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This post was written by Tina Nugent, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

When I was first notified that I would be a recipient of the ACE Scholarship for the fall 2016, I was beyond excited. I went back to school in January 2015 to finish up my Bachelor’s degree in hopes to move along to get a Master’s degree. Going back was scary and new. I had never taken an online class before. I do work remote and am very accustomed to working independently, but the first day of school is something entirely new! I was not sure of the systems, Blackboard and teacher expectations. I have picked up some tips along the way that have helped me succeed along the way and I’d like to share them. It’s what works for me and I encourage everyone to find what works for them.

Take the time to read through the Syllabus! Every teacher has different expectations and requirements. Some Professors require a DB post to be by a certain day of the week to receive maximum credit. This is such an easy way to earn the most points. Try to make that your deadline to receive the highest scores. Make note of how many reply posts are required for each class. This is another way you can achieve maximum points. If a Professor requires at least two replies to classmates, aim to complete those with substance. I can tell most Professors are looking for an interactive discussion and would rather two substantial posts rather than five replies with a couple of sentences.

I have taken anywhere from two to four classes a semester. Organization is key! At the start of each week, I make a running list in my notebook. I write down what is due each week for every class. I make note of how many replies are needed for each DB post. I also write down if I should be starting to spend time on group projects or reports. Even if a project is not due for a month; I make sure to spend some time on it each week. Sometimes that may just be 15 minutes, but I can tell you even just writing a rough outline helps. Anytime you can spend on homework is helpful. This list for each week helps me remember what needs to be completed. And I get satisfaction every time I get to cross something off for the week!

Don’t wait until the last minute! I know we have all been there. Myself included. Sometimes life is just busy and it happens. I work full time and have three children under the age of seven. I am fortunate to have a husband who will take the kids out on a Saturday morning so I can have time for homework. If I have a test to take over a weekend, he’ll take them out so I can have some quiet. Find what works for you! I work best when I have am not interrupted and can really focus on school work. If you have other responsibilities in life, which I am sure you all do, make the time for school work. Plan a night or some part of the weekend that is dedicated to school. If I know I have a busy weekend ahead, I try and get as much done as possible earlier in the week. Plan ahead!

I also encourage you to come to any CUNY SPS events that you can. I had never been to the actual school until I attended ACE Scholarship events. It was so nice to meet other students and share best practices. These are the only people who truly understand what you are going through and sometimes you just need to sit and talk about it. I can say how nice it has been to meet classmates and faculty in person. It’s been enlightening to share stories and experiences. Although this is an online learning environment, there are so many resources available to you to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to seek them out!

Tina Nugent is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

This post was written by Lynne Alba, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Being a working mom is something I am really proud of. I have worked tremendously hard to maintain my career, while raising my family and being a student here at CUNY SPS. I speak to a lot of working moms who struggle to find work/life balance. I have been really fortunate to work for a company that supports this initiative. But even if I didn’t have that support from my brand there are things that I do that help me stay on track and organized.

My story goes…


I have four children. Four daughters to be exact and each one has a very different schedule and plan when they wake up. My 2 year old is up before everyone, but give her some Cheerios and she is busy for a while. This is when I check my email, make notes of important to do’s and prepare for the day.

By 6:00 am the house is in full swing. My 13 year old is off, and the rest of the crew is waking up as well. At 7:00 am, my 9 year old is up and getting ready for the day. She is quite assertive, and I appreciate it when I am trying to calendar the remaining of my day. From 7:00-8:00 am, I am printing resumes, reviewing applicants, scrolling LinkedIn and catching up on social media. As a recruiter social media is a large part of how I engage with candidates.

By 8:00 am, it is show time. Whether it’s summer or school time, the house is in motion. I may have to help with some clothes decisions, and they are pretty good with getting the rest together. This is when my mother arrives. She helps with breakfast and bus stop runs. She also keeps my youngest on days she doesn’t have nursery school.

When it comes to my career, I am a recruiter for a large retailer. Therefore, I schedule all my interviews in advance, and make time to write my notes in between. I work from home a couple days a week, so it is very helpful when I have some downtime for school. I typically print out my assignments off Blackboard and use the mobile app to stay up to date on deadlines.

I tackle the larger school projects in the evening, when I am not working. But will do smaller discussion board posts between appointments or on lunch.

Balancing family—work—life and school is just that a balancing act.

What is my typical schedule?  

I start at 6:00 am and end at 8:00 pm. I will answer email up until the last set of eyes closes. Supporting other time zones it is important to be accessible after 5:00 pm EST. So I will always try to keep myself available. However, there are times when I have to stop and be a mom as the day goes on. But planning and knowing what coming helps you be prepared.

How do I stay organized?

I do a monthly calendar in Word with everything that is happening. I am always marking down appointments for the girls, me, my husband and my mom. I need to know where we need to be and what time. It’s color coded, and I have it available for all to see. I hand write changes, and while it’s manual it is still my go too for what is happening. I also use Gmail to calendar everything, and invite my work email and school email to the event. This allows me to have all my events on all my calendars—as to not double book. It is not fun when you overbook or double book do to personal/work conflicts. Know where you and your family are at all times, and you can stay organized.

Organization is a family affair. My 13 year old has a white board in her room. I put her calendar on there for her so she knows what is happening.

My 9 year old the same white board, to keep track of her Girl Scout activities and sports. Showing my older girls responsibility for being organized is very important. I am over organized, and I want my girls to be as well.

Finally, I carry a notebook with me and a pen. I write notes as things happen throughout the day, and sometimes it can happen when I am not in front of my computer to document it.

As a recruiter, my operations binder is my lifeline. I have all my important documents, passwords and job files. I put all resumes of candidates in process in my binder, and carry it with me everywhere. You never know when you will need to access their information quickly. I also print all notes that I send to business partners, and a copy of interview schedules as well.

As a student I have the same binder. I have my assignments, calendar of events, and updated course information at the tips of my fingers. I also update all my deadlines and due dates on the calendars as well. Sometimes various courses have different deadlines.

Staying organized is the key to it all. If you don’t organize yourself and your family for what is coming, it’s hard to be prepared. Good Luck!

Lynne Alba is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

This post was written by Jerome Basma, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

I’m finally here: my last semester in a four-year journey at CUNY SPS. In fact, it’s my last week of my last semester, in my last class at the school. The capstone class (in this case, Strategic Management) is almost done: my team members and I have recently input the last of the data required for the closing quarter of the business simulation, Marketplace; and we’ve handed in our final case study about Delta Airlines’ response to the threat posed by low-cost carriers in the aftermath of 9/11. Next week, I and the class will take the final, and then goodbye. Great stuff, and now it’s practically over. I will definitely miss it.

I wonder what I will do with myself now that there are no classes to take, no readings, no team projects, no case studies, no exams, no discussion board assignments. If it sounds like I’m already experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, it’s because I am. As I said, I will miss all of this, and the great community that CUNY SPS has been for me the last few years. For sure, there are new challenges to be faced: updating my LinkedIn profile with that infuriatingly blank “education” field (I’m in my fifties, so it’s particularly galling), parlaying my enhanced skills learned from professors and classmates into a better position at my current employment, looking and perhaps finding that job that not only pays the bills but fills that little bit of hollowness in the soul. That last one is the one, isn’t it? It’s the one we all have to go for, even if we don’t achieve it, even if we only just get close and almost make it. Don’t give up, be sensible by all means, but don’t surrender.

These thoughts crowd my head as I step off the curb to cross to the other side. The way ahead will interesting, I will have to make it interesting: what does it mean to have prepared, spent, and sacrificed so much if it keeps you in the same place you started from? Is that even possible? I’m thinking ahead to the new preparations I will soon undertake, and as I strategize my next moves I also think back on the four years spent at CUNY SPS. What would I tell a new mentee just starting out at CUNY SPS? What would I tell my sons as they start out in higher education? What would I tell a friend? The thing that comes to mind is this: don’t just show up. To me showing up is doing the minimum to get the diploma and moving on. If you do that, you’ll end up with a marginally useful piece of paper, and not much else. What you can do instead is to use your classes, use your time in school to breathe some life into your dreams and get them a little closer to becoming a reality.

This can be done by using CUNY SPS and its network of faculty, students, and staff to the fullest extent. Don’t believe that getting the diploma, graduating, magically changes everything: one day you’re a student, and the next you’re a graduate, and then the world changes. Perhaps on some minor level this is true, but it doesn’t last. As you take each class, you should think about how you can apply what you are learning to your present situation: be it your current job, or the job you eventually want to get. You should access your professor and the other students in your class as resources of knowledge, and the possible start of network that you can draw upon for years to come. With that in mind, consider your classmates, who might help you through their experiences or professional background—think also about how you might benefit them in the same way in return. Also consider your professor, who might have a wealth of information about a particular subject you’re interested in. If you feel you need advice in how to proceed in your studies, or how to position yourself to get a certain type of job he or she is familiar with, ask to meet with them. They may or may not say yes. If they can’t meet in person, ask them for a phone call or teleconference. You’ll find that many of them are very helpful and willing to accommodate you in some form.

Also, don’t pass up on the opportunity to stay in touch with faculty and students who share your common interests. One easy and well accepted way to do this is through LinkedIn. Ask them to be in your network, so that at some point in the future you might easily reconnect and communicate with them—remind them you were in their class. Additionally, keep in mind that they may be able to introduce you to people they know on their networks.

Another way you can get more out of your education is to give some of your time back to the school. Show up at the gatherings. Given that many of the programs at CUNY SPS are online, this is very valuable. You’ll meet some of the staff, faculty, and students face to face, and they in turn will get to know you better. Volunteer to help out, or join the student council. Remember that the more of yourself you put into a situation, the more you’ll get back, sometimes in ways you can’t conceive of in the moment. So enough of my sermonizing, and I do apologize if I’ve gone a little long on this. It’s just that I can’t stress enough the importance of doing more than just showing up. Let’s get on with it. I wish you all the best.

Jerome Basma is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the B.S. in Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

This post was written by Cheryl Brewington, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

I started my journey with CUNY in 2002 fresh out of high school and unmotivated. I completed a series of classes and then took an opportunity that allowed me to travel nationally and internationally. This opportunity lasted for three years and although it was life changing I found myself missing college, my business classes in particular. I found, through my traveling experience, that business is an essential major and has a place in every aspect of life. Upon this revelation, I vowed in my heart to finish school and to promote education to others. I had no idea how much determination I would need to make my dreams become a reality.

In 2007 I returned to New York with the motivation to continue my education while working for a non-profit organization. I was under the impression, when I accepted the position, that I would be able to takes classes as well as fulfill my responsibilities at work. After making a three-year commitment, I soon found out that this was not the case and my college education was pushed to the rear. I was, though, able to squeeze one class out of those three years. This road block helped me to prioritize my education as I looked to my next job opportunity.

In 2010, I accepted a job in Memphis, TN where I was able to mentor young adults as they searched for direction after high school. Naturally, I encouraged education and made myself a living example by continuing my own education. I was able to manage two classes a semester and often times I used my course work to give my students a glimpse into the college world. Many since have gone on to college or a form of higher education.

In 2013, I completed my Associate’s degree at a community college in Memphis, TN. Financial aid covered my tuition during my Associate’s degree but I knew that I would need some financial assistance to complete my Bachelor’s degree. An entrepreneurial fire had been set in my heart and I knew I wanted to fan the flame. In 2015, after I returned to New York to be closer to family, I rejoined the CUNY system to continue my education. I knew that CUNY was a trusted source and it was where my venture had begun. CUNY School of Professional Studies has been a perfect fit for me. Being about two years away from a goal I had set for myself over ten years ago was exhilarating for me. My journey, up to this point, has been paved with determination and tenacity and I set my sights on making good grades in order to finish strong.

It was earlier this year that I received a phone call about my financial aid ending after the fall semester. Being so close to completion of not only my degree but a long term goal, this call was unnerving. I decided to apply for the ACE Scholarship. This scholarship was interesting to me because it would cover the rest of my tuition and also because it required me to mentor incoming students, something I loved to do. When I was awarded the ACE Scholarship it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I felt as if it was a divine reward for my rugged persistence. Because of this scholarship my student loans are minimal and my future is secure. Having a mentee to provide assistance to is an additional reward for me, being able to come along side someone coming along the same path and help them along the way is fulfilling beyond words. I am forever grateful for this opportunity.

Cheryl Brewington is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the BS in Business program on May 31, 2017.

I tend to think that I’m reasonable. There is nothing that you can’t explain to me that I won’t understand or try to understand. I heed advice because I’d rather avoid the pitfalls of life than go through something that someone can help me avoid. I think I’ve been through more than enough at this stage of my life.

The one thing that drives me insane is that I don’t listen to people who don’t have a leg to stand on. If your a hot mess trying to tell me what to do—your nuts, bonkers, mad—I don’t even want to hear your spiel. Get yourself together first then lets assess.

This isn’t limited to my own parents. It’s not that I’m still holding on to the resentment of the past for essentially raising myself as a teen. But I can’t understand where mostly my father gets off trying to tell me to save for my daughters college—something I’ve done since she was in the womb and he did not do—or anything else for that matter. Kids don’t come with a children for dummies manual. But some things I like to think you can figure out on your own.

My Achilles in life is my daughter. Where I may not have any feelings or emotions towards anything else in life, and my actions might be cold, she’s the one person I whole heartily would do anything for and this includes sacrificing my own peace and happiness to make her happy.

I have a 1,909,093,000 worries right now. So to get a call this morning from the man who helped create this whole that I’ve been struggling to get out of, after I’m helping him, to lecture me on my daughter, is insane. I’m outspoken so of course I said my peace, because my initial reaction was, “How dare you.” How dare you lecture me when I’m the one carrying the burden 15 years after you left me fending for myself. I suppose there is a thin line between reason and insanity… and my life remains in remnants of insanity.

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

I may have explained before or may have simply neglected to explain that I used to be a spark. Like the kind you see on July 4th kind of spark, pretty but kind of frightening sometimes. I’m not sure what conjured this story, but the other day as I was getting ready for work, and this pants story popped right into my little head.

You see, I’m the type of person that owns things. If I’ve offended you, said or done anything I’ll own it in its entirety. If I didn’t do or say something, again, I’m going to be the first one with her hand up saying I didn’t do this. Nothing seems to flip my switches faster than someone assuming and accusing me of doing or saying something when hands down, I’ll tell you to your face. Of course if I don’t remember I’ll tell you the same as well.

When I was about 19, I bought a pair of burgundy stretchy work pants from Rainbows in Lake Worth when I lived in Florida. As is the usual case of my life, with work, and school I was always running around. The pants had been in my car with the intention of bringing them back, because after I brought them home I hated them. (Not at all uncommon for me.) The thing of it is, that those pants traveled in my car up and down for about a week in their bag with the receipt and tags still on. On one of those days someone had broken into my car taken my radio but ransacked my cars contents including the pants, so by the time I went to return them, they were a bit wrinkled.

I walked into the store with bag, tags on and receipt. When I approached the counter, (I recall this like it was yesterday) the cashier told me I’d worn the pants. Now lets pause here. I have patience, but if you ask me or tell me something I of course will oblige and answer. I don’t handle stupidity well at all… so lets keep this in mind here.

I calmly explained I didn’t wear them, hence the tags were on. I just didn’t have time to bring them back any sooner than a week. She proceeds to call the manager. Now what happens next was seriously one of those black out moments where first your like you’ve got to be kidding me, but then anger makes its appearance like a headlining superstar.

The first thing she says when she calls the manager is this girl is returning pants and she wore them. If I could tell you I saw colors, stars and stripes I would. I remember the initial shock as my mouth literally dropped because I didn’t wear the stupid pants, and now this woman who I’d been going back and forth with for 20 minutes was telling someone I wore them as her opening statement. By the time she got off the phone I was in full on “Carrie the Rage” mode. I was screaming, and yelling because I didn’t wear the pants and she continued to accuse me of doing so. The end of the story is, I walked myself right outside and slammed the pants against a pole a few times before proceeding to toss them in the garbage. I still hate those pants today.

My point in telling this story is that I own my actions fully. I don’t believe in excuses. I feel like if you do something, man up and own it, good or bad. I hate it when people try and deflect blame. Do I blame anyone for the untimely demise of my pants? Not exactly. I own my part in beating them like a rug against a pole and them tossing them. Yup, that was all me right there. (I can imagine the faces of the shoppers in that plaza, while this is going on.)

It’s funny because I’m in a situation with someone now that is constantly throwing blame on everything and everyone around them and it drives me nuts. We can’t control our circumstances entirely or surroundings but we do have the power to control how we react and we can control the ownership of our participation in the things that we do. If one person upsets me, there is no reason everyone thereafter has to pay, because they are not the source of my imbalanced emotions at that moment.

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”