Kelly Quackenbush is a stay-at-home mom of sorts. What makes her situation a bit different is that her home is a 6,000-acre farm, where she helps her husband and in-laws grow grain, cotton and corn. Farm life is hard work, and Quackenbush faces an added layer of complexity -- her young son is asthmatic and allergic to the grain grown on their farm.
The farm is near a major university in South Texas, but when Quackenbush decided to go back to school for a bachelor's degree, she chose LSU of Alexandria's Bachelor of Arts in English online program. Online was the best option, as her home life requires constant attention.
Quackenbush started the program in Fall 2018 and expects to graduate in December 2019. Even though she and her family live near Texas A&M University-Kingsville, she felt drawn to the LSUA program. "It's interesting having an LSU flag in the middle of all these Javelinas and Aggies," she said. "They're not happy about it."
Earning an undergraduate degree will help Quackenbush expand job opportunities for herself in the Corpus Christi area. "Options are pretty limited in Corpus Christi if you don't have a degree," she said. "It's either fast food or hospital food. It wasn't what I wanted."
Her Own Pace
Being able to pace herself in an online program facilitated Quackenbush's return to higher education and was a major factor when she was looking at options.
Quackenbush finished high school in 2007, but left college in 2009 to support herself by working full time. In 2011 she met and married her husband, Trey, and once again returned to higher education. In 2013 she decided to take a break from academics as she and her husband welcomed a daughter and then a son into the world. Now five and three, Quackenbush's children keep her busy, as do her responsibilities as a wife and student. The LSUA online bachelor's program allows her to manage everything.
"With the online program, I can achieve what I want to achieve without having to really sacrifice anything else," she said.
Being part of the Louisiana State University system made LSUA attractive to Quackenbush. Though she wanted to go to LSU in high school, a parent's preference for two-year programs initially steered her in a different direction.
Later, when the decision was hers, Quackenbush looked into A&M Kingsville, but it didn't fit with what she wanted, so she turned to an online search. "When I saw LSUA pop up as one of the top English programs, I was so excited," she said. "Because going to LSU was one of my high school dreams, it was like the stars aligned. That's exactly where I wanted to go. It was perfect."
Online, on Course
Quackenbush had no illusions that online courses would be easier than their classroom equivalents.
"The classes I've taken here are the most challenging I've ever had," she said. "But I like that because it means you really earned it. You didn't have to have a bunch of extra points thrown at you like they do sometimes in a classroom."
Her favorite class so far is ENGL 2027: Poetry with Dr. Ginger Jones who is also her adviser. "In other colleges, your adviser's just someone you go see every so often, but with Dr. Jones, I know I can ask her any question and she'll help me," Quackenbush said. "I absolutely loved her class."
Quackenbush hopes her children will both be in school by the time she becomes a teacher. "When I can get my teaching certification, my son will already be in school," she said. "So, I wanted to get my college degree now, go ahead and get it done because 11 years has been a long time."
She views the undergraduate degree she's earning now and the master's she hopes to earn someday as vital to her career goal of teaching English. "I would love to teach high school, specifically the freshman and sophomore level."
She would also like to parlay her love of the classics into inspiring today's youth. "I like to get younger people involved because they're not engaged with that kind of stuff now [Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe], when it's really cool. I love Shakespeare," she said. "My kids have watched Shakespeare from the moment they were born."
As a reader of a handful of books every month, she already has her eyes set on further education. "I eventually want to get a master's in mythological studies," she said.
Writing is also a goal for Quackenbush, who wrote stories when she was in middle school and continues to write today. "That's always been a passion and an outlet for me," she said.
In particular, her interest in world religions and love of mythology feed her muse. "I like the stories behind Native American mythology," she said.
Writing fictional short stories about family history provides her with a healthy creative outlet, though she envisions a future with even more writing outside of fiction. "I would love to write non-fiction," she said. "Most of what I read is non-fiction."
Quackenbush even hopes to write a book someday. "My whole life story could just be three or four books by itself," she said.
However, her passions don't end with the written word. "I also paint murals," she said. "I colored our kids' hallways."
The Texas-Louisiana Connection
Though Quackenbush has been to Louisiana before, she has yet to set foot on the LSUA campus, but plans to do so for graduation. "I love Texas -- don't get me wrong. Texas is No.1," she said. "But if I could live in Louisiana too, I'd love that also."
She is taking the opportunity to set a higher-education example for her children. "My daughter gets all excited when I'm 'going to school' so she'll sit next to me and do her homework," she said. "I'm taking a biology class this semester, so I got the biology coloring book where my daughter can color along. She wants to be involved in everything."
As she works through the online bachelor's in English program, Quackenbush has benefited from Trey's limitless support. "He is my No. 1 cheerleader," she said. "He was trying to get me to go back to school.
"Because he wants to expand his farm, and I want to get my college degree, we really have to work together in order to achieve our goals. He helps me read, and he proofreads everything I write. For chemistry he's trying to help me relearn math after five years of nothing."
Advice for Students
Quackenbush considers hard work and time management crucial for success as an online student.
"Be prepared to work hard, but know that you earned your grade," she said. "It's totally worth the time."
Her advice to anyone who wants to earn a college degree: "It's never too late. That's one thing I want to teach my kids. You're never too old to achieve your dreams. By the time I graduate, I'll be 30. That's one heck of a way to celebrate being 30. I finally got my degree. I finally did it."
Learn more about the LSUA Bachelor of Arts in English online program.
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