Heatherly Bontrager

Heatherly Bontrager

University of the Rockies // Resources // Student Success Stories // Alumni // Heatherly Bontrager

Heatherly Bontrager

Heatherly  Bontrager
Master of Arts in Psychology, Criminology and Justice Studies specialization, 2011

“University of the Rockies offers a wealth of support.”

“I was extremely bored and dissatisfied with my job,” says Heatherly Bontrager, 36. “It was just that – a job. I wanted a career. I wanted something that would allow me to go home at the end of the day and feel satisfied and proud, instead of something that merely paid the bills.”

Many people can relate to this sentiment, though not everyone does something about it. But this Raleigh, NC resident decided to be proactive and began researching graduate schools to gain expertise and pursue a more purposeful career. “After an interview and some research into the school's reputation, accreditation, and courses, it became clear that University of the Rockies was the place for me.”

Heatherly’s road to that point, however, was anything but easy. “I have always struggled with school,” she shares. “As a child I was hyperactive. Back when I was young, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] was not something that was readily known. I grew up feeling stupid because studying was harder for me than it was for my fellow students. I could not focus. I had teachers tell me that I should not even plan for college because it would be a waste of my time.”

Determined to prove her naysayers wrong, Heatherly went on to earn her Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees. “But it was by the skin of my teeth,” she admits. A few years later, she was finally diagnosed with ADHD, which allowed her to research the disorder and begin to discover effective coping techniques.

Still, the thought of going to graduate school seemed daunting – especially one with an online format, which Heatherly’s full-time job would deem necessary. As she hesitantly began her studies at Rockies, on academic probation due to her low undergraduate grades, her fears persisted. “At first I thought I was falling apart! I did not know how I was going to be able to fit it all in.”

Much to her relief, she soon found that taking classes online was not the struggle she’d thought it would be. “You develop a groove, and soon it's not so overwhelming. Online courses allowed me to learn in the way that’s best for me; someone who needs a less traditional classroom setting in which to learn.” She also credits her advisors, professors, and classmates, noting, “University of the Rockies offers a wealth of support.”

Thanks to this support and her own determination, Heatherly completed the Master of Arts in Psychology, Criminology and Justice Studies specialization program in 2011 with an impressive 3.95 GPA and as a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. “The icing on the cake was traveling to Colorado and walking across that stage to shake hands with the dean and the president and collect my hard-earned degree! I would highly suggest that all online Rockies students set a goal of attending their graduation – and the amazing alumni dinners, which I plan to attend for many years.”

Today, Heatherly is setting up her own life coaching practice. “I want to help those who are dissatisfied with the current status of their lives and want to make a change, but just don’t know how. Humans can achieve many things if they are tapped into the right capabilities. Plus, I'm a sucker for makeovers. I love watching individuals transform like butterflies.” Her longer-term career plans include working in the prison system to rehabilitate criminals and turn them into contributing members of society. “Through my course of study I learned that rehabilitation is needed in today's prisons now more than ever.”

In closing, Heatherly says, “I just really enjoyed the year and a half I spent earning my degree. It was full of joy, tears, stress, achievement, and happiness. The entire experience has helped shaped me into the confident, knowledgeable, hopeful, capable, and positive person I am today. Getting a degree has given me a lot more confidence and a clearer vision of the path I want my life to follow. If I had not taken the steps to attend online classes at University of the Rockies, I would not have realized my special talent for inspiring and helping others. In fact, I would not have even realized that I could turn that talent into a career!”

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