After dropping out of college years earlier to pursue a career in the music industry, Stephen Collins eventually found himself eager to finish the degree he once started. When he finally decided to return to school, he chose the PACS because he saw it as the “easiest and quickest way” to the finish line.
While completing the administrative leadership program wasn’t exactly easy, Collins said the experience was life-changing.
Collins, the PACS Spring 2017 Banner Carrier, originally began college studying music. His last semester as a music major was at OU, where he was a music composition major. Prior to that, he spent two years at the University of Central Oklahoma as a jazz guitar major.
“I originally stopped going to school, because I wanted to work in the music industry,” he said. “I didn’t think my jazz guitar degree was really setting me up for that.”
After quitting school, Collins became very involved in the Oklahoma City music scene. He was spending much of his time gigging with local bands and producing music for others, but something was missing.
When Collins and his wife learned in early 2014 they were expecting a baby, Collins began toying with the idea of finishing his degree. It was important to him to pass down to his children a heritage of college education, just as his mom had done for him. He also hoped finishing his bachelor’s degree would open up new doors for his music career.
"I was surprised by the transformative nature of my education with PACS. I didn’t expect to change so much as a person through the process. The professors were incredibly helpful and instrumental in that process.”
One day, while he was driving around in his car, a local radio advertisement promoting PACS’ online degree programs caught his attention.
“As I was considering going back and finishing school, I heard an advertisement on the local KGOU National Public Radio station, and that got me thinking,” Collins said. “Besides providing the easiest and quickest way to finish my degree, I knew from my previous time there that OU was a first-rate school and that I would get a high level of education.”
Collins dove right into the administrative leadership program. Once back in school, life quickly changed. In addition to continuing full-time work and adjusting to school, Collins and his wife welcomed a daughter during his first semester at PACS.
“I’m sure that everyone who has kids, no matter the age, has a tough time going back to school for their degree,” Collins said. “The hardest thing is finding time for both family and school. When choosing to work on homework, you’re always choosing it over something else when you’re married, have a child and work full time. It’s so much easier to finish a degree when you don’t have kids.”
Although music continued to be a big part of his life while focusing on school, Collins had to make some adjustments.
“There were certain aspects of my music career that I had to put on hold,” he said. “But, since it’s the main way I make a living, I was still continually engaged in music while in school.”
Collins said because his courses at PACS integrated more than just one discipline, he’s able to apply what he learned in many real-life situations.
“This may sound silly, but I was surprised by the transformative nature of my education with PACS. I didn’t expect to change so much as a person through the process,” he said. “The professors were incredibly helpful and instrumental in that process.”
Collins said his wife’s support also played a tremendous role in ensuring he completed his degree.
“I have to thank my wife, who graciously put up with almost three years of homework taking up much of our family time. I couldn’t have done it without her constant support and encouragement,” he said. “Also, I have to thank my parents who supported the first half of my undergraduate work, especially my mom who taught me how to study and to love learning through her tireless home education of my brothers and me.”
Although he’s only had his degree a short time, Collins said he already feels like he’s putting it to good use. He works as a musical director at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, and he still teaches private guitar and piano lessons. He also writes, produces and mixes songs for other artists and organizations.
Collins said he also considers himself a better small business owner today, and his perspective on how to work within an organization has completely changed. His hope is that he will keep growing in his leadership capabilities and continue to learn new things.
“I understand so much more about how to be a valuable employee and how to work toward having a healthy, fulfilling, motivating and profitable work environment,” he said. “I feel so much more equipped to lead in an organization and to be able to move up and accept more responsibility within the organizations I work.”
Collins said he hopes to become a voice for growth wherever he’s working and wants to be the type of person who provides positive and stimulating work environments, where employees are motivated and satisfied in their work and where organizations can continue to grow.
“This degree imparts so much more than a piece of paper,” he said. “It’s given me knowledge and skills, such as critical thinking and writing, that I see are of real value to organizations. It’s provided real and deep knowledge that makes me a better, deeper and more thoughtful person.”