifted when Autumn realized that marketing and communication classes didn’t really engage her, but a required accounting class “blew her mind”. Finding numbers to be both easy and enjoyable, Autumn finally gave in and began her journey to becoming an accountant.

“It did take me a while to realize what I really wanted to do. And I think, just, with time and with all the experience, I kind of sorted things out. When I first went to college in Vietnam, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just went with whatever sounded ‘big’.”

Autumn jumped right in at UT, getting involved and participating in student life—but it was in a class that she met her future husband, a web design and development major from Peru. They married and Autumn took a year off to become a mother to their now nearly 2-year-old son. Thanks to an unconventional journey to her chosen degree, Autumn now has a brother—twelve years her junior—pursuing a degree at Utah Tech as well.

In the midst of studying, nurturing a family, working a job, and raising a child, Autumn still finds time to work on her Etsy shop—open since 2017. It’s “more of a hobby right now”, she admits, but the ultimate goal is to expand her bridal accessory shop and add some event planning merchandise as well. Her hope is to graduate in fall of 2021, get some solid work experience, and achieve financial stability before expanding her own business.

It will come as no surprise that Autumn’s motivation for taking her first online class was time management. Financial courses are heavy, but her online classes give Autumn the time and flexibility to be in control of her own schedule.

“It actually gave me a lot more flexibility because … I’m obsessed by planning and organizing, so I managed my schedule very well. Once you register, you can see the whole class and the modules, so you can plan out your semester. It’s consistent, and it makes it a lot easier for me.”

In fact, Autumn feels strongly that “planning is a soft skill that … online classes give students.” She goes on to note differences between COVID-caused hybrid classes and true online classes—in a hybrid class, “you have interaction with the teacher. The professor can remind you of assignments and due dates or answer questions. But in online classes, you have to manage your own schedule and remind yourself of homework and there’s nobody really pushing you.”

Despite a long and often stressful university career, Autumn is pleased with her choice of Utah Tech and the time she has spent here. She notes the growth of UT and how “they improve every year.” Still, Autumn is looking forward to finishing school this fall.

“With all the things going on, it has been very stressful. But I figured, I started it so I just have to finish it. It definitely is harder than I thought it would be … I have almost no time for myself, but I know it will get better!”

Published 4/2021

Guillem Parra: Making an Impact
Name: Guillem Parra

Major: Finance

Graduation Date: Fall 2021

Advice to someone considering an online class: “Truly think if you would benefit more from being in person and learning that material being taught in that class[room] rather than being online. And … if it’s just more convenient, then for sure—go for it. … Sometimes time management overpowers [other factors] … because everybody is in different circumstances. If it has to happen, go do it.”

The road to Utah Tech University for Guillem Parra was a long one. After spending time in St. George on an exchange program during his junior year of high school, it would be another three years before he returned. Two years of film school in his native country of Spain taught Guillem that his real love was business, and that meant starting his college career over. The western U.S. still called to him, but Southern Utah’s mild winters were especially appealing.

Looking back now, Guillem remembers, “one of the things you hear at [Utah Tech] is ‘get involved’ and that’s the first thing I did.” A good friend introduced him to student government, where he volunteered his first semester, eventually ending up as VP of Marketing in ensuing semesters. Guillem is proud to have been the first international student on the Student Executive Council, remarking that “it was good, it was fun—definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Taking a full 16+ credit load each semester and serving the Utah Tech campus and community 30-40 hours per week has kept Guillem very busy during his university career, and was ultimately the reason he decided to add online courses to his schedule.

“It definitely was because of time. At some point I just couldn’t be in two places at the same time. I got myself so far in that I was like, ‘OK, I need to figure this out’. And what I liked about online courses is that—although with some of them you’ve got to follow the schedule that they give and it’s locked in—it still gives you a lot of flexibility.”

Guillem has taken multiple online courses now and has definite feelings about what makes a course successful.

“When I truly enjoy professors and love professors is when two things happen: the first is when they’re passionate about the content they’re teaching, and you can literally feel that and you just want to know more about it—they bring a smile to your face. The second is when there’s structure.”

But he’s also very particular about which courses he chooses to take online, opting for subjects outside his major that are interesting or fun, so the associated work is never a “heavy burden”. And that, as Guillem puts is, “allows me to focus on other things that are definitely pressing.”

Looking to the future, Guillem isn’t positive about what comes next—maybe an MBA, maybe marriage, maybe a new job in finance, or perhaps the development of his current position in marketing. But whatever comes, Guillem sees himself here.

“I definitely think that I want to stay around here and just make an impact in Utah—especially because I’ve seen myself make somewhat of an impact here at [UT] and I’ve really enjoyed that. Just the thought of knowing a place is better than you found it, and more people are going to have better opportunities because of you—in whatever degree—that something that I really enjoy.”

Published 4/2021