Shelly Hicks hadn't taken any college courses when she started working as a manager trainee at a Nashville McDonald's franchise in 1986. Now she is set to receive a master's degree, thanks to Penn State online and Hamburger University.
After earning a bachelor's degree and becoming a McDonald's corporate trainer, Shelly realized she had a passion for teaching adults. She turned to Penn State's online master's degree program in adult education to enrich her own life and help thousands of other McDonald's employees.
"Once I started, I was hooked," she says of the program's curriculum. "I was able to develop critical thinking skills because of the participation requirements, much more so than I would have at a face-to-face campus. The team challenges were the same experience as in my work world, so I was able to develop better team-building dynamics and competencies."
Shelly says she has enjoyed sharing ideas with her professors and classmates, whom she refers to as a "wide range of professional peers." She adds, "There's such a wide variety of students, from educators in the army to educators in the medical field, to adult basic education, and even a couple of other corporate trainers. Their experience allowed me to think differently about situations I might be in at work."
Shelly spent thirteen years working for McDonald's in Nashville before moving back to her home state of Ohio to work in one of the company's regional offices. In her current role as a human resources manager, she is responsible for a team of HR professionals who educate McDonald's employees at various levels throughout the Ohio region.
Though Shelly has received several promotions within the company, a Penn State degree opens up seemingly limitless opportunities following graduation in August. "I can grow into our instructional design department or our human resources development group, or even work at our corporate training university, where we house our international training headquarters," she says.
The American Council on Education (ACE) recognized Shelly's hard work in 2005, when she received its Adult Learner of the Year Award. The award recognizes adult learners who "demonstrate outstanding achievements in their community or workplace while successfully balancing the demands of family, career, and education."
Shelly says Penn State's convenient and flexible online program made it easy for her to focus on school without "sweating the small stuff." She explains, "I did not have to spend time finding a sitter or trying to get off work early. I did not have to worry about parking or the weather. The time I would have spent traveling to and from a face-to-face campus was spent reading the textbook and having conversations about the topics at hand with my professional class colleagues."