2018 Graduate, Bachelor of Arts in Organizational and Corporate Communication
Background: Frances Jimenez was born in El Paso and was raised as a military kid living around the world.
For the past 13+ years, she has served in the 911 industry. She is currently the 911 Programs Manager for the El Paso County 911 District. Her work involves educating the public on 911 basics such as when and how to call, and the rapid-changing technology and legislation that can affect 911; she also provides specialized training to participating public safety agencies. Finally, she built and maintains their website and social media accounts, and handles press releases and media requests.
Frances is passionate about the 911 industry and her fellow professionals and currently serves as the Vice President of the Texas Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association, NENA’s second largest chapter. Texas NENA provides training and scholarship opportunities for 911 professionals, assistance to brother and sister members in need, develops professionals through the Emergency Number Professionals program, and advocates for the 911 industry and its professionals.
Going back to school was always in the cards for Frances, but she kept putting it off as life and work got busier and busier. A gentle push from her director at work got her back on the path to school and UTEP's degree in Organizational and Corporate Communication tied right into the work she does every day.
Frances is busy at work and at at home: her very full life includes three children, aged 17, 15, and 13, all involved in numerous activities like JROTC, tennis, band, cheerleading, and Krav Maga. She loves to exercise and attends a boot-camp style gym where classes are only 30 minutes, which is about all her schedule will allow. She is also a self-professed, lifelong Disney junkie. With all this going on, Frances would not have been able to fulfill her lifelong goal of earning her degree without online learning and the support of her husband.
Frances graduated in December 2018.
Why she enrolled in the program:
I always said I would return to school when the time was right, but life kept happening. As I began advancing in my career, I became busier and busier. One day, my Director lit a fire under my bottom encouraged me to finish school. I was on the phone with a counselor the very next day. I chose UTEP Connect because it was a name I could trust. There are so many online schools now, and I had heard so many horror stories of people unknowingly attending unaccredited online programs. There were no other online programs I would even consider.
Her experience with online learning:
UTEP Connect was my first experience with online learning. I waited so long because I had convinced myself that I needed to be in a classroom to succeed. I proved myself wrong.
All I needed to succeed was my trusty mobile hotspot, my laptop, and earbuds. My job is very demanding, intermittently requiring that I work odd hours and travel frequently. Many nights were spent camped in hotel rooms or in airplane terminals, literally wherever I could find an outlet doing homework. But I got it done, one assignment at a time. If I could do it with my hectic schedule, anyone can.
I was surprised that I was able to tap into a form of self-discipline that I honestly didn’t think I had in me. I learned that I was more resilient than I had given myself credit for. My time management skills became a priority, so that I could manage my family, work, and school life. Online programs are not easy! They are just as challenging as going to college in-person, and require an extra level of commitment, dedication, and resourcefulness to stay on track.
What she plans to do with this degree:
Earning my degree has been a life-long personal goal. I don’t plan on leaving my job whatsoever. Course material that I learn today can be applied now in real life, and simply makes me better and more qualified than with my body of work alone.
How she balanced home, work and school and the unexpected (and positive) side-effect of going back to school:
I was fortunate enough to have the support I needed. My husband and kids stepped up by helping take care of chores, laundry, dinner, etc. I had to learn how to live with my house not being perfect, and appreciate the way chores were being done. My husband essentially turned into a full-time limo driver for the kids. The dry-erase board in the kitchen has been the best investment to keep track of who needs to be where and when. Every work day, I went to work, then the gym, shower, and hit the books without fail. Dinner is our family time, when we get to breathe and talk about our days. I was still also able to attend all of the kids’ various events, like band performances, awards ceremonies, PTA meetings, etc.
A secondary side-effect of my going to school was that my kids’ grades and leadership skills improved. I worried that their added responsibilities would negatively affect them, and I was wrong. The exact opposite happened, it made them resilient and built character. Oftentimes, my kids and I would be sitting at the kitchen table doing homework together. We inspired each other to be the best versions of ourselves.
On whether she would enroll in this program again if she had to do things over:
Yes! My only regret was waiting so long to get enrolled.
What she would say to a prospective online student:
You can do it. Get past the fear of failure. Get over the idea that you need to be in a classroom. Invest in yourself without feelings of guilt.