Every individual’s path to learning is unique and anything but linear, especially when talking about higher education—and that has been the case for WGU Indiana student Jasper Horner. He began his higher ed journey at a university in Indiana when he was 18, but ultimately found he wasn’t prepared, dropped out and spent years moving job to job seeking his place in the workforce.
After what was described as “hitting a brick wall,” Jasper, now 10 years later, has found himself back to his roots working with computers in his hometown of Indianapolis. As an adult learner, he plans to graduate with his WGU degree in cybersecurity and information assurance in 2024.
He’s earned multiple small certifications in Google’s IT Suite, but the biggest certification he’s received by doing Eleven Fifty Academy (EFA), a local coding and cybersecurity bootcamp, is CompTia Security+.
Jasper is also the 11th recipient of the online university’s 10th Anniversary Scholarship, which came as quite the surprise for him in June 2021. The scholarship, one of many offered through WGU Indiana, helps students like Jasper pursue their career dreams in IT, a fast growing industry.
Below, Jasper shares his story about what led him to pursue an IT degree from WGU Indiana and what his experience has been like so far with the online university.
What led you to pursue your bachelor’s degree from WGU Indiana after earning various certifications from Eleven Fifty Academy?
After completing the program at EFA, I took some friends’ advice and decided to look further into checking out WGU. I have about 3-4 friends currently attending WGU who live in various states (all also from Indiana) and are all going for different majors. Each of them have spoken highly about the university. I called WGU to talk more about the program and my intake representative (kudos to WGU’s Isaac Furniss) walked me through the process and helped me get enrolled. It was a very easy process, which made me even more interested and excited to attend.
What has your experience been like with competency-based learning at WGU?
It’s been different from any other traditional grade/schooling system in a great way, in my opinion. Instead of trying to achieve a core grade or percentage that can subjectively and poorly reflect on actual knowledge of a topic, the CUs and competency-based learning seems to reflect much more on the understanding of a topic rather than, “Hey, here’s a sheet, study it, hope you pass for the sake of passing.” The program makes me want to actually learn the material at my own pace versus focus solely on getting the best grade.
Can you tell us a little about your current career placement and how WGU’s courses are benefiting you in your role?
I’m with a company called CaptionCall, which is a captioning service for the deaf and/or hard of hearing. Do you know those home phones that have the screen on them with the words that pop up during a call so one can read the message while also listening, if they’re able? That’s what I do. It’s not exactly in the realm of IT, but it is very rewarding in of itself, and fairly technical overall. There are also problem solving situations involved, which is a big part of what I’m learning through WGU’s IT program.
What’s your career path looked like to date?
I’ve changed my career path a little bit since the scholarship was awarded to me. That is, instead of information security as a main goal, I am looking more toward software development with a soft interest in cybersecurity. I want to learn how programs are constructed and how to better develop programs and systems in place to focus on user-friendliness and security as a whole. Along with a heavy interest in scripting and computer programming as well as security, I have a side interest in video game development, particularly the coding side of things, and plan on making various games as side-projects throughout my career.
What lessons have you learned throughout the pandemic that have helped you evolve the way you approach your job?
I feel like there are a lot of positions that can be remote or work-at-home as a whole, and I think the pandemic has opened that door immensely. My past few jobs have been remote, and I think in times when public safety is a concern, that is a wonderful fallback plan for many positions that can be turned into a remote position. Particularly reflective of the IT career in general, as many positions can be work-from-home (i.e. penetration testing, software development, help desk, etc.) and can be as productive as going to an office.
What do you feel the future of work looks like?
For me, I see myself going into software design with a side interest in cybersecurity, doing something I love to do all while working from home. I love anything involving talking to computers and learning how they work, as well as security around programs and computers as a whole. Both fields are constantly growing and evolving, and rapidly expanding, and I think the majority of IT is a great field for everyone to check out.
Anything else you’d like to share with fellow WGU students or prospective students?
This will sound pretty cliche and a little bit corny even, but even when you’re at your lowest of lows, don’t give up. People around you care more than you’d ever think, and they want you to succeed the best you can. If you haven’t been to school in a while or if you’re just starting out as a new student, it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do in life, so long as you keep going, you’ll find your spot to be. Follow what you think is right and things will fall into place.