Instead of going to college after graduating from Lake Central High School in 2001, Schererville's Jennifer Muha picked up more hours at her sales job so she could live on her own.
Muha held jobs in sales, telemarketing, bartending and worked as a trainer at a local restaurant. A few years after graduating, Muha started her own family.
"After having children, I decided to further my education and get a degree," she said. "I always had a job and made enough money. But after becoming single, I needed a career."
Muha said going back to school helped her "work smart," earning a degree to make her more marketable.
A nontraditional student who juggled school and family responsibilities, Muha, 29, graduated this spring from Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, having earned a bachelor's degree in marketing. She now works for the March of Dimes as coordinator of fundraising and marketing events in Lake and Porter counties.
As a student, Muha participated in the university’s award-winning Agency 429 advertising club. She credits her experiential learning classes as especially beneficial to her work.
"I coordinate the events, market and promote them at the March of Dimes," she said. "I am doing exactly what I wanted to do."
Muha said it was a struggle going back to school in 2007 with two young children. She said she had been away from school long enough that she needed to "refresh" her memory on basics, such as math and English.
Earning the degree took her five years — an experience she said was well worth the time and challenges.
In the last couple of years, Agency 429 placed in the nationals competing against 150 universities. In 2010, the team was ranked 12th, and in 2011, the team placed 11th. Muha, the group's former president, said the competition included a full marketing campaign for major companies including J.C. Penney, State Farm Insurance and Nissan.
In addition to that exposure, Muha said she also took on marketing internships for an online group and a Homewood, Ill., company, gaining experience working with clients and vendors.
"My education and experiences at Purdue gave me the knowledge, skills and experience — which has been beneficial to my career — as well as lasting connections with students, faculty and alumni," she said.