Work, Kids, Grad School: UW Online Degree Paves the Way

Rhonda Henderson

Assistant Director of Design & Construction, Kennesaw State University

Balancing work and graduate school can be challenging for anyone. Now imagine juggling a full-time job, graduate school, a toddler — and a very newborn baby. That was the situation for Rhonda Henderson, a 2013 graduate of the online Master of Science in Construction Management.

"He actually arrived the first day of class," she said of the birth of her son.

Even before having her second child, Rhonda knew a traditional, classroom-based master's program was not an option. "I needed a program that was flexible," she explained. "UW had an entirely online program, and I couldn't find that anywhere else."

Since graduating from the program, Rhonda has received two promotions. She currently manages all the construction, renovation and repair projects at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Here she talks about why she went back to school to earn her master's and how the degree has influenced her career.


Why did you decide to get your master's?

I had a bachelor's in architecture, and I had done five years of active duty with the Civil Engineer Corps of the U.S. Navy, where I did project and facilities management. We didn't do a lot of design work, and I got to work on the construction side. I fell in love with it and wanted to further my experience, knowledge and education in that field.

What attracted you to the University of Washington master's program?

I wanted the best program that I could find, and UW has that program. I served with someone who was just finishing up the program and had great things to say about it. It worked out with my schedule of working and having kids because it was completely online. And reviews of the program that I saw attracted me to the program as well. Plus, it's UW. I knew of its reputation – it's a great school.

What was the key factor that allowed you to enroll in this program?

Knowing I can work, be a mom and still go back to school. A lot of people say if you have kids or wait so many years after graduating from undergrad, it's very unlikely or impossible to do. UW's online program breaks all those stereotypes. I can go back to school regardless of how long it's been, if I have a family or if I'm working full time. It's still possible.

Did going back for your master’s degree help with landing your job?

Yes. I was still in the program, but knowing that I was pursuing my degree in construction management solidified me getting this position.

Were you able to apply things that you learned in the program at your job?

I really enjoyed my paving construction class. I use that material for a lot of the civil projects we have to do on campus. Having to do research, having to seek out new information and new products, you learn a lot that you can use in your job.

How has earning your master's degree helped you with your career goals?

I think education always plays a role in advancing your career, along with on-the-job experience. A lot of positions ask for years of experience and/or graduate-level education. Without it, you don't qualify, so the degree is always great to have in your back pocket.