karina-cortes-modeling-the-importance-of-higher-education

Modeling
the Importance of Higher Education

Written by Kara Hawking

NCU MBA graduate Karina Cortes once read that children whose parents have degrees are more likely to earn their degrees as well. Fresh out of high school in 1996, however, Cortes simply wasn't ready for college. Instead, she decided to leave Troy University and her post as a twirler for the South of the South Marching Band to join the Navy.

Karina Cortes (Accelerated M.B.A, 2014)

Cortes excelled in her new role as a Gas Turbine Systems Technician. "I was stationed at ACU-4 in Little Creek, Va., where I became one of the first women to qualify as a Deck Engineer," shares Cortes. "After that tour, I went on to serve aboard the U.S.S. Porter (DDG78) as an Oil King. I took classes at different schools and aboard ship, but I could never settle on a degree."

Armed with a specialized skillset, Cortes left the Navy in 2003 and entered the civilian workforce. She worked as a technical writer and later a material controller for QED Systems before being laid off in 2008. "I knew I'd hit the ceiling… I realized I needed a degree if I wanted to advance professionally," she says.

“I was stationed at ACU-4 in Little Creek, Va., where I became one of the first women to qualify as a Deck Engineer.”

Karina Cortes

Cortes decided to take action to change her life. She enrolled in a bachelor's degree program online and, while attending, moved her family (daughters Meaghan and Genna) to San Antonio, Texas. "I didn’t know anyone in San Antonio when we arrived in 2009," she says. "I believe in taking a proactive approach, so to meet new people I became involved in my daughters’ schools and joined Meetup.com."

It didn't take long for her to see the positive impact of her actions. Her active approach to becoming involved in the community proved fruitful when she met her (now) husband through her involvement with Meetup.com. Inspired by her own story, she started her own Meetup group, the Social Event Network of San Antonio (SENSA).

"The group grew to almost 800 active members," says Cortes. "During those two years I organized events ranging from knitting classes to skydiving. I also organized a toiletry drive and assisted at a donation facility for those who lost their homes to fire in Bastrop, Texas in 2011."

And later, the pair completed their bachelor's degrees together. Serving as support for each other throughout the remainder of their respective online education journeys, Cortes completed her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Marketing, graduating summa cum laude in 2012, and her husband graduated cum laude shortly thereafter.

Invigorated by her experience helping others and seeing the positive impact of change in her own life, Cortes felt a new motivation to return to the online classroom shortly after graduating. After intensive research, she decided NCU's Accelerated M.B.A. program was the right fit. She enrolled in early 2013, and true to her new and improved form, completed her degree just one year later.

"I am not one to take a lot of time to complete tasks, so I was particularly drawn to NCU’s Accelerated M.B.A. program," says Cortes. "The program was challenging and I appreciated the opportunity to work one-on-one with my professors."

“I knew I’d hit a ceiling… I realized I needed a degree if I wanted to advance professionally.”

Karina Cortes

Equally committed to her daughters' success as she is to her own, Cortes staunchly supports their educational pursuits through volunteering.

"Involvement [with] Meaghan’s school led me to volunteer as a science fair judge at the local, state and regional level in chemistry, physics, and engineering," says Cortes. "I am also heavily involved at Genna’s school where I volunteer as a room parent for her classroom, as the school’s room parent coordinator, and as the school’s volunteer coordinator for the annual Private School Interscholastic Association (PSIA) competition."

Looking back, Cortes has gained an appreciation for the value of higher education and hopes others can learn from her experience. She gives this advice to other students who might be at the beginning of the journey she just completed : "You have to remind yourself why you want a degree, sometimes constantly. I have ever met anyone who regretted getting their education. I have only people who regretted not doing so."