Feature Interview: Marita Vasquez

Juan Mejia bacaI am currently living in Chiclayo, Peru, and working at some local schools in the area. I’ve been learning so much about the culture, the people, the food (the food is so good!), and I’ve been able to talk with some amazing individuals.

I have been extremely impressed by the number of women working in education here. The majority of primary school teachers are women, and there are a good percentage working at the university level as well. I sat down with Martia Vasquez, the Director of the School of Education at the private university of Juan Mejia Baca, to talk about her path as well as the state of women in business. She is an amazing person and I was so impressed by what she has accomplished in her life and the example she leads for everyone around her:

Tell me a little about yourself and what you do:

Well, I am a professional woman, and a fighter. I am continually preparing and forming myself in all areas of my life.

Where did you study and what did you study?

I studied at the National University Pedro Ruiz Gallo and I have also studied at Heart. I have two professions, I teach chemistry methodology, it was my first profession. Then I studied nursing. Apart from that I have a master’s degree in teaching and research and a doctorate in science education and a doctorate in health sciences.

What occupations have you had in your life?

Apart from all that I have studied, the first profession that I had was a secretary, a cooperative when I was 17. Then I was a professor of secondary education for 7 years. Then I worked one year as a staff nurse in a small town called Llanca Lambayeque.

Since then I have taught in a university since 1994 and in a nursing faculty and I have nearly 20 years of service. I worked there for almost six years. As a university teacher one of  the most satisfying projects I had was being a research head at a central office. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to get training, and opportunities to learn for research.

And now I’m here at Juan Mejia Baca, where they have opened doors for me to apply to all who believe. I am a teacher in the area of ​​scientific research and director of education careers. I am also in charge of the psychology department and president of the self-evaluation condition quality here at the university.

Have you always wanted to work in education?

In the beginning no, it was almost incidental. I studied nursing and really wanted to work with the health sciences. But because of education, I have had many personal and professional rewards. It has served me as a person and as a professional. It’s made me happy.

I try to be an example as a teacher. I also worry a lot about the training of future teachers.

Do the majority of women in Peru have careers? If so, what types of careers do they have?

No most don’t really have one. If we talk about the town and the coast, a large percentage of women have formal training in professions. But if we talk about the jungle, the women there have discriminate opportunities. The rural area also.

The woman is the center of home and she is who will raise the children and all that they know. Most women end up in professions that have to do with service, like education and health. Here in Peru, a large percentage of teachers are women. In preschool, primary, and secondary. Then there are psychologists, nurses, but generally the lot of women have service professions.

What has been a struggle in getting to where you are today?

I think all things in life are a challenge. The fact that I’m a woman, although I’ve had luck and I myself made strides, I’m still finding myself. But, I’ve always know I could do whatever I wanted. I’m a very lucky person, my mentors that I had were amazing. They trusted me and believed in the qualities I had.

What is your favorite part of your job now?

It gives me such satisfaction when someone comes to check in with me and have a consultation and they come out stronger. They don’t always have to be professional consultations but also personal consultations. When it comes to talking I like to listen and help people make decisions that will impact their lives.

What is one piece of advice you can give to women wanting to have a career here in Peru?

First they have to be on top of things that are happening in the world. Also, you don’t stop learning at a certain age, life is constantly learning. Know what’s going on in the world to see what new aspects in our careers we can strengthen. I have had the luck to find work faster and with with no offer from the place where I work, but that’s because I’m ready with a few changes and ready for what’s coming.

Virtual tutorials are a great way to teach yourself new skills. I look up things that don’t necessarily have to do with my area, but they are things that I am interested in. We have a lot of resources here for eco tourism so I’m learning about that industry.

This isn’t something that just women can do, everyone can. But if there’s a woman who is having difficulty, just make sure and be preparing yourself for when opportunities come along.





Debbi Fields Rose: Profile of an Entrepreneurial Icon

Debbie Fields Rose“The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”

Those are the words of one of America’s foremost female entrepreneurs and authors, Debbi Fields Rose. Her story, chronicled in her memoir, “One Smart Cookie,” is a tale of a bold underdog that brought to life a business that nearly everyone told her couldn’t work. Since her massive success with creating a national chain of cookie stores, Debbi has remained the face of Mrs. Fields, publishing multiple books and inspiring millions of young entrepreneurs.

The Origins of Mrs. Fields Cookies

A lot of kids grow up spending time in the kitchen. But few are so dedicated to their baking hobby that they get a part-time job to pay for their own ingredients. This was just a hint of the dedication it would take to turn a lifelong passion into a thousand dessert franchises of possibly the most recognized cookie company on the planet.

Debbi’s success is significant, given that she received significant discouragement from family and friends, many of whom told her that she had no business starting her own company. She had no formal education to speak of, no money of her own to start the business with no product except cookies (I think they rather underestimated America’s sweet tooth.). At the age of 20, Debbi ignored the criticism and pushed forward to open a store in Palo Alto that would eventually be a $450 million leader of freshly-baked cookies.

Beyond Business and into Philanthropy

Debbi sold the business in the 1990s. And while she is still the public face of the company, she has since turned her talents and leadership ability to charitable ventures. She sits on the Le Bonheur Foundation’s board, served as the 2010 “GO RED” chair for the American Heart Association and recipient of the Toastmasters’ Golden Gavel Award.

Debbi isn’t done leading in the business community, however. She’ll be speaking at the Women Entrepreneurs Inspire Conference on April 2, 2013 at Oklahoma State. She’ll be sharing lessons learned from her years in business and charity work, as well as the special challenges that female entrepreneurs face today.

Lately, Debbi is hard at work in her kitchen creating her newest cookie book, The Best of Debbie Fields Cookie Jar, a collaboration involving her daughters that is sure to be a new best seller.

Given her impressive bio, it’s no surprise to hear that Mrs. Fields company motto reads “Good enough never is.” Quality has always been a hallmark of the Mrs. Fields brand, and that is directly attributable to its founder’s focus on perfection. It says a lot about her personality and about the driving force behind her success in business and philanthropy

Author bio: Joseph Wright writes for Mrs. Fields, the top name in gourmet cookies since 1977. Mrs. Fields has a new show airing on Lifetime this season called “Supermarket Superstar”. A competition series that mentors and gives home cooks the chance to launch their products on Supermarket shelves nationwide.  She is also hard at work on her next book, “Debbi Fields…More than Cookies!” This book is filled with tantalizing recipes blended with her philosophy of excellence. Debbi’s five daughters, Jessica, Jenessa, Jennifer, Ashley and McKenzie are taking an active role in contributing to the new book and are chipping away on the development of their new business “The Fields Girls” which creates recipes and proprietary products for anyone who loves to eat or bake homemade goodness. You can learn more about Debbi Fields and the company she built at MrsFields.com.

Inspirational Female Entrepreneurs from Around the World

coco-chanel-style-620km093012Who inspires you? Many female entrepreneurs struggle to receive the same credit and accolades their male counterparts receive, even when they must meet the same challenges — and more. What does it take to leave home, move overseas, learn Spanish, and start a business out of nothing? In honor of Women’s History Month, here are some inspirational female entrepreneurs who overcame challenges and made their mark on history.

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel’s name is synonymous with fashion, and she has been credited with changing the way we think about women’s clothing. Chanel began designing hats in Paris in 1909, and came into her own when she realized that with the coming of World War I, women would need to break away from the traditional corsets and constricted clothing in favor of simpler, more practical styles.

Competitive, opportunistic, and ambitious, Chanel created a fashion empire out of nothing, and wove legend around herself to increase her cachet. Although Chanel died in 1971, her legacy lives on. She became the only female to appear on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Shazi Visram

Shazi Visram’s path to entrepreneurship began when she spoke to her friends about the difficulty of finding easy, fast, healthy food for their babies. Seeing a need and a niche to fill, Visram launched Happy Baby in 2003, focusing on natural, organic, healthy food for babies and children that busy mothers could fit into their schedules.

Now known as Happy Family Brands,Visram’s company has become a major name in premium baby food and children’s food in the United States. Happy Family is one of the fastest-growing companies in the US, ranked #2 by Inc. Magazine.

Visram has used her success to promote the causes of sustainability and childhood nutrition, and encourages other entrepreneurs to involve philanthropy as part of their business plans. In 2011, Visram made Inc. Magazine’s list of Top Female Entrepreneurs.

 Suze Orman

Chicago-born Suze Orman began her career as a waitress, then as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch, and has since become a “powerhouse of personal finance,” with her own television show on CNBC and ten successful books on managing money.

Curiously, Orman did not set out to become an expert on personal finance. She studied social work at Berkeley before dropping out, and once dreamed of owning her own restaurant, and struggled with her own finances. Orman learned about investing from her failed attempt at owning a restaurant, and eventually became a broker for Merrill Lynch. Allegedly, she was told that the business world was not for women, and that she would be “gone in six months.”

After working for Merrill Lynch for several years, Orman resigned to found the Suze Orman Financial Group, where she not only acted as director until 1997, but published three books, including The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom.


In 2002, Orman launched The Suze Orman Show on CNBC, and has not only appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, but writes a regular financial advice column for Oprah’s O Magazine and has produced a television miniseries for the OWN Network.

Anita Lo

Sometimes the most inspiration comes not from those who wildly succeed, but those who struggle with defeat and come back fighting. Anita Lo cultivated a love of French cuisine while visiting Paris as part of her French studies at Columbia. Lo chose to pursue her dream of becoming a master chef, and eventually got an internship at the famous Guy Savoy in Paris.

Lo went on to open two restaurants, Anissa(opened in 2000) and Bar Q (opened in 2008), but met with disaster in 2009 when she was forced to close Bar Q and a restaurant fire shut down Anissa for the better part of a year. Rather than quietly accept defeat, Lo remained undaunted. She appeared on the first season of Iron Chef America, competed against Chef Mario Batali, and won. Lo then went on to appear as the first female chef on Top Chef Masters.

About the Author:

Leslie Collins is a long-time writer for  Pimsleur Approach. She learned to speak Spanish through the program and enjoys traveling, coffee, discovering new cultures and hikes with her golden retriever.

Inspiring a Community of Women

pixelproject_womenThe saying “no man is an island” applies to women as well. Building a strong community of friends requires work but the rewards are well worth the effort. Inspire My Life’s Women’s motivational programs help you forge strong relationships with others who share your passion and belief in yourself. We work together to bring you programs that inspire, motivate and challenge you to grow both as an individual and as part of a supportive group.

My Communities

Communities are not only the people who live in our neighborhood. You also have communities built on common interests. A group of women may begin to meet to discuss their health, their goals, managing jobs and children, or to focus on making a world change. Many of our greatest charities and philanthropic organizations were begun by communities of women just like you.

You probably already belong to several communities, even if you were not aware of the fact. The people with whom you work, socialize, or volunteer are all part of your individual communities.

Making New Communities

Do you have a dream or goal you would like to achieve? It is possible that you can do it yourself; it is more likely you will need some help. This is where forming a new community becomes vital. When you join forces with others who have the same goals as you, your collective strength becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Communities are not only about reaching goals, however. They are also about offering support to those who may need it. By sharing each other’s burdens, your community makes possible a greater strength on the part of each of its members.

How Forming a Community Can Help You

One of the biggest benefits of forming a new community is the personal satisfaction and growth you receive from the effort. By sharing your time, talents and unique personal strength with others, you can grow personally and become better at what you do, and thrive knowing that others know that and respond to it, as well.

When you offer your help to others, amazing things begin to happen in your life. You become part of an effort bigger than yourself, and you get to see first-hand the result of your labors. You never know just how much of an impact your offer of help will have on someone else.

You may be the one person that someone needs to see or hear in order to solve a problem and lead a better life. This is a powerful motivator, because all of us have a deep need to be helpful and useful to others.

How Can I Form a Community?

Sometimes, communities simply “happen”, but in most cases they are planned. Think about the things that you find important; do you see a need for help or change in this area? Once you have defined your goals, reach out to others with similar interests. The Internet has made this nearly effortless. If there is already a community that meets the need you have defined, become a part of it. Most people are happy to welcome new members into their community provided these individuals are willing to work together with others for a common goal.

Becoming part of a community means more than just showing up for a meeting. Embrace the communities around you and you will become a vital and important part of a group that is working toward a common outcome. Inspire My Life’s Women’s programs can help you achieve your personal goals of growth and change while bringing you together with other women who can become a vital and integral part of your life.

This guest post was written by Terry Phelps, a freelance writer who is working her way to writing full-time to support herself. She lights up when discussing personal development and foundation belief change.



Feature Interview: Tara Sophia Mohr

web_tara-sophia-mohr_cropTara is the founder of the global Playing Big women’s leadership program and author of the 10 Rules for Brilliant Women Workbook. Tara has spent her life finding ways to help women live out their dreams and have an impact in the world. She has been featured in The Huffington Post, CNN, Forbes, and many other publications. Here is her story and how she got to where she is today:


1. Tell me about yourself and your current work

My work is helping women play bigger in their work in the world.

So many women have the sense that they are playing small in some way, and they want to change it, but they just don’t know how. Through my articles, courses and programs, I help women walk that step-by-step journey to playing bigger and following their professional dreams.

2. Did you always have a passion for helping women achieve their full potential?

Yes, since I was very young. I have a passion for bringing women’s voices into the world –creating a world that is equally reflective of women’s and men’s perspectives.

When I was in high school, my English teacher announced we’d be studying the theme of “coming of age” for the year – reading a variety of novels that told the stories of young people coming into adulthood. Turned out they were all about men and they were all written by men! I was stunned that we were actually going to act as if we were covering the topic of “coming of age” in some kind of comprehensive way while totally ignoring women’s experiences. I started a project to change the curriculum to include literature written by women – that was my first experience of really putting this passion into action.

3. What has been your biggest struggle in getting to where you are today?

My own inner critic. That voice in my head that is afraid I’m not good enough, didn’t prepare enough, that I don’t know enough.

That’s what holds me back, and I know I’m not alone! That’s why part of my work now is teaching women how to quiet their own inner critics.

I never knew there was anything we could do about all that self-doubt! I was shocked when I got into adulthood and learned we could actually learn how to be more conscious of and more effective in dealing with our own self-doubt.

Many women think there is nothing they can do about insecurities – or they think that someday, with enough experience, they are just going to become confident and the inner critic voice will go away. Neither is true. Our inner critics will be with us as long as we are stretching out of our comfort zones – no matter how successful we are. But there are skills we can learn that allow us to no longer be held back by that inner critic – and that’s part of what I teach in my courses. When you have those skills, you can live, work, play and love no longer hampered by your inner critic.

4. What inspires you in life?

My garden. Beautiful interior spaces. Great books. Dancing. Dogs. My desire to see a world full of empowered human beings – women and men.

5. What women did you look up to and go to for advice when you were starting your career?

There are so many women I admire for diverse reasons but among my favorites are: Oprah, writer Anne Lamott, Arianna Huffington, and scholar Karen Armstrong.

7. What is one thing you wish you would have known earlier on?

That it is more important to choose the path that feels right than to choose the most prestigious path.

8. How do you stay motivated?

I am doing the work that I have a natural passion for – so my motivation doesn’t fade. When I do get a bit burnt out, I find it’s usually because my business has grown and the activities that used to be productive for me now need to be delegated to someone on my team or leveled up in some way. So I make those changes.

9. What would you say is your biggest achievement thus far?

Gosh, I can’t pick one. Plus I don’t love to think of my life in terms of achievements, but rather as an unfolding creative river…

But some of the things I have worked hardest for, given my attention to, that I feel very proud of and happy about:

-creating a thriving business that gives me the lifestyle I want, is creatively satisfying, and helps change people’s lives

-having a 13-year wonderful partnership with my husband

-working through many of my own personal challenges – from giving up sugar (which I’m super addicted to) about 7 years ago and keeping that up, to finding my own right path to managing my health and physical wellbeing

10. If you could give one piece of advice to women looking to start a new path or career, what would it be?

Listen to the whispers. Do not be the skeptic in relationship to your dreams, standing across from them, with your arms folded, asking questions like, “But who do you think you are?” or “How are you qualified for that?” or “What if you fail?” Instead, be your own ally. It’s okay to have no idea how you’ll make the career transition happen yet. It’s okay to have no idea if it’s realistic. You can still, in this moment, shift from being a skeptic to an ally in relationship to yourself. You can say, “Honey, I don’t know how we’ll get there, but I hear you, and I’m going to do what I can to move us in that direction. I promise. I’ve got your back.”



Feature Interview: Andrea Eldridge, CEO Nerds on Call

familyAndrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, which offers on-site and remote computer set-up and repair.  Andrea is the syndicated columnist of Computer Nerds On Call (for Scripps-Howard Newspapers) and Nerd Chick Adventures, which runs weekly in the Redding Record Searchlight.  She regularly appears as a guest tech correspondent on eHow, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, Good Morning Arizona and MORE Good Day Portland, offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle, and gadgets.

1. Tell me about yourself and what you do.

When I’m in office I spend a large part of my time working with my corporate staff, helping them to progress projects and reviewing financial information (from signing checks, to determining expense budgets, to monitoring sales figures).  I also spend a fair amount of time both in-office and at home working on creating content for the two weekly columns I write, appearances, and responding to customer follow up questions from my articles or media spots.

As mom to two young kids (a four year old boy and one year old girl), my time has to be pretty flexible to accommodate their scheduling needs.  I get a lot done between 9 pm and 2 am!

2. What made you decide to start Nerds on Call?

Upon relocating to Redding in 2003, I discovered that no one was providing in-home service to individual computer users, the only on-site options were for businesses.  At a time when computer users relied primarily on desktop computers, the need to disconnect the tower and take it in to a repair shop was daunting.  Nerds on Call was born.

3. What has been the biggest struggle in starting your own business?

The biggest challenge in the beginning was getting past my mindset that starting my own company would be less stable than working for someone else.  I never envisioned myself owning my own company, let alone being an entrepreneur in the technology sector.  When I started my first company in 2001, my husband pointed out that when you work for yourself you have more control over your employment fate than you do working for a company, when someone else’s bad business decision can lead to your layoff.  This lead to a fundamental shift in my thinking and allowed me to take the leap to starting out on my own.

 4. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I live in a relatively small town.  People I see in the grocery store know about my company, in many cases have used our services, and are usually excited to tell me about their great experience.  That’s a wonderful feeling.  Also, it’s great to get feedback from readers that tell me I’ve helped them get more comfortable with technology, particularly when it’s helped them to get more use out of their computer or gadget.

5. Owning your own business and being an entrepreneur can be tough sometimes. Where do you find inspiration and motivation?

My husband is definitely my best mentor, partner, and advocate – we make a great team.    Because we focus on issues differently (I’m more analytical while he’s more creative), we work closely together whenever there’s a large or important decision to be made.  He’s the smartest person I know and is as dedicated to our company’s success as I am.  He’s always the first one I go to for guidance or a second opinion.

6. Do you have women in your life that you look up to and ask advice from?

My mom raised two kids as a single mom, working 12-hour shifts as a nurse.  In spite of how overwhelming this would be for anyone, I remember a childhood full of special moments together – reading books, beach days, climbing trees, imagining elaborate scenarios for my stuffed animals.  The fact that she was able to further her career while never sacrificing her dedication to my sister and me is truly inspirational.  Now that we are adults, my sister and I both have a strong work ethic, dedication to family and confidence in our worth and abilities.  That’s a true testament to my mom and I look to her whenever I struggle to find balance between the various facets of my grown up life.

7. What advice do you have for women in business?

Don’t apologize for the choices you make for yourself and your family.  There are expectations placed on women that simply aren’t asked of men.  No one would ask a man if it’s fair to his kids that his wife stays home while he runs a company.  If you find a work-life balance that works for you and your loved ones, that’s all that matters.

8. If you could go back and start from the beginning, what would you do differently in starting up your business.

I’ve learned a lot about customer service over the years.  In the early days, I felt it was important to explain to an upset customer why something happened, getting caught up in fault, blame and defending company honor.  Now I know that no one wants to hear anything other than, “I’m so sorry that happened.  Let’s fix it.”  Once you can separate yourself from trying to explain why something happened, it’s incredibly freeing.  Everyone wants to be able to fix a problem.  Why wallow in what got you there if you can just make the customer happy again?

9. How can readers get in touch with you or use the service you offer through Nerds on Call?

Readers can call 800-919-NERD or visit www.callnerds.com – we can offer assistance with anything computer, gadget or home theater related just about anywhere in the U.S.

Feature Interview: Stephanie Brinkerhoff

Hair and Makeup by StephI met Stephanie after hearing several people talk about how wonderful and great she was. After hearing all of this, I checked out her website and immediately emailed her asking her to do my hair and makeup for my wedding. I got extremely lucky and drove up to her salon to meet her. She is so personable, nice, and her work is incredible. I am so grateful she agreed to let me interview her and get an inside look on what inspires her and how she reached one of the top 20 Pinterest users in the world with over four million followers.

1. Did you always know you wanted to be a hair stylist?

I knew I wanted to be a hair stylist ever since I was 12.  I had my hair done in an updo around that age, and I loved it!  I became obsessed with styling hair after that.  I even asked for a mannequin head for Christmas!
2- How did you start getting into wedding and event hair styling? 

I got into wedding and event hair styling because that is where my true passion lies, and I naturally gravitated that way.  I never planned on being a wedding/updo specialist, but I guess when you are passionate about something, it shows, and you can’t help but be successful!  As soon as I got a website up and got pictures of my work online, that’s when everything took off.  From there my bridal business has grown into my full time job, and I love it.
3- What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is making people look like the best version of themselves.  Who doesn’t want to look completely amazing at least once in their life?  It is fun to be able to create that reality for people, and see how excited they get.  You can’t help but feel happier when you feel like you look good.

4-Where do you get inspiration for new hair styles and updos?

I get a lot of inspiration from the red carpet and the runways.  I’m constantly checking up on what celebs are doing since they are always ahead of the game.

5- What was your biggest struggle in getting to where you are?

My biggest struggle was just learning to take myself seriously as an entrepreneur and business woman.  It was hard for me to believe in myself, believe that I actually could run a business and be really successful at it.  I felt like I didn’t have it in me!  But as soon as I realized that I was capable, it became easy from there.

6- You recently reached 4 million followers on Pinterest, how did you grow to such a large following?

I HAVE NO IDEA. Honestly, the Pinterest following came as a huge surprise.  Basically when someone new signs up for a Pinterest account, Pinterest recommends certain Pinners for them to follow, and somehow I got on Pinterest’s “recommended pinners” list.  I don’t really know how!  I’m assuming it’s because I pin a lot of authentic and original work, rather than just repinning other people’s work.  It has been great to have such a large following exposed to my work.

7- Any tips for other women trying to use Pinterest to boost their business?

Just be authentic.  People will be able to tell if you are trying to get followers, or “selling out”.  Just be you, pin what you like, don’t be overbearing, and people will like that.  No one likes to feel like they are constantly being sold a product or that you are trying to sell them on your business.  Just be authentic.

8- Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself with a family, no longer working in the salon, but solely making money from my bridal business and from my blog.

9- What is one tip you have for women in business in general?

Be reliable.  I don’t know if it’s just the wedding industry, or other industries as well, but brides will tell me all the time how much they appreciate how quickly I respond to their emails, how organized I am, and how they know they can count on me.  It’s one thing to have a skill that sets you apart, but being a reliable businessperson as well will really make you stand out from the rest.

I’m Stephanie Brinkerhoff, the ‘Steph’ in Hair and Make-up by Steph. I work full time in Utah as a professional wedding hair stylist, makeup artist, and beauty blogger. I also travel around the country for destination weddings and in-salon workshops teaching other stylists about bridal work. I am a lover of cold cereal, going on vacation, good music, and of course my job.


Why some women are taking back to school instead of work

women in school

Workers are giving up on the labor force in mass numbers, and they’re mostly women. But they aren’t giving up forever; instead, women seem to be holding off their working lives to get more education. There are now — for the first time in decades — more women in school than in the work force.

In the two and a half years since the recovery of the current recession officially began, men age 16 to 24 have gained 178,000 jobs, while females have lost 225,000 positions, according to the Labor Department.

Allegedly discouraged by insufficient openings, 412,000 women have quit the working force entirely in the last two and a half years, meaning they’re not looking for work and going back to school, New York Times reported.

But what does a working woman do when she wants to go back to school? There are work schedules, family schedules and finances that need to be considered when looking for new educational avenues. In a nutshell, time is our most precious commodity, and scheduling that time becomes essential to a successful start or returning to college. The first consideration for a working woman as she considers going back to school is scheduling.

Back to School?

College isn’t what it was decades ago when the only option was to attend class in a lecture hall, surrounded by other similarly aged peers. College options now exist from the traditional to the virtual, offering opportunities for e-learning to working women. Distance education through online college resources, can exist in a class-by-class basis or as structured programs, making it a good choice for many working women.

Massive Open Online Courses

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are growing in popularity as online use increases around our nation. More of these free online college courses are being offered, providing a little to no-cost solution. Increasingly, MOOCs are a good opportunity for working women on a tight budget and time, but who also want to upgrade their knowledge base or skills. The benefits of participating are that these courses are free, and that taking a MOOC is a good way for working women to exchange knowledge and experiences after some years away from school.

Many of these MOOCs at the present time offer “certificates of participation” acknowledging your work. However, as the online course area evolves, more colleges and universities are expected to start offering academic credits for taking online courses with a particular institution or learning facility. This can be a particular disadvantage for a working woman looking quickly for academic credits.

E-Learning Programs

Another popular alternative for working women involves distant learning programs and degrees. These structured online educational resources provide a smaller ratio of student to teacher, opportunities for direct involvement with course instructors, and structured methods of feedback and assessment. Working women can experience the benefits of e-learning programs in a different way, such as earning course work credits, which still allows for flexible schedules and study times.

Some see a disadvantage of e-learning in the lack of personal interaction and new methods of thinking that can come from classroom discussions, where all course participants are seated in the same room.

In-Person Programs

For the working woman who envisions a more traditional return to school, in-person student programs at local colleges or universities offer the most hands-on approach to going back to school. Many colleges, especially community colleges, offer a large selection of courses in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate full-time work schedules. More university programs are offering hybrid programs that involve e-learning through online resources, coupled with in-person meetings at regularly scheduled intervals.

Benefits of in-person educational programs, for example, include direct engagement on a regular basis with professors and students, leading to networking opportunities and potential learning that happens as a result of discussions.

However, the costs of these programs can sometimes be out of reach for the average working woman, as well as finding ways to accommodate work and school schedules.

How to Pay

Financial considerations, for example, play a huge role in the decision to pursue educational opportunities. Applying for grants, scholarships or other benefits can take a lot of time and effort in the search and application process. Fortunately, helpful financial support sources exist that can assist successful women in their next life steps.

It’s obviously helpful for a woman to reach out to her place of work first. Maybe your company can offer some financial assistance, if the intended coursework is helpful with your current or future work within the organization. The next step is to explore the opportunities offered at the financial aid office of the chosen school.

Financial aid advisors can help prospective students with tips and resources, and suggest specific organizations for financial aid help. Government funding resources are one area to explore. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, and can be found online. Or groups like Scholarships for Women, which provides extensive lists of scholarships and grant resources.

Women might consider organizations in their chosen field of study for alternative funding sources. Professional organizations are a good source of scholarship and grant potential. Womenworking.com offers an extensive list of associations and organizations that support women going back to school with scholarships. There are also charities like the Rotary Club or non-profit organizations. Religious, ethnic, cultural and interest-based organizations are also worth investigating as sources.

Working women might also consider taking a long-term approach to the cost of going back to school. Taking less classes over a longer amount of time can limit current costs for working women, whose budgets are already stretched. This approach may take longer to complete, but can help reduce the financial stress for women that are trying to balance current work, families and lives.


Feature Interview: Tiarra Currie

I met Tiarra through DamselsinSuccess! She was born and raised in Washington D.C. and is an incredibly driven grad student in New York. Here is more of what she has to tell us about herself: I am a recent graduate from Syracuse University with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and a triple minor in sociology, child and family studies, and early childhood. I am currently receiving my Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia Teachers College in New York City. My long-term goal is to receive my PhD and become Dr. Currie. I knew since 8th grade I wanted to be a child and adolescent clinical psychologist. I am scholar, mentor, leader, and woman of distinction due to many titles I have held as a Ronald McNair Scholar and receiving awards in my undergraduate education such as the 2012 Woman of Distinction and the Associate Vice President Award for Positive Advocacy.

1. Tell me about yourself and what you are currently working on.

Well, I am 21 years old and born and raised in Washington, DC, mostly the southeast area. I come from a single parent home raised solely by my mother but with collective help from my entire family and I am a product of the catholic school system. I just recently graduated from Syracuse University in May of 2012 with a Bachelors in psychology and triple minor in sociology, child and family studies, and early childhood. Two weeks after I graduated I flew to Miami for the summer and worked with Florida International University and the Center for Children and Families as a counselor in their Summer Intensive Treatment Program for Adolescents. Then another two weeks after that, my mom and I drove to New York City where I am currently completing the Masters Program in Clinical psychology at Columbia University Teachers College. My end goal is to receive my PhD, so I can be Dr. Currie and become a licensed child and adolescent clinical psychologist. However, I am working on a lot of things at this current moment. Not only am I a full-time graduate student, but I recently joined a research lab with one of my professors that analyzes data involving affluent youth and parenting, I am a mentor with NY Youth at Risk with the Woman-to-Woman program that consists of young teen mothers in NYC, I am a Respite Worker/Skill Builder with the Bendel Youth Empowerment Program and I will be joining the Black Girls Rock team soon. I just recently started engaging in speaking events and joining panels covering topics from college preparation, my personal journey and life story, self-esteem and finding your purpose, or any discussions that involve inspiring younger generations to reach their potential.

2. What has been your biggest struggle in getting to where you are?  

My biggest struggle in getting to where I am now was me. It’s easy to blame an external source instead of looking at yourself and realizing you are stopping you. I didn’t understand how much of a blessing I was because I wasn’t protecting God’s purpose in my life. It is scary when everything you said you want out of life is coming true. I didn’t know me as a young woman. I have been through a lot and I just went over it and didn’t go through it. So I had to go back and embrace my pains and see the struggles I endured were to set me up for something much greater. An example is I just forgave my father at the age of 21, so for 21 years his decision to not be in my life affected my life decisions. I was consumed with working hard to prove I can be great despite what statistics say about girls who grow up without a father, instead of embracing reality that he was the first man to break my heart. Many of the people around me painted this image of perfection to describe me or stressed the idea that I was “born with a silver spoon in my mouth” and because of this I started to believe it. But that’s not me. The day I proclaimed the hurt, the struggle, and my imperfections is the same day I realized my purpose and that I was ready to change the world.

3. Why did you choose to pursue clinical psychology in upper education and what do you plan on doing with it in the future?  

I chose a higher level of education in clinical psychology because I had to. To be a clinical psychologist you need your PhD and there is little you can do with just a Bachelors in psychology. I knew since 8th grade I wanted to be a child and adolescent clinical psychologist. Where I grew up, the kids around me had little hope for themselves as well as no self-esteem and confidence in their future. I couldn’t understand it, but I felt I had to change it.  There are a few things that can happen as a result of my advanced degree in clinical psychology including helping the field of psychology through therapy and diagnosing children with disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, expanding the necessity and essentialness of psychological research, but also being and giving hope to many young people who look like me that this is possible.

4. How did you choose which school and program to attend?  

I applied to about 18 graduate schools before I graduated from Syracuse. After spending four years at this big and well-known university I had to look at schools for their prestige, location, and amount of diversity. I also had to research the professors to see who had research interests and had published articles that explored topics I was interested in. My top school was always Columbia, who doesn’t want to go there?  But I was very intrigued by Dr. Suniya Luthar’s work on vulnerability and resilience in adolescence but also the dynamics of early maternal relationships with their young children. So when I got accepted, I said yes because I wanted to work with Dr. Luthar, NYC is a great place to be, and the bonus being this school is Ivy League

5. Where do you find inspiration in life?  

I find inspiration in life from my purpose. I stress seeking, finding, and fulfilling your purpose because there is no greater feeling. I want to help children see hope and develop confidence to pursue their dreams. I fear for the next generation because we are seeing cycles of hurt and little change. My favorite quote is ” I am perfectly beautiful searching for truth through my own path and telling my own story”. I want young girls and young boys to be confident in their own story and not have to search for answers in someone else’s. I want younger generations to use me as evidence that dreams can come true and whatever you put your mind to you can achieve. Knowing that this is what God has set out for me to accomplish, I work hard every day to make this possible.

6. What is the thing you look forward to most during your days and time at school?

The thing I look forward to most at school is the message I come away with in each class. There is a difference between being smart and intelligent. Being smart is memorizing a textbook or the lessons from class and repeating the answers out for a test but being intelligent is using the information being fed to you and making choices and decisions independently. I consider myself a scholar because I take the information learned in school and formulate my own ideas to take to another level. In my graduate school experience, I live for the theories I can apply to my own life but also take evolve in my future work endeavors.

7. Who are the women in your life that most inspire you?

I adore women who show us we can have it all like Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Beyonce. But the women who have had direct impacts in my life inspire me the most. My grandmother is a woman who puts the needs of many before her own needs. She is a pure definition of a selfless woman and it takes enormous strength to put everyone’s troubles on your back. She has gave me a flawless understanding of love. I see her as the most beautiful woman that could have graced this earth because my life could not have the same meaning without her. Then there is my mother who inspires me because I have seen her struggle and strength trying to give me the best that I deserve but I also seen her at her weak and vulnerable moments. My mom shows me the beauty of being a woman and the truth in that life will never be pretty. We will make mistakes but with good intentions we can recover from anything because anything is possible. I am so grateful and blessed for both of them.

8. What advice do you have for women who are working or seeking higher education?

The advice I can give to women who are working or seeking higher education is never give up. What you are doing is much bigger than you can imagine for that little girl sitting at home playing with her easy bake oven. I would also stress that it will not be easy and you have to find something or someone that will keep you going when it gets tough. I work and grind extremely hard; some nights I get little to no sleep and some nights I cry from being drained and exhausted. What keeps me going is my family and knowing that everything I do is making them proud and setting an example. It’s knowing there is a little girl back home name Shaniya who looks up to me. Another important factor is making sure your grind and hustle has meaning. Everyone is grinding, what makes you or me different? You must work towards a legacy and something profound you can leave behind when you are long gone. Don’t just work for fast money or a career. Don’t be complacent in your professional aspirations and mediocre in your career potential. I am working not for money but for my purpose that will still stand when I cannot. Lastly, what is for you is for you and only you can define your greatness. There is more than enough room for all of us women at the top. I can never be jealous of another woman because I know how hard we have it. Be motivated by each other because we have so much power to change the world. I am convinced there is not another person doing what I am doing so each day I’m battling with myself to advance. I think women need to know only you can deliver your purpose to the world.