In 2011, Julie Rigdon’s husband lost his job after hereditary retinal disease left him visually impaired. Rigdon took on work as a school secretary to support her family, but in time she realized she had to do more. By the fall of 2014, Rigdon was ready to pursue a degree.
After searching through programs online, Rigdon landed on the University of Georgia’s online Bachelor of Science in Special Education program.
“I live in rural, southeast Georgia and options for bachelor's programs are limited,” she explains. “It was not an option to drive to the nearest on-campus program because I need to stay close to home for my husband and daughter. Having the flexibility to be available for my family and get a degree from UGA was too good to not go for it!”
Having a family member with a disability inspired Rigdon to commit to a career in the field of special education. She hopes to use her degree to give her future students the tools they need to reach their full potential.
“I know from living with someone with a disability that people are capable of so much more than people expect of them,” she says. “I was inspired to go into a career in which I could help children with disabilities achieve all that they can.”
Rigdon is thankful for the flexibility the online program provides her but is aware of the challenges some online students can face.
“The program has been challenging. But the challenge is how you know you are learning,” she says. “The dedication and critical thinking that this program has required has prepared me for the challenges of a career in special education.”
Rigdon uses a calendar and a checklist each week to prioritize the tasks for each of her classes. She also stays connected to other students via group texts, sharing questions and tossing out ideas.
“The ladies in my cohort are there for motivation, to complain to, and sometimes a good laugh! It is good to be connected to other people who truly know what you are dealing with,” she says.
She also thinks it is important to keep a healthy school-life balance. While education is a priority, Rigdon makes sure to take time for her family and just relax.
“I have been fortunate to have a very good support system to help with the juggling,” she says.