By Kasy Long
Feb 1, 2024
Leadership and Professional Development Alumna
at Indiana State University
Returning to school to finish a degree requires hard work, dedication, and perseverance. For Angella Ogalo, ’23, earning her college diploma was necessary to advance her career goals. The alumna graduated from Indiana State University in December 2023 with an online bachelor’s degree in leadership and professional development and a minor in counseling.
Originally, she stepped away from her college studies to care for her children. When she saw shifts in the job market, the Fairfax, Virginia native decided she could complete her degree online — with the support of her family, employers, and faculty at Indiana State.
Now, Ogalo is ready for the next step of her professional career with the Community Service Board [CSB] in the government office of Fairfax County in northern Virginia. The Sycamore never gave up on her goal of earning a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State. Because degree completion begins with BLUE!
Why did you decide to return to school to complete your degree? What led to your decision?
The decision to return to complete this degree was born out of necessity and the realities of the job market. My education was interrupted when family became a priority early in my life, and my prospects for college education had to be put on hold. Raising my son and daughter became more important to me than anything else.
However, as the job market changed and a college degree became the entry ticket for promotion to leadership roles and other advancement opportunities, I had to reevaluate my choices to remain relevant in the competitive job market. Indiana State University provided the flexibility I needed through its [distance] and online programs to accomplish that goal.
What are your job responsibilities for the Community Service Board [CSB] in Fairfax County?
I was initially hired as a nurse to provide clinical support for clients in CSB’s residential programs. However, as a qualified mental health professional, my job responsibilities have expanded over the years to include client advocacy and education, working collaboratively with insurance companies and community partners navigating complex issues that often underlie provision of medication and psychiatric support. This includes locating financial resources for clients who cannot afford the high costs of healthcare.
Did your employers support your decision to complete your degree? Did you also receive support from an academic advisor at Indiana State?
Oh yes, at the county government level, my local agency’s leadership, supervisors, and program directors encouraged me to complete my education so I can remain engaged in the process. In many ways, the leadership team and my program worked with me to adjust my schedule as needed so I could have time for my academic work.
And then at Indiana State, my advisor, Dr. Lindsey Eberman, was fantastic right from the beginning. She often took initiatives to advocate on my behalf, and she ensured that my distant location in Virginia wouldn’t impact my access to the University’s resources. In many ways, I owe this achievement to Dr. Eberman’s resourcefulness and unfailing support.
How did your family support you as you completed your online degree?
I have always valued my responsibilities as a wife, a mother, and as a working woman in a busy and constantly changing environment. When I chose to return to college at my mature age, however, my husband and children supportively made sacrifices and created the space I needed as they took over most of my family responsibilities so I could pay undivided attention to my academic work. Even when there were unexpected challenges that threatened my ability to continue moving forward, their encouragement allowed me to press on, preventing me from giving up.
Speaking of focusing on your academic work, how did you balance your work responsibilities with your schooling?
Discipline, time management, and clear communication are the keys to maintaining a healthy balance between the demands of work and academics. Both compete for time, and both have demands that must be met. To ensure there was no conflict between the two, my employer knew in advance and supported my academic schedule. When necessary, good communication with my employer permitted me to have time off so I could stay current on my academic schedule.
On the academic front, except for unexpected emergencies, I tried as best I could to communicate with my professors regarding any challenges that would reasonably impact my timely completion of any assignments. And at Indiana State, I found the professors to be always supportive and ready to help.
How is your degree from Indiana State going to enhance your career?
Well, completion of this degree comes with immediate advantages at my current employment with the county government — allowing me to transition to other professional growth and development opportunities within the agency and/or other county government positions in which my qualifications are better aligned. It will also allow me to have additional weight in my ongoing client education and advocacy work among my peers and accomplished professionals.
How did Indiana State specifically enhance your skills?
Besides providing competent and knowledgeable faculty members who truly cared about student development, the rigor of the academics and the careful selections of course materials and resources enabled me to broaden my knowledge, allowing to develop skills that are immediately applicable to the current employment marketplace. I also had full access to online academic resources through Indiana State’s Cunningham Memorial Library, which enabled me to conduct research and have needed information at my fingertips.
Overall, despite the nature of the distance program, I had an excellent academic experience that allowed me to develop a sense of supportive community with Indiana State’s students and faculty.
Finally, what would you tell someone who is considering going back to school to complete their degree, but is unsure if they should?
My grandmother always used to say, “Don’t wish you had done something. But be glad you did it. At least that way, you will live with no regrets.” I will give the same advice to anyone considering completing their college degree. The thought of returning to college later in life is always scary at first. But once you start the acquisition of knowledge, the joy of learning new things will keep you engaged in very fulfilling ways. I was scared at first because I didn’t think I had what it takes to graduate from college.
But looking back in retrospect, I didn’t just survive the college experience; I thrived. I graduated from Indiana State having realized a goal I set out to achieve, but surprisingly, ended up with an award of the highest honors for academic achievement [graduating summa cum laude]. That is a humbling experience but a joyful one for which I will forever be glad I returned to college!