As we continue celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked WGU’s College of IT Program Mentor Anna Striedel to share her thoughts on working for WGU, going back to school, the culture, heritage, and influence of family. Anna and her family make their home in Port Lavaca, Texas.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates Hispanic and Latino history and culture. Are there any traditions you wish to pass down, that your parents passed down (food, culture, music, service)?
Everything we were brought up on was based on family, faith, and food. Our gatherings and celebrations are usually centered around food. We all love to cook or BBQ so there’s always lots of helping hands and lots of laughter. Before the pandemic hit, even though my family lives in different cities across Texas, we always tried to get together at least once a month. Now we are lucky because we are all technology savvy, so we have a lot of Zoom and video calls. We play board games, bingo, enjoy spa days, tea parties, and birthdays all through Zoom right now.
We recently celebrated our daughter’s birthday, and she said, “love will find a way!” And we always do! My faith plays a big part in who we are as a family and why we celebrate important holidays like Christmas and Easter. But it’s also how we come together and support each other through life’s challenges. Another thing we learned from our parents is the importance of service. They gave a lot of their time to the church and helping people in the community. I think that’s why we chose careers that give back to our communities.
Can you share a little about your background—your work, your family?
For the last seven and a half years, I have worked at WGU as an IT program mentor. I live in Port Lavaca with my family but came from Cuero, Texas. I have been married for 13 years and have three children. My two great parents just celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary and I have three siblings I couldn’t live without.
Were there any barriers you had to overcome (education, career)? How important is an education in your family and who were your influencers, cheerleaders, and supporters?
I enrolled in the master’s in management and leadership degree at WGU Texas. When I started, one of the challenges was having a learning disability. I completed my bachelor’s degree at another university, and it was a struggle until the end of the degree—that is when I learned I have a learning disability. When I decided to return to school for the master’s degree, I wasn’t sure how well I would do with online versus a brick and mortar school. I wasn’t sure I would be successful. As a program mentor, I know there are a lot of great resources I could utilize and that helped me be successful, from my mentor, instructors, student success and writing centers.
After I enrolled, my daughter had some medical issues that I had to attend to. So that year took a lot of time between doctor’s appointments, caring for her, and trying to work full-time. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish the degree but luckily, I had a lot of support at home from my husband and my oldest daughter.
What made you decide to get your degree from WGU Texas? What was your favorite thing about WGU Texas?
I chose WGU for the time, not wanting to be away from my kids to attend class or leaving my husband alone to take care of everything. Flexibility in studying was also important because of the kids' school schedules and caring for my youngest daughter.
My favorite thing is probably the scariest thing about WGU, too. Once I started using the online resources and support it became my favorite part of the educational journey. I also say it’s the scariest because I don’t like to ask for help but you must take charge of your education, reach out and use those resources, and answer your mentor and instructor calls to be successful.
As a program mentor and WGU grad, how do you help your students overcome obstacles to completing a degree. Can you share a specific anecdote?
Every week I talk with students about their progress, goals, and challenges. I help them brainstorm solutions to problems and offer ideas about how to make progress when time is a challenge. I also point them in the direction of the best resources. Plus, I share my experience with them as a WGU student. I find that many students feel the same way—not wanting to ask for help for various reasons. So, I share my experience in working with my mentor, my instructors, and how the student success and writing centers helped me get through those tough courses.
Right now, the biggest thing I try to help students with are changes due to the pandemic. Students who are also working from home, trying to keep up with their homes and be parents and teachers to their children, too. I talk to students about finding balance and routines to help them build a solid foundation for success. Usually, the hardest part of school isn’t the material but the time and effort it takes to be successful and the determination to get to the end and graduate. Now, I share my tips as a mentor and as a former student, and as a mom with young children trying to balance teaching them virtually as well.
Did earning your master’s degree with WGU Texas open any doors or help you in your current position?
My master’s in management in leadership did help me in my current position. Before my degree, I was very hesitant to be ‘out there’, but after I graduated, I had a lot more confidence to support my team and WGU goals as well. It also helps me as I moved through the courses to be able to apply the concepts even before I graduated.
What are your future career and life goals?
I would like to contribute more to online learning. I love that WGU is online and I’d like to continue helping to drive the changes that students need and the direction of WGU. Our leadership is always thinking in terms of innovation, so things change quickly around here.