OU PACS criminal justice students will soon notice a new name and face offering them support as they navigate their online degrees. On June 1, Shelby Cole will take over advising duties when longtime advisor Lindsey Gunderson moves on to a new position outside the university.
Cole is a current member of the advising team and previously worked for the college in Advanced Programs, where she served active duty military students in the United States and abroad. She graduated earlier this month with her bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership, boasting a 3.5 overall GPA and representing the college as its Banner Carrier. The Banner Carrier honor is given to an exemplary graduating student each semester.
“I’ve already been able to apply many of the concepts learned in the organizational leadership courses to my current work. Earning my degree will allow me to reach the first rung in the academic advising ladder and will provide me with a base to begin earning promotions.”
Students will be in good hands, as Cole’s own experience has given her a passion for helping students be as successful as possible while completing their degrees. As a student who struggled in her first attempt at college, Cole knows exactly what many PACS students have experienced.
“I have an aunt who worked in a neonatal intensive care unit, and she inspired me to go that route, but I’m not quite able to handle blood, which is a pretty important aspect. Once I realized this, I kind of became lost,” Cole said of the beginning of her academic career. “The struggle of not knowing what to do next led me to not perform well for a few semesters, and I eventually placed college on the back burner.”
At that point, Cole’s GPA was 1.97.
When she was hired by the OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies, she learned about the college’s online degrees and decided to give it another chance. After putting in some extra work during the application process, Cole was accepted to the college’s Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership program.
“The faculty really care about you completing your courses,” she said. “I enjoyed the feedback faculty provided on all my assignments, and I enjoyed the setup of the classes, the advisor support and the ability to complete my degree on my schedule.”
Cole said she chose the organizational leadership program to give her the skills necessary for career advancement as she works her way up the career ladder in academic advising. It also puts her in the position to start working on her master’s degree in organizational leadership when she’s ready.
“I’ve already been able to apply many of the concepts learned in the organizational leadership courses to my current work,” she said. “Earning my degree will allow me to reach the first rung in the academic advising ladder and will provide me with a base to begin earning promotions.”
Like many adult students who return to school after a gap, Cole’s obstacles didn’t end when she started classes. During her first two years at OU, her stepfather was fighting cancer. In January 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he passed away.
“My stepdad had been in my life for over 20 years, and it was difficult to lose a parent. I ended up taking off two semesters to help process and deal with my grief,” she said. “I also had to navigate the challenges of new career, marriage and major home repairs while trying to earn my degree.”
Cole said she kept going because she wanted to accomplish the goals she had set for herself.
“I knew that I had it in me to earn a degree, and I knew that I was capable,” she said. “I did have setbacks, but I also had an amazing support system that kept encouraging me. There were a lot of people who contributed to me earning a degree, including my wife, coworkers, boss, family and friends. Without that support system, I’m not sure I would have been able to finish. I definitely give them a lot of credit.”