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Alumni Spotlight: Latesha Banks Forged Her Path On Campus and Online

Latesha Banks tried two different college degree programs after high school, and neither worked for her.

Banks had a good job in the customer service department of an insurance company, but she wanted more.

So, at age 22, she made a plan to get herself through college and on a path to a career in the insurance industry – with more pay and more responsibility at every step.

“I wasn’t clear on what the ultimate goal for myself was,” Banks said in a recent interview. “I knew I had a very good foundation with customer service.”

She started doing research on different aspects of the insurance industry and applying for different positions within the company that would help her get more experience.

But she knew she still needed – and wanted - to go to college.

“Really my main goal was: I want to provide for my son. I want to buy a house. And you need money to do those things,” Banks, a single mother, remembers thinking at the time.

She happened to meet someone who was attending Bryant & Stratton College, who shared with her that the college’s programs are flexible and family friendly.

Banks enrolled at Bryant & Stratton in 2010 and earned her associate’s degree in business administration. At that point, she was hired in the company’s claims department.

“It wasn’t required, but they wanted someone that did at least have an associate’s degree. So it did help me to get an increase in pay, and that position helped me to move into other positions in the company and get to where I am today,” she said.

Banks went on to work at five different positions in the same company, learning – and earning – more with each step. At one point, she beat out 300 hundred other job applicants.

“Then I built upon that,” she said.

She graduated from Bryant & Stratton in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Now 29, Banks works at a large insurance company in Virginia and helps manage a contract with the state for Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Her next goal is a move into management.

Her particular path to graduation included a combination of online and on-campus courses. Banks took her on-campus classes at Bryant & Stratton’s Richmond, Va., campus, one of eight locations where the college offers courses in various degree programs. Banks said both the online and on-campus courses had benefits.

“Online the classes were for seven weeks so it was a shorter time frame, but there was a lot of work that was crammed into those seven weeks,” she said.

She said it was nice to not have to worry about getting to class right after work, grabbing fast food for dinner and taking care of her son when she was going to school online.

On-campus, she said, the experience was more personal.

“The interactions and relationships I developed while on campus were great, too,” she said.

Banks’ chosen course of study was both challenging and rewarding.

“I was so intimidated by statistics and I kept asking myself, ‘What am I going to use this statistics for, why is this a part of my degree program?’”

Now, in fact, she uses statistics in her job every day.

Banks pointed out that a business degree is also a good one for people who might not have their exact career path laid out like she did. She said the wide variety of classes help in many professions, both for those starting out in a new career field and those who are more senior.

For example, she used skills learned in a communications course to build and present a new training program at her company.

“(The class) was one that focused on perspective, how you can give a speech to a crowd of people and how 10 different people can perceive it in 10 different ways,” Banks said, adding that she also now applies some of the same communications techniques in her personal life.

Banks’ advice for others who want to further their education and advance their careers? First, don’t discount an entry-level position where you can work your way up. Second, when thinking about a career or job, consider the things that you enjoy or make you happy. Third, try to look ahead five to 10 years and envision where you’d like to be.

“Never underestimate yourself just because you’re not all the way there, you’re not all the way finished,” she said. “When things get hard, because there will be hard days, days when you have a test or papers due, personal things, don’t give up. Have that motivation to keep going."

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