The path to a degree is often fraught with challenges, but for Nina Truckenmiller, the challenge of attaining a bachelor’s degree paled in comparison to ones she has faced throughout much of her life.
Born in Panama, the now 26-year-old immigrated to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with her parents when she was 8. Her family struggled to make ends meet, often experiencing nights with no food on the table, cold showers in the middle of winter and no electricity to keep the lights on.
“When I found NEC, I liked that it was a lot more affordable than other schools, it was not-for-profit, and it fit my busy schedule when I was working 40 hours a week, only having one class every seven weeks”
“The journey to come to the U.S. and getting everything prepared was very stressful,” Truckenmiller said. “Once we got here it was a different world. I spoke very little English, and came during the winter months, so the cold was a new experience in itself. Thankfully, the Disney channel and going to school helped me adapt and I graduated from my ESL (English as a Second Language) class after one school year.”
Truckenmiller’s teenage years weren’t any easier. After giving birth to the first of three sons at the age of 18 by an abusive partner, she would experience a series of abusive relationships. At 20 she met her husband, Ken, and her life began to turn around.
“My husband has been my biggest support,” Truckenmiller said. “When I felt like giving up on my degree, he was there pushing and keeping me focused on the future. Prior to meeting him, my life was filled with so many obstacles and deceptions that I never knew I would achieve everything I have now. My life story has literally gone from failure to success.”
The decision to choose New England College was a process in its own right. Truckenmiller tried more than one online college before she found something she finally felt comfortable with in NEC. The college’s scheduling flexibility was the only education option that could fit comfortably into Truckenmiller’s busy life as a mother, wife and full-time customer service representative for an auto insurance company in Freeport, Ill.
“When I found NEC, I liked that it was a lot more affordable than other schools, it was not-for-profit, and it fit my busy schedule when I was working 40 hours a week, only having one class every seven weeks,” Truckenmiller said. “In the last year of my studies, I was able to quit my job and had the option to take an additional class every term. That spare time allowed me to graduate even faster.”
With a bachelor’s in healthcare administration in hand, Truckenmiller is just getting started. Having learned the business aspect of healthcare, she is excited to now pursue her education with an eye toward a career as a pediatric surgeon. With what she has learned, Truckenmiller now feels she possesses the skill that will give her an advantage when she realizes her dream of having her own practice. She has already taken the next step to continue her education by enrolling in a pre-med program.
“Focusing on the future and the outcome of what will happen with a degree is the best remedy to get through it and be another success story.”
Truckenmiller’s current success has been based on a strategy of work-life-school balance. Creating a routine and making time for each has given her the confidence to take on any academic challenge.
“My main strategy to balancing my life with school is not doing any school work during the day when my children are around or my husband,” Truckenmiller said. “Because to me it is very important to spend time with them. Therefore, when my children go to bed I have a two-hour window every weeknight to do my homework until my husband gets home from work.”
For students considering the first steps of the journey to an online degree, Truckenmiller has some advice.
“There is no excuse anymore for not getting an education,” Truckenmiller said. “It is easier than it looks. It takes a focus and a persistent type of person to be able to complete an online program. One has to start somewhere, and many of us in this society do not have the opportunity to attend a traditional classroom, therefore there is an option out there that can meet a busy person’s schedule.
“In order to be successful in online learning, you have to be determined with what you want. There is no room for slacking or procrastinating, it takes a lot of discipline. Focusing on the future and the outcome of what will happen with a degree is the best remedy to get through it and be another success story.”