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Online Format Ideal for BS in Sociology Student Marisela Alvarez

Lamar University online sociology student Marisela Alvarez

Marisela Alvarez realized she was a bit in over her head when she tried to juggle an on-campus bachelor’s degree program, a full-time job and motherhood.

“There were days when we were at the dining room table and my kids were saying, ‘Momma. Momma,’” she said. “I would say, ‘Leave me alone, I’m trying to study for a test.’ It was difficult to go to class, cook, clean and get them ready for school.”

Then, along came the flexibility of online education at Lamar University.

“Now, it’s a different type of environment. It’s been a whole lot more manageable.”

Alvarez, who is registrar at Winfree Academy Charter Schools in Richardson, Texas, is on track to graduate in May 2018 from Lamar University’s online Bachelor of Science in Sociology program.

“One of the teachers I work with was getting a master’s degree online,” Alvarez said. “She said, ‘Why don’t you do an online program?’ I Googled and did some research, and I saw that Lamar University had an affordable online program for sociology. I said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do that.’ I just ran with it. I started in the spring of 2017. I’ve been going nonstop ever since.”

The format has allowed Alvarez to balance school with her busy life, which includes caring for her three children, Jessie Jr. (9), Tessa (4) and Jessa (1), with her husband, Jessie Sr.

“I originally wanted a better opportunity for myself to become successful,” she said. “However, I also did not want my kids to worry about how they would go to college, financially. It’s my desire they won’t have to make the same sacrifices that I did to obtain my degree.”

New Direction

Marisela Alvarez with her family

Alvarez, who grew up in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, hopes to be an elementary teacher one day. She worked as a secretary at an elementary school before enrolling in the Lamar University program.

“I didn’t like working as a school secretary very much,” Alvarez said. “I thought, ‘I need to go back to get my bachelor’s degree. I only needed two classes to finish my associate degree, so I did that in the summer at Mountain View College [in Dallas], and then I enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas in August of 2014. I was only there for a year.

“I was attending UTD and working at Winfree, but it was too much to balance having to leave work, go to school to attend class, and then go back to work and work night school, and then go home to my family it was exhausting,” Alvarez said.

Since she switched from working at an elementary school to a high school, Alvarez has found a niche helping older students.

“I love giving back to students by listening to what motivates them to succeed and helping them reach that goal,” she said. “The most rewarding feeling is seeing them walk across the stage to receive their diploma.”

Though Alvarez is enjoying her work with high school students, she plans to return to the elementary level after she graduates. For now, she’s using her new knowledge to help her high school students.

“I took a sociology class as one of my electives,” she said. “When I took that class, I just fell in love with it. I thought it was neat. Honestly, I’m kind of a generous person. My thing is I like to help people. I want to give back.”

One of the courses Alvarez completed, SOCI 4320: Sociology of Education, was particularly applicable to her career. However, SOCI 4310: Population Problems, taught by Dr. Chiung-Fang Chang, has been her favorite course so far.

“It gives more of an inside look at the U.S. Census and additional information about the population,” she said. “I would have never thought to look up these websites. It’s thinking outside of the box on how to explain different things. It makes you think. All of the courses make you think, but I’ve never thought to go to those sites and pop up those pyramids and graphs that show you the populations for different years.”

Alvarez also enjoyed SOCI 3375: Deviant Behavior, taught by Dr. Jesus A. Garcia.

“That one was really interesting, too,” she said. “It gives you some perspective with some criminal justice in there, too. It gives the students a lot of insight and background.”

Home Stretch

Although she took a less traditional path to the online Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Alvarez knows it’s important to have a specific area of interest when starting a degree program. Like the teacher who recommended the online format to her, perhaps she will help steer younger educators toward earning a degree online.

“I would pretty much say do something you like or what interests you,” Alvarez said. “If you’re not interested in it, it’s not for you. And have fun, obviously.”

As May graduation approaches, Alvarez is looking forward to making the trip to Beaumont from her home in Garland to receive her hard-earned degree.

“When I graduate, I want to be able to travel to the ceremony and walk the stage,” Alvarez said. “I’ll be the first one in the family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. My friends and family are very supportive. My husband is probably the most supportive.”

She also plans to make sure her kids always remember the experience of watching her graduate from Lamar University as they finish elementary school, middle school and high school.

“I want my kids to have opportunities and different options,” Alvarez said. “I do not want them to just settle. Seeing me graduate will inspire them to strive for success in higher education.”

Learn more about the Lamar University online Bachelor of Science in Sociology program.

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