When Chris Motta was in his 20s, he saw attending college as an escape hatch.
"When I looked at school, it was a way out of my career choice at that time," said the Grove City resident, who earned an associate degree in nursing in the mid-90s.
Now the recent Clarion University graduate, who earned a bachelor's degree in nursing, sees higher education as a ladder.
"Now I look at it much differently – to benefit my patients and to broaden my horizons," said Motta, 45.
Motta, who currently is a critical care nurse for Grove City Medical Center, decided to go after his bachelor's degree through Clarion University's Virtual Campus – the school's online version of its campus offerings.
"For about six to eight months I was thinking about it," he said. "The industry is changing and there has been a push for the BSN to maintain our jobs, so I wanted to do it while I had time and was able to do it part-time. This way, I could space it out over three years."
Though he was a little nervous as an adult learner – "I think everyone is a little nervous going back to school and trying something different, plus when you learn online, you have to be very organized to do so" – he soon realized he wasn't alone.
"I saw that I was in the middle of the road," Motta said. "There were people older than me and younger than me."
The other element that added a little concern to his decision to go back and earn a four-year degree was the style of learning he had chosen, via online.
"Though it was more conducive to my lifestyle, allowing me to attend school at my own pace, I'm not technically savvy," he said. "It was all new, and that also made me a little nervous at first."
It didn't take him long to get comfortable with learning as an adult back in school, or to handle the virtual components of his education.
"It actually made me feel pretty good once I got into it, that I could pursue this, accomplish a degree, while being at home," he said.
He found that he had to set aside a good 16 to 20 hours a week per semester to successfully complete his bachelor's degree.
"It does require time and organization, and I learned to manage my time and organization quite well," said Motta, father of three sons with his wife Darla. "I worked full time, plus my family life. At home there were distractions, but during class time, I secluded myself in my own study room and came through with a great education. I also made a lot of new friends, not only with the students but the instructors."
Motta recalled one of his favorite instructors, Dr. Nancy Falvo, who started being an online professor the same time he began online instruction. "We did the whole educational process together," he said, adding that he also enjoyed getting to know other students, one as far away as Russia. "Some of the nearby students and I would meet at Panera Bread every couple of weeks, and I'm still friends with them today."
He graduated in the spring of 2013.
"I can understand diseases better and people better through the whole process of education," Motta said. "I see education as a benefit to my ultimate goal, which is to help every patient, every day, more and more."
Though it was a challenge as an adult learner going back to school with a full-time job, active family life and involvement in his community, he touts his experiences to friends and co-workers around him.
"I even talked some of my fellow employees into attending the college, and two have started," he said. He is pursuing his Master of Science in Nursing - family nurse practitioner concentration - online through the Clarion and Edinboro Universities consortium, having enrolled in September."
"I really think that Clarion is above the mark because (the online system Clarion uses is) easy, very easy to get familiar with, and all the instructors are available and approachable," Motta said. "It's all of the amenities of the classroom and college at your fingertips, in your home. There's no excuse to not get higher education, and I'm living proof of that. It doesn't matter how old you are. Organize your time, organize your life, and definitely pursue a higher degree."