Prospect Magazine: Alumni Stories

A Mode of Continuous Learning

Patricia Denman ’93
Executive Compensation Manager, Allstate Insurance (retired)

I started college after high school with the intention of teaching business at the high school level. During my sophomore year, though, it occurred to me that I had never worked in a business environment. How was I going to teach young people about working in an office?

Much to the consternation of one of my professors, I decided to take a break from college. I earned an associate’s degree in an executive secretarial program and got a job at Allstate, thinking I would work for a couple of years and then go back to school. Eighteen years later, I was still there.

Over the years, I had progressed from a secretarial position to a financial analyst position, then lower-level management. By that time, I thought maybe I didn’t need a degree. But one day my manager said to me, “At some point you’re going to get stopped in your career path because someone will look at your file and realize that you don’t have a degree.” Something in the way she said that made me think she was right, so I started looking into educational options.

I saw an ad for the Elmhurst Management Program and was intrigued by the accelerated nature of it and by the fact that you didn’t have to start at square one. I had been in business for 18 years by then, and I understood day-to-day work life. In EMP we were all adults; we all brought work experience to the classroom. We learned from one another.

Going back to school as an adult put me in a mode of continuous learning. After graduating from Elmhurst, I earned two professional certifications that helped me in my career. Even now, I’m taking classes in subjects like Photoshop, classical music and classic films. And my urban studies minor stimulated my interest in traveling. Since retiring five years ago, I’ve been to South Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Egypt, Italy and the Amazon. I have even fulfilled my original desire to teach by tutoring in an adult literacy program.

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