"I did it" - UMass Global's first AAA Accelerate grad ready for Southern California Commencement

November 05, 2021

A portrait of Class of 2021 graduation candidate Doreen Temple with a fountain in the background.

Photo courtesy of the Auto Club of Southern California

IRVINE, Calif. (Nov. 5, 2021) For Doreen Temple, a working parent and the first in her family to complete college, it’s almost time to put on her cap and gown and celebrate her accomplishments in the company of her loved ones and graduating class.

“It’s being able to say, ‘I did it,’” said Temple, who lives in La Mirada, California. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Temple, who has qualified for a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership, plans to attend UMass Global’s special Southern California Commencement, scheduled for Saturday, November 6 in Irvine She is also the first Auto Club of Southern California employee to complete a degree via the AAA Accelerate partnership.

Initiated two years ago, AAA Accelerate enables eligible employees like Temple to receive upfront tuition benefits as a component of their compensation packages, as well as the full slate of coaching and instructional services that all UMass Global students are entitled to receive. The partnership is among the several relationships the university has with major employers providing college as a workplace benefit.

Temple already holds a trio of associate degrees earned over a period of about four years at a Southern California community college she first attended at the age of 17, she said. These degrees, however, were more the product of Temple’s extensive sampling of that school’s course catalog – simply taking so many classes across humanities and STEM fields that she had stockpiled enough credits to claim three associate degrees, than a focused plan to achieve a specific goal.

Her approach to earning a degree at Brandman/UMass Global was much more intentional. Temple had considered an accounting degree while beginning her studies, but a university coach guided her to the realization that a degree in organizational leadership was better aligned to her professional goals.

“I felt amazing. They set up all the classes,” she said. “I think that helped me hit the ground even harder, because I knew I was set up. I knew I was

ready to go.”

Learning online

For Temple, the parent of a young daughter, an online university made the most sense. She enrolled only a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in her and numerous other Americans adapting to a life of remote work. The availability of online classes enabled Temple to schedule at-home study sessions outside of her working hours.

Remote studies even provided time for mother-and-daughter bonding moments, Temple recalled. Temple said her daughter, Luna, was often close by while she studied.

Balancing parenthood, work, and studies was far from easy. With commencement day drawing near, however, Temple was able to look back with pride on her accomplishments and her ability to set a positive example for her daughter.

“The rewarding part is being able to make it through, showing yourself that you can do it,” Temple said. “And showing her (Luna) you can do it all if you want”

During difficult times, Temple said she relied on her boyfriend for support. Coffee – a valuable elixir for many students and professionals – also proved indispensable. Additionally, virtual learning did not create any barriers between Temple and her instructors.

“They were always there for you,” she said. “They were there via email, text, phone call. They would schedule time with you.”

UMass Global courses are designed so students regularly communicate with each other online to discuss core concepts. For Temple, these interactions provided meaningful connections with other students who helped her to better grasp course materials.

“You’re not face-to-face, but you are talking to other people,” she said. “You’re not reading a book on your own and hoping for the best.”

Time to celebrate

Commencement is always a special day for graduates and their loved ones. Southern California Commencement is especially notable as the university’s first in-person of its kind since before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why graduates from the Class of 2020 are invited to celebrate alongside their 2021 counterparts. UMass Global took the unusual step of scheduling a fall ceremony for the benefit of graduates who otherwise would have likely ended up in the situation of waiting until next spring to adorn themselves in regalia and walk across the stage.

Temple and more than 800 other grads are set to attend the Saturday, Nov. 6 gathering at FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine. Temple said her parents, her daughter, an aunt and an uncle, as well as her boyfriend and his parents, plan to join her for the ceremony.

At present, UMass Global has enrolled about 80 students in AAA Accelerate, and additional students are in the process of joining the university community through the partnership. Working adults who know they can count on their employer’s support have a strong incentive to pursue their higher education goals. UMass Global recently commissioned a survey of 2,000 U.S. parents that, among other findings, showed that 75% of respondents would be encouraged to go to college if their employer covered tuition as part of their compensation packages.

AAA Accelerate “is a great program, if you do want to get your degree. It’s very flexible. People are trying to help you every step of the way,” Temple said. “The financial aid part of it is extremely beneficial.”

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