GLENWOOD SPRINGS — When Alesha Frederick walks to the podium at graduation today at Spring Valley, it will mark a special milestone for the already well-educated graduate.
Frederick will be among the historic first class of Colorado Mountain College students earning a bachelor’s degree.
“I knew it would be difficult to get back in school,” she said. “My CMC instructors helped me to find my way when I felt like I was running in circles. They made getting a business degree so much more than getting a piece of paper.”
In 2002, Frederick followed her family to Colorado and attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, but she decided it wasn’t the right fit for her. She then graduated from the Mississippi University for Women in 2006.
She took occasional classes at CMC and went back to school full time when CMC began offering bachelor’s degrees two years ago.
“It’s the first degree where I’ve felt like I’m at home and part of something really meaningful,” said Frederick, who is earning a bachelor’s in business administration. “If it weren’t for the bachelor’s degree at CMC, I wouldn’t be on this journey.
“I don’t even think that Colorado Mountain College truly realizes how wonderful and meaningful both of their bachelor’s degree programs are,” she said.
This spring, throughout the six-county CMC district, 58 students have petitioned to be the first to receive bachelor’s degrees, including a dozen from the Roaring Fork Valley.
“We are very pleased with the strong response to these new degrees,” said Charles Dassance, interim CMC president. “Enrollments are in line with what we’d anticipated, and we love hearing stories of how our students are able to put their education to immediate use.”
Three years ago, then-Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed the bill to allow CMC to offer a limited number of bachelor’s degrees, after the college’s research showed an unmet demand from employers and students in north-central Colorado.
“There was no physical location where our local residents could earn a bachelor’s degree within our service area, which is the size of the state of Maryland,” said Brad Tyndall, senior vice president of academic affairs at the college.
“With overwhelming support from our communities and students, and a lot of hard work to prepare the curriculum and find excellent instructors, we were able to convince our legislators and accrediting body that we could meet this need, Tyndall said.
CMC started offering bachelor’s degrees in business administration and sustainability studies in the fall of 2011. Two years later, the first enrollees who brought with them previous college credits or an associate degree will be among a historic class of graduates.
All students earning bachelor’s degrees this spring will be given a place of honor in the college’s inaugural Alumni Hall of Fame.
Jennifer Wagner, who is also earning a bachelor of science in business administration, moved to Carbondale with her boyfriend in 2010. She had completed most of her education at Colorado School of Mines but found that engineering wasn’t the right path for her. Realizing she wanted to further her education while living in Carbondale, she enrolled at CMC.
“I had no idea a college could be so open and inviting to learners at every stage in their life,” Wagner said.
She said that the best part of her CMC education was when class work was paired with real-world experience: when her advertising & promotion management class talked to the CEO of Deutsch Advertising about the television ads the agency produced for the Super Bowl; when finance instructor Tim Cashman shared with the class pro forma documents from his previous business experience; when instructor Scot Gilbert shared ad campaigns from his days as the former CEO of the Los Angeles and New York offices of international advertising powerhouse Saatchi & Saatchi.
“The real-life insights they give us are so much more valuable than reading a textbook,” she said.
“I’ve learned it’s not just about profits and margins. It’s about people,” Frederick said. “This degree has helped me to be successful and make progressive changes within my job.”
And this isn’t the end of the journey for Frederick — she plans to use her degree to someday teach students the same lessons she learned as a student.
“I will move on to an MBA program, but eventually I want to come back to CMC and give back to the community by being part of the team that helped me successfully complete my degree,” she said.
More than 100 students from CMC locations in Spring Valley, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Aspen will receive bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees or certificates of occupational proficiency at graduation ceremonies this morning in Spring Valley. The main ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in the Spring Valley Student Services Center gymnasium, 3000 County Road 114.
Separate ceremonies are planned for graduates of the nursing and Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy programs.