Stella Vance pursues bachelor’s degree after more than 20 years in the workforce

“I’m 41. It was kind of intimidating to go back to school at a later age, but I also feel that regardless of your age, you’re never too old to pursue or further your education,” senior Online Human Services major Stella Vance said.

After over 20 years in the workforce, Newland native Vance made the decision to try something different. For the past two years, she has been pursuing her bachelor’s degree online at Lees-McRae while working full-time at a local home health agency.

“I’m a direct support professional at ESP, which is like a nursing assistant. Our company specializes in individuals who have intellectual developmental disabilities,” Vance said. “Being able to do the program online was really my only option because given my work schedule there’s no way that I could be on campus throughout the day. It has been very helpful for this program to be 100% online.”

While Vance said she is passionate about her work, she has always wanted to go back to school but never had the time. As a young single mother, she focused on working and raising her son, but now that her son is an adult Vance says she wanted to do something for herself.

“I had always wanted to go back to school, but it was difficult to do being a single mom and working full-time. I didn’t want to take any attention away from my son, so I put my education on the backburner,” Vance said. “Now I have decided to go back to school and further my education, get a better job, and just do something different. I feel with the world changing so much that I just want to make a difference in people’s lives, and I feel that the Human Services degree gives you that opportunity to help people.”

Vance says she plans to continue working in the medical field but hopes that with her new bachelor’s degree she will be able to take a step back from the hands-on side of home health care and take on a more administrative position.

“Right now, I plan on staying in the medical field and just focusing on case management for patients and clients,” Vance said. “The good thing with Human Services is that it opens so many different fields for you and gives you all kinds of different job opportunities. You could work with group homes, fundraising, non-profit organizations, substance abuse centers—there are all kinds of opportunities.”

Prior to enrolling at Lees-McRae, Vance earned an associate degree from Mayland Community College. While many of her courses were able to transfer, she said transferring from a community college to a four-year institution, coupled with returning to academia from the workforce, was nerve wracking. Despite the inherent challenges, Vance reports that she has found a welcoming and supportive community here at Lees-McRae.

 “All my professors have been phenomenal. I have really enjoyed feeling like I’m not just a computer screen, but an actual person to my instructors and my peers,” Vance said.

She says that she finds Jocelyne Bond, assistant professor and program coordinator for Human Services, extremely inspirational, and says Bond has had an immense impact on her education and life. Vance says she can already sense how much she has grown and learned throughout her time in the program and is happy to know that the things she learns in class are truly helping her further her career.

“I’ve had people say to me, ‘Oh, I can’t imagine going back to school in your 40s,’ and it is different, but Lees-McRae has been very open and helpful,” Vance said. “I just want to encourage anyone that no matter how old you are you can always further your education.”

Learn more about the online Human Services degree

By Maya JarrellApril 19, 2022
AcademicsCampus LifeOnline Learning