When life and work went remote during the pandemic, Clearbrook resident Kalyn Owens saw it as an opportunity to get her degree at Laurel Ridge.
This marked the second time the Sherando High School student had come to the college. She originally enrolled in 2010, taking prerequisite courses with the intention of applying to the registered nursing program.
“Then, life happened,” said Owens.
But when her job at Navy Federal Credit Union went fully remote in 2020, Owens, who has a 9-year-old and a 3-month-old, decided to once again enroll at Laurel Ridge.
“My son was doing virtual schooling, and I was doing virtual schooling and virtual work, so it worked out perfect,” she said.
Thankfully, her husband was on leave after the baby was born, so he could take care of her while Owens focused during class times. And, she is very fortunate to work for a company that has a long-standing partnership with the college.
Laurel Ridge and Navy Federal have had a successful partnership for about a decade. Currently, Navy Federal employees are able to earn two stackable credentials, career studies certificates for general business and for supervision, which in turn can be put towards an associate degree in business management or administration. After that, they can transfer to a four-year institution to finish a bachelor’s degree.
During her commencement ceremony May 12, Owens received her associate degree in business management. She also received the Maurice J. Duffey Outstanding Achievement in Business award during the commencement ceremony.
Owens, who lives in Clearbrook in Frederick County, had already earned certificates in business and supervision. More than 100 of these certificates have been earned by Navy Federal employees, and 10 employees have earned their degrees from Laurel Ridge. About 30 more are within a semester or two of graduation.
Business Management and Administration Professor Rachel Dodson coordinates the partnership program. She said two courses are offered in each the spring and fall semesters and one during the summer, which means students can earn their certificates in 18-24 months.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Navy Federal employees,” said Dr. Dodson. “Once they successfully complete their first semester, they’re motivated to keep going to obtain their certificate. They also appreciate the opportunity to be in a class with their colleagues as we discuss business concepts, work in teams and problem solve.
“The ease, convenience and accessibility are all attractive incentives. Many students say they wouldn’t be able to complete the program without the company pre-paying their tuition.”
A supervisor at the credit union, Owens, who has been with Navy Federal nearly six years, is happy she is still able to work remotely a couple of days a week. Her Laurel Ridge classes were all online, which was very convenient for her.
“I’ve met more employees from Navy Federal through this program and kept in touch with them,” she said. “It’s nice to have that connection and to be able to talk to them about my experience. I really enjoyed it. Laurel Ridge has been awesome. It’s been great going back and finishing my degree.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.