Arizona Online College Graduates Biggest Class Yet

After working for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System for over ten years, Michal Rudnick realized that to progress further in her career, something she was very eager to do, she would need to obtain a college degree. But with a full time job, plus commitments to her husband and three children, there seemed to her no way to fit a college-level course load into a schedule that was already jam packed. The solution turned out to be right in her backyard. This week, Rudnick will be one of 623 students to graduate from the online college administered by the Maricopa County Community College District.

This graduating class will be the biggest yet to graduate from the Rio Salado College, and as the graduates will gather for their commencement ceremony in downtown Phoenix, Rudnick will be addressing them, telling them her story and what brought her to Rio Salado and what she'll be taking away with her.

"Why settle for good enough?" Rudnick asked. "You can have a great life regardless of your economic status, but why settle?"

Additionally, Rudnick hopes to show her oldest daughter why it's important to get an education. "By getting a degree, you gain more than education," Rudnick said. "It also shows that you're motivated and willing to go the extra mile."

Rudnik was a good student in high school. Her grades were high enough to win her a Presidential scholarship to attend any public university in Arizona for free. She, however, chose a different path and went to a small Bible college, where she met her husband, got married at 17, and two years later, became a mother for the first time. But the tug of college was always there, leading her to take several community college courses offered through her employer and finally pushing her to fully commit to getting her associate's degree in 2007 at Rio Salado.

Besides providing Rudnick with an education, she felt that attending college online also allowed her to gain other skills valuable to her career path.

"About half of our workforce works from home," Rudnick said.

"Learning how to communicate through email and class discussion boards has really taught me how to communicate online in general."

Since her lectures were online, she was able to work at her own pace, balancing her work and family lives with her college one.

There were challenges, of course, like a last-minute emergency room visit the same night that a 500-point test was due on Christmas Eve. But there were good moments too. Not everyone gets to use their backyard as a playground for biology lab.

Now, with a newly earned associate's degree in public administration, she plans to attend Arizona State University to pursue a bachelor's in public administration. She is currently a candidate for the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy.

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