A component of Melissa’s job as executive editor for the Aesthetic Surgery Journal is to expedite continuing education for American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery members and she felt earning a master’s degree in adult education would be helpful to her work. But the “we never close” aspect of her job made it impossible for her to pursue her education in the traditional way.
“I live in Atlanta and my job never sleeps,” she said. “It’s 24/7, so there’s no way I could take the traditional route. UGA was one of the few schools that offered a program where I could do that.”
In August, Melissa earned her master’s degree and said the process of balancing her job with her education was practically painless. “My program was two years, and I went straight through,” she said. “I took about two classes per semester, but I think in one summer semester I took only one course. It called for between 15-25 hours a week, averaging probably 20 hours a week."
“It was comfortable for me, given the format. If it had been 20 hours, and half of that had been sitting in a classroom, absolutely not. But I was able to spread those 20 hours out over a lunch break here and there, or I could go to dinner, come home and do school work until 11 if I needed to do that. The flexibility made it much more manageable.”
Melissa, who in 2002 earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, admitted to some initial trepidation about learning online but added that she quickly warmed up to being a non-traditional graduate student. “To have something so different from the traditional classroom was good. Trying to replicate the traditional classroom I don’t think would have been very helpful.”
“I couldn’t have done this any other way. It made it possible for me to finish my master’s within a professional setting where I was working nonstop and was under a lot of deadline stress. Without this option, I would have either never gone back or waited until I was retired.”
Now armed with her master’s degree, Melissa said she’s already discovered new benefits in her work, pointing out that she can enhance the society’s educational component by implementing concepts she learned at UGA in course design. She added that she would eventually like to go into consulting, helping medical societies with their publications and medical education designs.
And while her postgraduate experience was considerably non-traditional, Melissa assented that she did go the old-school route when exiting the program.
“It was great to go across that stage (for my diploma),” she said. “I didn’t walk in my undergrad graduation, so this was a nice experience for me and my parents. I didn’t realize how much it meant to them and it was great to feel part of the Athens community.”