Kelly Monroe suspects she isn’t done with education yet.
When she received a Master of Education in Adult, Community and Professional Education degree from Carroll in May of this year, it was the 30th anniversary of her graduation from the UW–La Crosse with a BS in mathematics. Her path back to university, as you might suspect given the three decades-long absence, rambled a bit, included an associate degree and eventually found her in front of a class.
“After obtaining my undergraduate degree, I did not have a clear direction as to what I wanted to do for a career, and ended up as a software analyst for a medical clinic,” she said. “In my early thirties, I began having children, and while I relished motherhood, I was feeling very unfulfilled in my career.” While she started to look ahead at what might be next, she also looked back, at her family’s business.
That business was a funeral home in Delafield. Both her father and brother were in the business. Monroe, a decade after her La Crosse graduation, headed back to school, this time to the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) for an associate degree in applied science in funeral service and mortuary science. She became a licensed funeral home director and worked at the family business after her father’s death.
She remained in the business for several years, eventually departing the family business and working as a funeral director and location manager for Krause Funeral Homes. But another career change would send Monroe back to school, this time to teach.
“When the coveted faculty position at MATC in the funeral service program—the only program of its kind in the state of Wisconsin—became available in 2014, I was honored to be offered the position,” Monroe explained. But the move into the classroom came with a stipulation: that she eventually acquire a master’s degree. She considered many programs and schools. She knew several people who enrolled in online programs.
“But something drew me to Carroll,” she said. Her daughter had received a degree at Carroll and praised the school. “I purposely overlooked the online programs. The focus here just seemed more directed to adult, professional learners. I couldn’t be more pleased. It was really a great experience.
“What I liked most were the open discussions in classes because we all brought our own perspectives from our own careers,” she said. “Everyone brought their own expertise. I liked the format of the discussion-based learning when we met on Saturdays. What I found was that I had things of value to offer as well. I was contributing to others learning as well, which made it even more rewarding.”
Monroe also found that what she was learning was immediately applicable to her work in the classroom. “We were each (she and her fellow students) talking about real things from our own professional positions. What I learned I was able to apply immediately and it gave me the language and theory behind good strategies I could employ right away.”
Monroe is hoping her capstone project (a final project students undertake to address a real-world issue) will quickly benefit her employer. Her task was to create a program that would raise pass rates for the board exams taken by students in MATC’s funeral service program. She’s already begun implementing her program.
And, while she has no plans to head back for more schooling, she’s not ruling it out. While this degree was borne of professional necessity, Monroe is a firm believer in the value of education for its own sake. She’d love to take more classes someday.
“No matter your age, you can still learn and still take on new endeavors,” she maintained.