Shendrell Stewart wants to spend her career helping change people’s lives. She started with her own.
At this time last year, Stewart was working 40 hours a week as an office manager and then spent three nights a week cleaning another company’s facilities as part of a janitorial crew. On those days, she worked 12 hours straight. It was time for a change.
“I wanted to not only sustain but to excel at being able to take care of myself and my kids, financially,” Stewart said. “It’s very difficult living check-to-check. I was working a full-time job, and then I would get off and go to the evening cleaning job. It was just a consistent flow of endless nothing; that’s how I felt at the time. You’re not making ends meet and not getting a raise in either one of these situations.”
The Plaquemine, LA native turned in her notice for the cleaning job when she enrolled in the LSU Master of Science in human resource education with a concentration in human resource and leadership development online program. She’s set to graduate with a 3.5 GPA in December 2016. She is the first person in her immediate family to earn a master’s or bachelor’s degree.
Stewart, a single mother, will earn her master’s degree in just 12 months because she is taking two courses at a time, while working and taking care of her two children, Scott Butler, 13, and Shannen Butler, 10. She is also recently engaged and plans to get married in 2018.
“Thank God everything is finally coming together,” Stewart said. “A few years back, that was definitely not the scenario.”
Building a Better Life
Stewart now works as a disability determination examiner for the State of Louisiana in the Baton Rouge office. She helps present disability cases once she receives medical, education and employment information for applicants. Stewart said she has strived for a career in workforce development because of her own situation.
“I’ve always wanted to help others find stability because I’ve struggled with it,” she said. “I’ve always been able to maintain work, but getting the type of hourly wage and the type of benefits [I wanted] has been a challenge.”
When she started her job with the state in May of 2016, Stewart went through a 10-week training program that coincided with the beginning of a new session at LSU that included the Training and Development in Organizations (HRE 7577) course. This showed Stewart that what she was learning in the course was relevant to her career.
“[The training program] provided the same foundation — the development, the training, the organization [as the class],” she explained.
Even though it’s been a long road to establishing a career rather than working two jobs, Stewart knows her master’s degree will pay dividends for a lifetime.
“My children, at first, were exhausted,” she said. “It not only puts a strain on you, it puts a strain on your household because you are not as available as you used to be. Sometimes I had to check out and have mom zone for school. But other than that, my family is very supportive. My children are very excited that it’s nearing the end. And so am I.”
Online Learning a Plus
Stewart earned her bachelor’s degree through a hybrid program at the Baton Rouge campus of Upper Iowa University. After taking both online and on-campus courses for her bachelor’s, Stewart was excited to complete her master’s courses entirely online at LSU.
“It’s so flexible,” Stewart said. “You’re able to do it when you get off from work and [finish] home duties. As a mother I multitask, between course assignments and home. It isn’t easy after preparing meals, cleaning, laundry, and helping the kids with homework to stay energized and focus. But, I do it and begin my class assignments after all of that fun. It’s worth it.”
In addition to Training and Development in Organizations, Stewart said she thoroughly enjoyed Principles of Adult Education (HRE 4025) since it also hit so close to home.
“As an adult learner, you are not only experiencing it, but education-wise you are able to process the concept of why you have decided to go back to school and how important it is to continue on that path â€” the principles,” she said.
Now that she is preparing for her walk across the graduation stage, Stewart said she would encourage anybody to earn an online degree from LSU.
“Honestly, I’m always promoting it to some of the undergrads at my previous university,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You know, this is beyond opportunity.’ When I was in high school, 14-plus years ago, all of my learning was classroom oriented. Either you went to campus and went to school, or there was not an opportunity. Primarily, that’s how it was then. But now you have the options — and the functionality is so successful — to go out and further your education. You don’t even have to leave your home. It’s so accessible. It really is.”
Setting an Example
Another benefit of earning her degree is the example she has set for her children. Her kids have witnessed her hard work and dedication throughout the years.
“I have definitely inspired my son,” she said. “He’s like, ‘Mom, can I go to LSU High [University Laboratory School] so it will be easy for me to get to LSU?’ I was like, ‘Oh, Okay. Great.’ I didn’t even know they had an LSU High School. Like I said, I’m not originally from Baton Rouge, so it wasn’t even on my radar. He’s definitely inspired.”
Her children will be with her at the Louisiana State University Baton Rouge campus on Dec. 16 to see her graduate and complete her journey, which will surely be an incredible full-circle moment for Stewart.
“I started in January and will complete in December, so I’ve definitely been dedicated,” she said. “Those classes and group work are overwhelming, but when you know you want to excel and you have a goal, you persevere. I want to further my career path with the state. This decision will aid in my career progression with longevity. I’ve set my career goals higher so job opportunities with more authority and management will be within reach. Once I attain my master’s degree, my career advancement will be limitless.”
Learn more about the LSU online MS in human resources with a concentration in workforce development program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.