Fast track education helps woman support her family for the future
ALBUQUERQUE – Like many military wives, Andrea Fairbrother put her dream of a college degree on hold to follow her husband to various installations and raise a family. Along the way, she attended five colleges in four states and two countries, trying to pick up enough credits to one day attain the degree.
When the family moved to San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston, Fairbrother learned about Wayland Baptist University and visited the office on base to inquire about continuing her dream.
“WBU helped me reach my dream of a four-year education by evaluating my credits from previous colleges and developing a course plan so that I could graduate in two years,” she recalled. “I changed the course plan so that I could do it in 18 months.
It was an aggressive goal, but very attainable. And I did it!”
Fairbrother was encouraged by Wayland’s ability to take her bevy of credits and give her hope of finally becoming a college graduate. With an interest in the field of computers, she pursued the BSOE degree in business administration, specializing in computer information systems.
“I walked out of that initial meeting saying, ‘I can do this,’” she said. “WBU helped renew my dream and helped me focus on my dream again.”
Just 18 months later, Fairbrother earned the degree and was able to shed her part-time, low-paying jobs for a position at United Way in San Antonio that used her talents and new skills. But her career wasn’t the only thing that changed.
“When I finally graduated in San Antonio in 1994, the sky was bluer, water tasted better, and life was good. I am the only one in my family to get a degree,” she said. “My degree has enabled me to pursue the career I dreamed of. Every time I’ve moved since then, I’ve just been climbing my own ladder and moving up.”
Though Fairbrother has appreciated the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment her degree and new career have provided, she learned a few years ago there were other benefits to the education. A divorce that typically leads to financial distress instead had little effect in that realm.
“The degree has enabled me to double and triple my earnings. I was able to pay off marriage debt, put a down payment on a house, and NOT file bankruptcy like so many women who go through divorces,” she said. “I have financial freedom, and I get to go on nice vacations every year.”
Besides those plusses, Fairbrother said the degree gave her a boost of confidence and the encouraging atmosphere at WBU has stayed with her. The expertise by Tommy Thompson, San Antonio’s IT Director and one of Fairbrother’s instructors, provided mentorship that has helped her as she’s moved into a similar career.
“I had close to a 4.0 there, and that boosted my self-esteem a lot. Everyone knew me by first name and knew my situation and my degree plan.”
Fairbrother now lives in Albuquerque, N.M., where she has been a systems analyst in Information Technology for a university hospital for six years. She has two grown sons.