Flexibility and Support Allow Students to Best Meet Academic Goals

Merritt BrainardAt 57, Merritt Brainard is often the oldest student in his undergraduate classes. Working toward a bachelor’s in Business Administration, he’s been attending Sacred Heart at night, or taking online classes, on and off since the late 1990s. And finally, he sees the end in sight.

“Sometimes I think the kids I take classes with see me a father figure, because some of them ask me for advice: ‘What's the best way to do this assignment? How do you think the teacher will react?’ What they don’t realize is that education-wise, I’m at the same level they are – working as hard as I can to earn my degree and then take advantage of the opportunities it will bring me.”

While for some it might seem odd to have a student close to retirement age talking about new opportunities, for Brainard the timing couldn’t be more right.

The Milford resident has been employed as a business integration and production support manager at Pitney Bowes in Shelton since 1993 and plans to use the degree he’ll receive in 2014 to take advantage of future job opportunities  that he’s so far had to let pass by.

“I guess you can say I did things backwards,” Brainard said. “After high school, I earned an electronics certificate from a trade school, worked for a number of firms as an Electronic Technician, and then started my own business repairing computers and other electronics. I ran it for five years, but then I had to close the business due to poor economic times and probably because I didn’t know much about the business side. But then I realized that’s the side I’m really interested in.”

When looking for a college that would best meet his goals, family needs and finances, Brainard said he explored several options, including first attending a community college to earn an associate’s degree. But it quickly became clear that Sacred Heart was where he wanted to be.

“There are so many reasons why Sacred Heart is the best fit,” Brainard explained, “but probably first and foremost is that they were willing to sit down, talk about my particular situation and help come up with a flexible schedule that would work best for me.”

Indeed, providing flexible class times and choices that best meet students’ personal and professional needs is what Sacred Heart’s University College is all about.

While many colleges schedule the majority of its undergraduate classes during the day – the time most non-traditional or older students like Brainard are at work – Sacred Heart schedules undergraduate classes throughout the day, evening and on weekends.

Sacred Heart’s University College also makes attending classes more convenient by offering those most in demand at both its main Fairfield and satellite Stamford campuses. An ever-growing number of online offerings are also available, and the option to attend part time allows students to create an individualized program that best matches their individualized situations.

“Sacred Heart is a great school and a name that I knew I could be proud to have on my diploma,” Brainard said. “Some people like to take the easy way out of things, but I like to be challenged. The classes I’ve taken at Sacred Heart have done that. And when I’ve needed extra help, professors have worked with me to help me succeed.

“Maybe what I like best, though, is that no one at Sacred Heart rushes me,” Brainard said. “Yes, I have to turn in assignments on time. But if I took two classes last semester, and just want to take one class this semester because I have a lot going on at home or at work, no one says ‘Why not? Why not? Hurry! Hurry!’ They're helping me get my degree on my time, which has made it a really rewarding experience.”