Patrick AFB campus graduate Cristi-jo Gilbert proves it's never too late to get a degree

Columbia College-Patrick Air Force Base

June 27, 2013 

When Cristi-jo Gilbert graduated high school in 1989, she did not intend to go to college. She never could have imagined that in 2013—24 years later—she would graduate from Columbia College. Earlier this year, Cristi-jo completed a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with minors in management and marketing from the Patrick Air Force Base campus after six years of attending classes while working full time. Her success was aided by winning the Columbia College-Patrick Air Force Base campus scholarship. Cristi-jo answered these questions about her experiences with Columbia College.
Q. Completing your degree required you to take classes while working full time. You clearly were successful, as you won the Patrick AFB campus scholarship. How did you manage classes, good grades and working?
A. I have been attending classes continuously for six years while working full time. I put the life that I knew on hold to accommodate the deadlines of class assignments and projects. Weekends on the boat were spent reading 160+ pages with earplugs in my ears while everyone else was laughing, relaxing and enjoying the day. Anywhere I went my books were in tow, just in case there were a few minutes where I could read a page or two.  
Q. Where do you work and how does your business degree help your career from here?

A. This year I am celebrating my 10th anniversary with Harris Corporation, which is an international IT and communications company serving government and commercial clients in more than 125 countries. Ultimately, I would like to work in marketing, but a position in supply chain management, procurement or configuration management is not out of the question, either. Getting my master’s degree is on hold until I know where I am going to ultimately end up. Then I will start the program. 

Q. You probably have more free time now that you've completed your degree. Any exciting endeavors on the horizon?

A. When asked to explain what is next for me, the answer is simple…I am going to live life again!

I know it sounds silly, but I am going to invest in cable TV! There was no point while I was in school spending money on cable TV that I wasn’t able to watch anyway. 
I am too late this season, but I will research to be able to start a garden next spring. I want to be more sustainable and I love fresh veggies and fruits.
I am planning a graduation party for my family and friends to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing my degree with me. 
I have put on a few pounds over the years and I am excited to be able to train and compete in triathlons again. 
I volunteered a lot before I decided to go back to get my degree, so I plan to be active in the community and volunteering again. 
Q. Students often report that the "life lessons" gained from juggling work, school and family are just as significant as what is learned from the coursework itself. What are your thoughts?

A. As working adults, especially those with families and children, I know that I am not the only one who has had to jump over a lot of hurdles to get my degree. If getting a degree was easy, then everyone would have one!

I have been through very tough times in the last four years with the loss of family members who were dear to my heart and rebuilding after a flood. There were times when I thought I just couldn’t continue, but looking back, I can see these situations only made me stronger. It would have been very easy for me to throw my hands in the air and give up because I was faced with these obstacles. Thankfully, my faith, family and friends encouraged me to see that these situations could motivate me and they did.

One of the many things that I realized along this journey was that I will not let anyone or anything derail me from accomplishing my goals, ever! I have learned to believe in myself which is something I had trouble doing. 

Congratulations to my fellow classmates, the Class of 2013!!





Anonymous said...

Congratulations my dear sweet niece! ...Best to you in the future always, Uncle Billy