Lowell man continues education after 30 years

2013-06-16T17:49:00Z 2013-06-17T12:03:05Z Lowell man continues education after 30 yearsAnna Ortiz anna.ortiz@nwi.com nwitimes.com
June 16, 2013 5:49 pm  • 

LOWELL | John Munjas is used to his children reminding him to get his homework done — in all good humor, of course. After a more than 30-year break from college, the Lowell resident is resuming college at Indiana Wesleyan University through online courses.

"They poke good-natured fun at me when I'm sitting and reading my textbooks," Munjas said. "The shoe's on the other foot now, I suppose."

Munjas and his wife have three children, ages 19 through 26, all who either graduated from or are currently in college. He said being a student himself gives him more appreciation for what his children do in college.

Munjas went to Indiana University Northwest right after he graduated from high school in 1977. After his sophomore year, he left school to work for ConAgra Foods in Rensselaer, where he works now as the continuous improvement manager. Munjas travels around the nation to help other factories increase their efficiency and safety.

"It's one of those things," Munjas said. "Anyone who started off college and stopped, thinks of going back."

In May 2012, Munjas enrolled at Indiana Wesleyan to complete his junior and senior years. Getting a degree in business administration in April 2014 will make Munjas eligible for higher positions in ConAgra. He said the company not only encourages its employees to continue their education, but also pays their tuition, too.

"I knew if I have any hopes to further my career, I need to go to school," Munjas said. "In the late '70s, it was easy to get a good-paying job right out of high school. The problem now is, you can only go so far without a degree."

Like Munjas, those who have families and careers look back on their college years and know what advice they would give their former selves about being more serious students. Now Munjas has the chance to use the wisdom he's gained from experience to finish his remaining years of college. 

"I'm a lot more serious now than I was then," Munjas said. "Once you get a number of years in the workforce, you realize how important education is — which is something I didn't see as an 18-year-old starting out school. I really see the value now that I didn't realize as a young man."

Career advancement isn't the only thing that is rewarding for Munjas. He is an avid reader of fiction and nonfiction and has a drive for learning. His one lament is he wishes the courses were longer. After he gets his degree, he is open to furthering his education.

"The more I learn, the more I want to know," Munjas said. "The business world is very interesting."

Munjas said he would encourage people in his situation to take the challenge and go back to school. In Munjas' online courses, he's been able to get to know students he's never met in person through group works and class discussions.

Munjas said as he became more acquainted with his classmates, he noticed there are many people in situations similar to his.

"At first I felt the same stigma; I thought I'd be old enough to be most of the students' dads," Munjas said. "But now I don't worry about the stigma. We're all adults in this, regardless of age. I'm doing this to make my family's life better. A stigma isn't going to stop me."

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