When Heather McDaniel turned 18, she wanted to pursue a degree in the medical field, even though she wasn’t set on that as a career choice. She soon realized she wasn’t quite ready to commit to college and her professional career took another path.
Heather moved from her home in the Midwest to San Antonio about 15 years ago and has enjoyed a career in learning and development (L&D). As a training manager, Heather is passionate about helping others unlock their potential. She “found my passion for adult learning, and ever since, I’ve stayed in that field.”
Heather wants to continue helping adult learners develop their skills and abilities to succeed and advance in their roles and knows higher education can advance one’s career, including her own. But she didn’t always take her own good advice.
She knew she needed a college degree to advance in her career and help others do the same. “I knew I needed to finish my degree, and I had explored different possibilities,” she said. “There are tons of options for universities or community colleges here in San Antonio. However, as a mother of three young children and working a full-time job, going to a college campus wasn’t an option for me."
Through a colleague, Heather learned about Western Governor’s University. During the pandemic, her company transitioned to working remotely, allowing Heather more time to spend with family. Working from home without the daily commute helped solidify her decision to go back to school and WGU was the perfect option.
“What was appealing to me about WGU was the flexibility of being able to work at my own pace and accelerate without sitting in a physical classroom. Then there was also the low-cost tuition.” Compared to other universities and community colleges in San Antonio, WGU provided the financial freedom to commit to her college degree from a nationally recognized university at a fraction of the cost. Students can accelerate their degree program and finish sooner—in about half the time it would take to complete a degree at another college.
To help set Heather on the right track for success, she enrolled in WGU Academy, which offers guaranteed admission to WGU. WGU Academy provides a launching pad for future success with WGU’s degree programs and students can earn admission into WGU in as little as two months. Heather completed several required prerequisite courses, which transferred directly to WGU towards her business degree program. WGU Academy also helped her adjust and experience WGU’s online learning environment first-hand.
“Sometimes going back to school can trigger anxiety. However, my enrollment process was wonderful. When I enrolled in WGU Academy, I felt like they were invested in my educational success—and their satisfaction came from helping me achieve my goals.”
“WGU Academy also introduced me much faster to WGU’s university culture. It’s just a wonderful experience that exceeded my expectations,” she said. “The support system is beautiful and has continued to enhance my transition as a student at WGU.”
At home, Heather’s support system includes her husband and her 13-year-old daughter, with whom Heather is open about her academic journey.
“My 13-year-old is extremely intelligent. We talk about school and how mom must work harder now and manage things to get this degree. But she sees it. I get off from work, and then at 5:00, I turn off my work computer, say hello to my kiddos and my husband, finish whatever else I need to do and then I’m right back online for my schoolwork.” Heather says it shows her children that she’s driven to achieve something, like earning her degree, but it takes dedication, so the hard work pays off.
Her manager also supports her academic endeavors for additional accountability towards reaching her goals. In turn, she encourages her colleagues to reach their own goals. “I love being able to talk about my school experience, and to be a mentor for others. One of my direct reports recently asked me about WGU, wanting to learn more. I’ve had employees say, hey, tell me about that school you go to.”
After Heather finishes her bachelor’s degree in business, she plans to pursue her master’s degree. In the meantime, she inspires others to reach their academic and career aspirations and shares how WGU Academy can help them achieve theirs.