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Christy posing in graduation cap in front of UAB lettering.

Earning her degree—and a 4.0 GPA—while keeping her full-time job

UAB's 100% online Health Care Management Program

Christy Ledbetter has always been a go-getter. She commuted from her rural hometown in Fayetteville, Alabama, to the healthcare mecca of Birmingham for work from the age of 16. In the 14 years following, she earned her associate's degree, completed her dental hygienist training, and worked in a private practice. A new role in the office and the option to complete her bachelor's degree online led her to the Health Care Management program at UAB.

We talked to Christy about her journey, her fears, and her successes. This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

Q: What happened that made you consider going back to school?

Christy: Two years ago, I was offered a leadership position in the office where I currently work. I became the director of HR and the director of marketing in that practice. And, of course, it was a big change from my day-to-day life in scrubs.

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I'm one of those people who loves a challenge. But, once I got into it, I realized I knew nothing. I was sitting at my desk thinking, "What do I do now?" 

Christy posing with UAB graduation cap and sash.

To be honest, I was quite lost. That's when I started asking, "What can I do to learn more?"

I started researching different programs that I could go back to school for, and the Health Care Management program appealed to me.

Q: As you were doing your research, what was it about the option to pursue your degree online that worked for you?

Christy: I work 40 hours a week, and I’m an adult with a husband and a house and “all the things.” I never thought that I could go back to school. I had bills to pay. I was not able to quit my job or cut down to part-time. 

It was when I was talking to an advisor, who has been a tremendous help for my entire journey, that she said, "You know, you can do this one-hundred percent online at your own pace. You don't even have to do it full-time unless you want to."

I said, "Wait a second. I can do that?!"

She told me, "You can do it as fast or as slow as you want. None of these classes have deadlines during the week. It's always going to be due on the weekends."

That was appealing to me as a full-time worker, to be able to keep my job and do classes at the same time.

Q: Practically speaking, what did your days look like?

Christy: I wanted to do this in the fast-track method. I knew that was going to take a lot of dedication on my end to do both my job and school. I sat down with my husband and said, "I can do this, and I can do this faster. I will need your help and support." He was incredibly supportive through the entire experience.

I took full-time hours from day one to today.

I live an hour away from where I work. Sometimes I wouldn’t get home until seven o'clock at night. If I had short recordings or short assignments to do, I would come home and work on those. I spent Fridays and Saturdays doing schoolwork all day. That was the gig.

It was hard, but I kept my GPA up. I have a 4.0 in all of my classes on top of working 40 or more hours a week. It is definitely a task, but you can 100% do it.

Q: Did you have any fears about going back to school?

Christy: Fears of going back to school were very real. I had not been a student in many years, so I was a little out of the loop. I didn't even tell anyone that I was in school except for my husband. I truly was nervous that if it became too much and I had to drop it, everyone would look at me as a failure.

Also, this is the first degree that I've had at a large university. All of my other programs and prerequisite courses were at community colleges or private technical colleges. Being part of something so large made me feel intimidated.

That's why I like to speak about the experiences that I've had with the professors. If you've never had that university experience, you might think that you're just another number.

Q: What was your experience in the program like?

Christy: I've been through several different institutions, and I have never had the experience with my professors or administrative staff that I've had at UAB. I was completely blown away.

Some of my friends were interested in the program, and I rave all the time about how great the professors have been; how helpful, how willing to take a step back and look at you in your specific unique situation and help you. Their door is always open, which was something I've never seen before.

Q: Now what?

Christy: I have told everyone at this point that I'm graduating. I did graduation pictures, and I just got my pictures back yesterday. It was a little surreal.

It's never too late to go back to school. Just do it when you can, and you'll feel great about it.

"I've never gotten to walk [at graduation] before.
I asked my husband, "I'm 30 years old. Am I too old to do this?" And I realized,
"You know what? I'm not. I'm gonna do it for me."

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If you are interested in learning more about the online courses and degree programs offered at UAB or have specific questions about becoming a student here, we can help you find the answers. Use the following form to share your contact information, and an admissions counselor will be in touch soon.

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