Justin Wheeler, BA in Business Administration, Class of 2017

“Don’t let anyone limit you, including yourself.”

For many people, failure is one of their greatest fears. For Justin Wheeler, failure fuels his motivation, determination and focus.

“I was born into a single-wide trailer and most people would have thought I’d never amount to anything, just because it’s so typical to stay within the lifestyle that you’re used to. I wasn’t about to just fall into that,” he said.

Wheeler will complete a BA in Business Administration online through New England College in May 2017. Going back to school wasn’t easy, as Wheeler works full time, travels a lot for work and takes care of his wife, Gina, and two young daughters, Avery and London. However, when Wheeler has a goal in his sights, he does everything he can to reach it.

Growing up in Reno, Nev., Wheeler was exposed to other people’s opinions, attitudes and prejudice. He refused to accept any of it.

As a 17-year-old, Wheeler was considered for the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, in which top soccer players are chosen to represent the U.S. in international competition. During tryouts, his past surfaced.

“I went through the Olympic Development Program and was told when I got to Regionals that I would never make the National Team simply because I was from Reno, Nev. I went home and thought about it, went to the tryouts the next day, and told the coach that I just wanted them to judge me as though I was a soccer player and not based on where I lived. If they saw me as a talented individual, take me on to the team,” he said.

He made the national holdover team and became one of the top 30 soccer players in his age group in the country.

That’s when he realized anything was possible, and more importantly, achievable.

“I hate being a statistic. I don’t want to be a statistic. I want to be in control of what I can be in control of and as long as I take all of the obstacles out of my way there’s nothing that I can’t reach,” he said.

Justin Wheeler with his wife and two kids

Today, the 33-year-old father and husband continues to overcome challenges set before him. Wheeler works up to 80 hours a week, traveling throughout Nevada, California and Oregon selling prosthetic devices used in total joint, hip and knee replacement procedures for a distribution company while completing his degree online.

“There were times when I put in 21 days straight of work and was doing homework in a hotel room or homework on the airplane,” he said.

Wheeler had been in this position before. He went to college right out of high school, only to drop out during his junior year to chase financial opportunities by working in medical device sales.

“The first-year potential was higher than what some of my friends were making graduating with their degrees. Of course, I selfishly jumped at it and quit going to school,” he said.

At the time, it seemed like the right decision. But, after working nearly 10 years in sales, he hit a career ceiling and was told he needed a degree to move into a management role. New England College’s online degree program allowed him to take classes and continue his vigorous work schedule at the same time.

In fall 2016, Wheeler reached a professional milestone – he was named Sales Director – six months before graduating from college. Wheeler’s ability to manage the demands of work, family and school impressed the owner of the company enough to promote him ahead of time. As for his future aspirations, Wheeler is considering an MBA or law degree.

While earning a bachelor’s has given him the credentials needed to advance, NEC’s courses have given him fundamental points he plans to put into practice.

“I used to kind of undermine the reality of the education that you got online. I used to think that most people were going through the formal steps to get the degree, but really more ‘paying for the paper’ than getting a world-class education. I have been incredibly impressed at both the education and the grading scales,” he said.

HR Management and Organizational Behavior and Management were among his favorite classes.

“Thinking about what direction does your organization take, thinking about what structure you build into your organization, and how you develop the strategies of sales teams, operations teams, to properly build a channel of sales and marketing, the whole bit. That is all vital to what I want to do,” he said. “The skills you gain from having a job and getting an education go far outside of just the formal education. I have forever changed my view of online degrees.”

NEC’s program allowed Wheeler to pursue his professional aspirations and achieve a goal he and his family can be proud of.

“I have always wanted to provide something special for my family. Allow for more than I had as a child, and still have time to enjoy those things with them. I want to set a good example of work ethic and perseverance,” he said.

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