Angela Marquardt’s family is her first priority. Her greatest joys are moments spent with her husband, Brandon, and their new child. But even in her joy, Marquardt felt something was missing. Last winter, while on furlough because of the pandemic, she did some soul-searching. She decided she wanted to go back to school.
Marquardt, of Schofield, has an associate degree in general arts and science. She began her undergraduate studies in graphic design at UW-Stevens Point. Then she switched to UW-Stout’s online special education program.
When she and Brandon married, she left school to work full time as a paraprofessional at the DC Everest School District. She loved working with the students but wanted to do something related to her graphic design courses and have a career where she could be creative.
“I always went back and forth about going back to school because I knew it would be hard being married and having a family. When I decided to go back, I was pregnant,” Marquardt said. “My family is the most important part of my existence. But I realized I can still have passions outside of being a mom.”
Continuing her creative studies
Marquardt enrolled in UW-Stout’s online digital marketing technology program. Having the flexibility of an online degree was important; she needed to be able to study when she had the time around her work and family schedule. The Customized Instruction option allowed her to do that.
“I loved going to school for graphic design but knew I would not be able to do in-person classes during the day with my job,” she said. “Digital marketing technology ties together what I already learned in graphic design but is designed for the future.”
Many of Marquardt’s credits transferred to the online DMT program. She appreciates how understanding her professors are and how they take the time to understand her situation.
Program Director Kris Isaacson knows online learning can feel isolating sometimes, and she doesn’t always get to know her students as well as she’d like. But this wasn’t the case with Marquardt.
“Angela was very upfront with me about expecting her first baby when she enrolled in my course last fall. We worked together to devise a flexible schedule to keep her on track,” Isaacson said.
After her maternity leave, Marquardt returned to work in January as an appointment coordinator at Marshfield Clinic in Weston. She also started her online internship at Virtual Vision, a website design and marketing company in Wausau.
“It is honestly hard to balance family time, working full time, an internship and having a family. When taking on so much, it becomes more important to make every moment count,” she said. “My professors and peers are very supportive and encouraging. Some of them can even relate to my story. My story is actually pretty common these days.”
Isaacson estimates that the majority of Customized Instruction DMT students have families and are working adults because roughly 64% attend class part-time around their work schedules, have completed an associate degree or some bachelor's credits, and their average age is about 28-years old.
“Because many of the students in the CI program are transferring in credits, the average time to degree completion is two to three years. There are so many variables, such as how many credits they are transferring in and how many classes they take at a time,” she said.
Support and self-care
Marquardt doesn’t think she’d be able to go back to school if not for her family’s support, knowing her schooling takes time away from family time.
“Their support means the world to me,” she said.
She understands her priorities and makes sure to stay positive when things are stressful, practicing her faith, meditation, exercise and painting as a creative outlet.
“I don’t think people take their spiritual, mental and physical well-being into consideration when they get tired, but that’s when you need these things the most,” she said. “Taking care of myself helps me be the best mom and wife I can be.”
“Angela’s motivation and focus on her future are part of what drives her to successfully juggle all that she has on her plate and why she will be successful,” Isaacson said.
Marquardt hopes to graduate in fall 2022 and start a career at Virtual Vision in digital marketing, while taking art and design workshops and market herself as a painter.
“It is never too late to conquer your dreams,” she said. “Your career choice does not need to be a decision based only on stability. Although stability is important, be sure to find something you are passionate about.”
UW-Stout’s communication technologies and communication studies department also offers an online degree in information and communication technologies, as well as degrees in computer networking and information technology, graphic communication, and video production, seven minors and four certificates.