A Bachelor’s Degree Is Within Her Grasp

By Purnell T. Cropper | September 9, 2011

By Erica Lamberg

Flexibility is key for adult learners. For Karen Coyne, returning to college to complete her bachelor’s degree is something she is proud to be doing. A legal secretary, Coyne juggles a career, volunteer commitments, and singing in her church choir. Due to the slowing economy, she’s realizing more and more, she says, that earning a bachelor’s degree can give her a professional edge.

“I work for an attorney, and my hours drastically decreased with the economy downfall over the past two years,” Coyne says. “I don’t know from week to week if I am getting a paycheck anymore. I only have a few classes left to complete before graduation. At any moment if I become unemployed, or my hours continue to decrease, my world will change drastically. I believe that earning my bachelor’s degree will open the door to career advancements.”

Even though she has impressive professional experience, she said many fields require a bachelor’s degree to be considered for employment. “I feel that my opportunities will increase by having a bachelor’s degree in addition to my past training and experience,” says Coyne, 44, who lives in Northeast Philadelphia. In addition to working, Coyne spends her time volunteering at a nursing home and the Free Library of Philadelphia, singing in her church choir and cooking meals for Aid for Friends. Although her schedule is tight, she enjoys the excitement of taking classes toward her degree.

“Once the fall semester starts, my time gets more limited running from work to class or volunteering somewhere then back home to cook, clean and study,” she says. “Last semester my work day started at 9 a.m., I went to class at 4 p.m. and was at choir practice from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.” She admits the schedule at times is a juggling act, but realizes the end result of earning her degree outweighs her sacrifices of not having much free time.

Coyne, a graduate of Saint Hubert Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia, received an Associates of Arts Degree in Music Performance-Composition from Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). Coyne said she chose Arcadia University because we offered a music program consistent with her main interests in music composition and music history. “I was able to transfer 75 credits from CCP to Arcadia, many of which were some of my hardest music courses, and those achievements will be included in the bachelor’s degree I earn at Arcadia,” Coyne says. A degree in Liberal Studies allows Coyne to continue her studies in Music Composition. “My main concentration is Music, Visual Art and Society. A Liberal Studies degree allows me to create a curriculum that includes music, the arts, the social sciences, and humanities,” she says, adding that her ultimate goal is to continue her education until she earns a Ph.D.

Currently, Coyne holds a 4.0 GPA, and was on Arcadia’s Dean’s Distinguished List and also graduated from CCP with high honors. “I chose Arcadia because its global mission and curriculum aligned with my idealism,” she says “Every single class that I have taken at Arcadia has increased my global awareness and is shaping my future towards being a better steward of the Earth. My carbon footprint decreased significantly in my first semester at Arcadia and continues to decrease due to the University’s mission, and the fact that the professors take an active role in promoting Arcadia’s mission, not only in the classroom but in their personal lives as well.”

Coyne expects to graduate in spring 2013. Her liberal studies capstone has to be done in the last semester, and it’s only offered in the spring. Following this fall semester, she will only have four classes left until an undergraduate degree.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, she aspires to start a music business that uses music as a platform to promote social awareness and global issues. “Through songwriting and recording, educational workshops, and concerts that promote awareness, my hope is to create a scholarship fund to assist low-income high school graduates to attend college,” Coyne adds.

The Liberal Studies program at Arcadia is an interdisciplinary course of study that integrates a liberal arts education across the social sciences, the arts and the humanities. Designed for transfer and adult learners who want to complete a bachelor’s degree, core courses and offered online, and other classes may be taken at the new King of Prussia campus in a blended format. Small classes, personal attention, and specialized degree programs allow adult learners to customize a course of study.

For men and women who are deciding whether or not to return to college, Coyne emphatically says to follow the path back to school, not only for the advancement opportunities in the professional world but also for the enriching experiences in self-discovery. “It has been an extremely positive and life-changing experience for me,” Coyne shared. “I have made many new and meaningful friendships with my professors and fellow students. Although there have been many struggles along the way, the achievements far outweigh the obstacles.”