KU grad overcomes a most challenging year, earns business administration bachelor’s degree

Rising Up at KUEC: In this Q&A series, outstanding 2021 KU graduates share how the KU Edwards Campus has helped them start, advance or change their career. Meet Ariana Englehart.

Ariana Englehart, Bachelor of Business Administration, 2021 graduate

The road to earning her bachelor’s in business administration has been anything but easy for 35-year-old KU graduate Ariana Englehart. The single mother of three has maintained a full-time job as a manager of education support as well as several part-time jobs while in school. The strain of the pandemic caused another set of struggles, affecting Englehart’s finances, mental health and ability to make time for her studies while her kids are learning remotely. Despite it all, Englehart achieved her goals and succeeded in earning her degree.

“Due to the changes I was experiencing at work and in my personal life, I was ready to give up,” said Englehart. She credits the support of her professors for pushing her to not give up. “No one wanted to see me fail. Every class, every professor has had a long-lasting impact on my educational path at KUEC.”

“Ariana has had a tremendously challenging year, and she persevered through all of it,” said Emily Plotkin, academic success coach/program advisor. “It has been an honor to advise her and be a part of her journey at KU Edwards Campus.”

Having earned her degree, Englehart plans to continue growing within her company and take the Accredited ACH Professional (AAP) Exam in the fall. Learn more about how she overcame her obstacles.

Q: What is a typical day in your life like?

A: A typical day starts with waking up early to get the kids and myself ready. I start work from home promptly at 8 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Since COVID, I have been working from home full-time. Not many people are so blessed. It is important for me to stay humble that I still have a job with benefits, and I am doing what comes easy to me because I love it. I have been in the banking field for 18 years. On the side, I am also a local independent Kansas City model, aspiring actress, dancer, musician and business consultant.

After a long day of meetings, collaboration and work, I pick my kids up after their extracurricular activities and daycare. After dinner, we take care of ourselves and get ready for the next day.

I do not get started on my education until about 8 p.m. I do an abundance of work on the weekends. My older children will help with their little brother to ensure mom can focus on her homework.

There is a lot of planning that goes into my day, and my children are the biggest part of my day. Everything I do is for them.

Q: What makes you the happiest?

A: Getting a task completed. Crushing a goal.

Q: What motivates you?

A: I’m going to college for a better opportunity at work. A better opportunity for my children. They see me and how I’m driven. They won’t forget that.

Q: Why did you choose KU and the Edwards Campus?

A: Because I’m a mom and working full-time. I needed something more flexible for my age range so that I could pursue my education.

Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?

A: I do not think I would have gotten this far without the support of an advisor. My advisor took into consideration what I have going on in my personal life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t thank Emily Plotkin enough for her guidance. Due to the changes I was experiencing at work and in my personal life, I was ready to give up. But I couldn’t give up when I have come so far. The lesson is to follow through.

I want to thank every single one of my professors. Each one worked with me. No one wanted to see me fail. Every class, every professor has had a long-lasting impact on my educational path at KUEC.

Q: How has your KU degree prepared you for the future?

A: KU has provided tools to strengthen my skills in business decision making, business planning, analytics and how to maneuver through the culture in a modern business environment.

Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?

A: From October 2020 to January 2021, I experienced the loss of four amazing individuals who were deeply important to me. That means four funerals and time away from my regular activities. This was something I have never experienced before.

I also suffer from anxiety and depression, and the pandemic has amplified those struggles.

Every semester seemed to start off rough because of fear. Working from home all day and having children home all day, it almost felt impossible to set that time to work on my education.

Recently, I went through changes at work which negatively impacted my pay. This forced me to do contract work to make money to replace the deficit. I have never felt so burnt out. I had two options: quit and feel like a failure, or fight for my passion. I picked my passion. After talking with my advisor, my professors and my family and friends, I gained the emotional support I thought I had lost.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?

A: Getting an A in Finance. That meant I was going to graduate as expected. Math is not my favorite. I wanted to save this class for last. My advisor, Emily Plotkin, advised that was not a good idea because if I failed, I would need another semester to buffer the blow. Emily and I strategically placed my classes where they are because of their perceived difficulty. I made it, Emily!

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?

A: My favorite memory is my first class learning about emotional intelligence. I was beyond excited to be a KU student. To be on campus at the Edwards location had me feeling like I was on top. I felt like a winner. I felt like my life was going to change.

Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

A: One of my goals [at my current employer] is to co-host a total of four webinars with each trainer on our education team by the end of this year. Also, this fall I will take the AAP Exam provided by Nacha. I hope to start my training career by 2022.

Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?

A: Your mental health comes first. Figure out a plan of what you are going to do when things get hard. Communicate with your family and friends to help in this process. I would suggest taking advantage of the program KU provides for mental health or seek therapy outside of KU. Make time for your health. Take care of yourself. Schedule your time wisely to avoid late nights. Manifest daily that you can do the work and will obtain your degree as desired. You are enough!


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